How FIA race control procedural cockup ruins F1 Monza finish

Since the departure of Michael Massi as the FIA’s Formula One race director, the double headed hydra that has replaced him has at times looked woeful. Niels Wittich, former DTM race director and Eduardo Freitas, From WEC and Le Mans just don’t have the experience to slot into Charlie Whiting and then Michael Massis’s shoes. The two alternate F1 race director duties and this has led to complaints from the drivers of inconsistency in decision making.

The FIA official in control for the Italian GP in Monza was Niels Wittich who is arguably the least experienced of the two F1 race directors having only managed racing in a German national sports cars competition where races are generally shorter without the complexities of a Formula One event.

On lap 47 of 53 Daniel Ricciardo parked his car between the two Lesmo corners and race control dithered for some time before deploying the safety car. The car could not be rolled away by the Marshalls who had to wait for a mobile crane to arrive.



The Safety Car driver is meant to pick up the lead driver and let the others filter by and go around again to join the rear of the train of cars. However, race control failed to instruct the co-driver of the safety car properly having informed him to pick up George Russell who at the time was in P3 on lap 48.

The safety car displays a green light when cars are allowed to pass, but Russell noted it was not on. Despite Mercedes telling him he was free to pass, Russell refused in case he was issued a penalty.

When Wittich realised his mistake he informed the Safety Car co-driver to signal Russell and the other cars in front of Verstappen should pass and complete another lap, but this was now lap 51. The light on top of the car went green.

Eventually the safety car picked up Verstappen but it then took way to long for all the other cars to filter around for another lap.



By the time the proper order of cars was restored properly the Safety Car was starting the final lap of the race.

The other option open to Wittich was to decide with just 5 laps remaining, to red flag the race – order the cars to the grid for a standing restart. The FIA issued a statement claiming a red flag was not required. Yet Ted Kravitz of Sky believed it was a choice they had in the rule book.

The formation lap required when the race was ready to resume would have then provided between 3 and 4 racing laps to the chequered flag.

The last dry race completed under the safety car was Bahrain in 2020. Since then the teams and the FIA have had extensive discussions over preventing this from happening.



It is unsatisfactory for the fans who pay hundreds of Euro’s to watch the Italian GP and the Tifosi made their complaints known as boos rang around the circuit as the cars began the final lap behind the Safety Car.

Pierre Gasly commented, “It’s never that exciting to finish under the safety car – you always want to be racing to the line. They could have gone for an extra lap [one lap of racing] and knowing those guys at the front there would have been sparks flying into turn 1 [after the restart].”



Mattia Binotto was scathing over the FIA’s performance following the chequered flag.

“Finishing behind the safety car is never great. not for us, but for F1, the show and there was plenty of time for the FIA to act differently today.”

“There is a lap time the cars have to run to, so it was fully safe to release the cars earlier to regain their correct order,” Binotto observed. Of course 3 laps were lost buy the FIA not doing so.

“It is simply wrong and not great for the sport, Mattia added. “After Abu Dhabi last year we had long discussions on how to improve, because the final objective is to try to restart the race as soon as you can in a safety manner.”

“The FIA [race directors] need more experience and need to do a better job because F1 deserves better.After Abu Dhabi we agreed we should speed up operations and today we didn’t.”



Both FIA race directors Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich were reportedly in disagreement behind the scenes over the heavy rain that blighted the start of the Monaco Grand Prix. Martin Brundle was among those to question the procedure that saw the race delayed by over an hour, and according to Sky Sports’ David Croft, the duo who took over from Michael Masi did not see eye-to-eye over the issue.

This kind of incompetence and indecision is not acceptable.



Mercedes pressurised the FIA to sack Michael Massi because they disagreed with him refusing to end the 2021 world championship under the safety car, which would have been more unsatisfactory than it was today. Massi has returned to Australia and probably would refuse to return.

Toto Wolff was asked about the fans dissastification in Monza about the way the race finished.

“The race director’s call will be criticised,” said Wolff. “But this time they followed the rules.” A clear reference to his belief Michael Massi did not follow protocol.



