Does F1 need a safety car rule rethink? – ESPN

September 12, 2022 by No Comments

MONZA, Italy — A controversial safety car at the end of a race won by Max Verstappen. Formula One has been here before.

The one that ended Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix was slightly less dramatic and much less impactful than the last time that happened, at last year’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but it will still prompt considerable discussion in the coming weeks.

Although the two instances might seem like an obvious comparison, there are two clear differences. Firstly, at Monza, the race finished under the safety car without a restart, while Abu Dhabi infamously finished with a one-lap sprint. Secondly, at Monza, the FIA followed its own rulebook (albeit clumsily); at Abu Dhabi, it did not.

  • 1dLaurence Edmondson

  • 1dLaurence Edmondson

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That fact was not lost on Lewis Hamilton, who lost the title to Verstappen last year when then-race director Michael Masi incorrectly applied the safety car restart procedure to force a racing finish at Yas Marina.

“It always brings memories back,” Hamilton said on Sunday about the late safety car. “That is the rule that it should be, right?

“So only one time in the history of the sport that they haven’t done the rule.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff — who was famously broadcast as telling Masi “No Michael, no, that was so not right!” as the Abu Dhabi farce played out last December — said finishing under the safety car in Monza on Sunday was the right thing, even if it was unpopular with fans on social media after the race.

“Very clear. There are rules and they are written down and from my perspective, whether I’m Abu Dhabi traumatized or not, these rules have been followed to the dot today,” Wolff said.

“There was a car out on track, there was marshals, and a crane out there. That’s why they didn’t let anybody overtake. And then it was not enough time to restart the race once all cars crashed out.”

The safety car was deployed five laps from the finish at Monza and remained on track until the last lap. Clive Mason/Getty Images

Drivers all said they would have preferred to finish under racing conditions. Even Verstappen, who stood to lose the most from that scenario.

“Everyone wants to finish under green flag,” Verstappen said. “We were just short of laps.

“I had a new soft [tyre] as well so I was not worried, even if it was a one-lap shootout.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who had the agonising view of the rear of Verstappen’s Red Bull in front of him as he was told the race would finish under the safety car, complained at the time on radio: “Come on! It’s clear!”

“I really wanted this race to start again,” Leclerc said later. “I don’t understand because the last time we passed through the track was clean, but it didn’t happen. Maybe there are things I didn’t know that made a restart impossible.”

As it turned out, a swift restart within the template set out by the rules was immediately complicated by two separate events.

This was alluded to in the statement the FIA sent out shortly after the race, which said: “While every effort was made …….



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