Wolff added mischievously, “At least they followed the rules and accepted that the race ends under the safety car and this is how it should van been – and shouldn’t have been.”

Ind IndyCar the race used to repeatedly end under ‘caution’ but the governing body made changes to ensure now the races are completed under green flag conditions.

One solution would be if a Safety Car is required with 5 or less laps to go, the race is red flagged. The cars return to the grid and the race is restarted from a standing start when the obstruction on track is cleared.

Anything is surely better than the decision made by the FIA today in Monza.

Coincidentally, the FIA are meeting the teams tomorrow for a ‘sporting working summit’ to discuss a range of issues from this season. This includes how the new race operations centre in Geneva interacts with the on track officials to best m manage F1 races.

READ MORE: Hulkenberg set for an F1 drive in 2023

11 responses to “How FIA race control procedural cockup ruins F1 Monza finish

  1. So it’s acceptable for the FIA rules to be applied correctly and finish the race behind the safety car when shampion verstappen in the lead but when Hamilton was in front and the championship was in the bag for a record 8th time.horner and Wheatley manipulated the result with massi so the cards fell in there favour….double standards at play which does nothing but fan the flames of discontent and brings the word “FIXED” back to the table!!

    • Hmm. I guess you missed the ‘FIXED’ last generation of F1. After Ferrari and Schumacher blitzed the sport for 5 years, under constant rule changes to try and stop them, they vowed to not let it happen again.

      Fast forward to 2014 – 2021 and MB dominated without the rule changes to try and stop them.

      Wanna talk of double standards?

  2. The uber-whining baby woolf as his snappy dressing no 2-driver is to blame for today’s mess. Even the NASCAR-bangers are not allowed to end the race behind a safety car.

    There was a time when men were men, but alas, it was a long time ago…

    • Haven’t quite heard anyone whine as much as Max and Horner when they thought for a moment that Massi was going to follow the rules and regular procedure on that fatal day.

      • That’s funny! Toto and Lewis kept their mouths shut on that same ‘fatal’ day, and the preceding months after?

        And a single hamfosi whines and cries more than those 2 combined, even nearly a year later.

  3. If Ricciardo had retired in the middle of the race, the incident would not have been a red flag. Verstappen deserved to win the race and had a significant advantage over Leclerc. In the same way Hamilton had a massive lead at Abu Dhabi, the FIA want to avoid a controversial finish and so stuck to the regulations.

    Sure if there had been a red flag it may have mixed things up. Red flags are interesting and do mix things up but they are still flawed with free pitstops etc.

    As far as I see it there’s literally no point in a race if you’d just like to see 3 laps of low fuel running. Sure it could have mixed things up but until new regs/rules come into place I feel this was the correct result.

  4. I think it was a correct decision to follow the rule, regardless of what the outcome and the manner of how the race was concluded.

    If F1 keeps breaking or changing rules to create drama then might as well get the WWF Wrestling judge to be the race director.

    • I agree with Hazmat. The fans and the Ferrari team were just frustrated that they did not have a chance to challenge Red Bull (Verstappen). Even if it were red-flagged, I don’t think LeClerc would be able to overtake Verstappen that easily. Anyway, FIA followed the rules and that’s it. Anyway, even if Ferrari won, the extra 7 points would not dent Verstappen’s lead going to the Singapore race. Enough of this what could have been discussion as nothing can change what transpired. Let us look forward to the next races.

  5. Pingback: How FIA race control procedural cockup ruins F1 Monza finish – Tech4Mag·

  6. This incident beautyfully clarifies the dilemma Masi faced in Abu Dhabi. Following the rules gives you Monza 2022 what nobody wants. In ‘21 the teams EXPLICITLY had told fia they did not want a finish under yellow. So Masi was stuck between two walls. His alternative (free the leading cars only and let them fight it out on track) was brilliant.
    Of course Toto et all suddenly did not mind finishing under yellow and acted as if they never asked for ‘no finish under yellow, and did not pit LH.

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