The all new FIA under Mohammed Ben Sulayem has hardly covered itself with glory. Facing pressure from Mercedes their F1 race director was ‘placed on other duties’ and replaced with two race director’s who alternate between races. The F1 Italian GP weekend saw the worst performance in living memory from F1’s race control as a litany of errors were made across the entire weekend.
Failing to restart the F1 following a late safety car was the final humiliation for the FIA race officials who were earlier under fire because of the amount of time it took to calculate and release how the F1 grid would form up following grid drop penalties being issued.
The FIA releases a final grid one hour prior to the start of a race, though it could produce a provisional grid based on qualifying adjustments, subject to any race day amendments.
Sunday’s F2 race saw race control having to apologise for ruining Juri Vips race by issuing him with the wrong penalty. The Estonian had been mistakenly given a stop and go penalty instead of a mere 10 seconds being added to his race time.
A massive error and a huge difference in time lost for Vips.
Earlier, in the F3 race, Kush Maini was adjudged by race control to have exceeded track limits and given a 5 second time penalty. Footage revealed Maini did not commit a track limits violation.
The FIA officials also decided to abandon the race during a late red flag which also was extremely controversial given it decided the title in favour of Victor Martins who was set to serve a time penalty at the restart.
TJ13 can now detail the exact safety car errors race control made during the latter stages of the F1 race.
Firstly, the FIA officials waited an inordinate amount of time to declare a safety car was required deploying only local yellow caution flags. The timing of the safety car deployment was also controversial.
The leaders Max Verstappen and Charles LeClerc had passed the pit lane entry when the safety car was announced, this saw George Russell pit for tyres and the waiting safety car mistakenly picked him up as the race leader as he exited the pits.
This was due to faulty information provided to Bert Mylander meant he pulled out too quickly and should have waited for the leaders to arrive.
The notification to the drivers and the teams that a safety car is being deployed immediate cuts the speed the cars are allowed to travel around the whole circuit. However, the safety car is not actually physically deployed until the race leader arrives.
This would have meant waiting over a minute extra given that both Verstaopen and LeClerc pitted under the safety car notification but before the point where the waiting safety car should be. Yet given the reduced speeds the cars were instructed to travel at, this time would have been well spent.
So between lap 48 and lap 50 the Safety car had the third place driver at the head of the field then Russell was given the green light to overtake and rejoin the back of the train of cars.
It was now too late to restart the race.
The FIA issued a statement in an attempt to refute any blame on their part for the debacle that saw the 100th year of racing in Monza celebrated by no racing at the venue’s biggest race of the year.
“While every effort was made to recover car number three quickly and resume racing, the situation developed and marshals were unable to put the car into neutral and push it into the escape road.
“As the safety of the recovery operation is our only priority, and the incident was not significant enough to require a red flag, the race ended under Safety Car following the procedures agreed between the FIA and all competitors. The timing of the Safety Car period within a race has no bearing on this procedure.”
Christian Horner and Mattia Binotto openly criticised the FIA officials for not restarting the race more quickly or not red flagging the race instead. The latter meant the teams wold have lined up n the grid in race order, complete a formation lap and then race for 2-3 laps to the conclusion distance.
However the FIA appear to claim it is not of their concern whether the race is restarted or not.
Today there are high level meetings in Monza between the FIA and the teams’ senior personnel set to discuss how to improve F1 races. Top of the agenda now will surely be the inefficient safety car procedures.
As Christian Horner pointed out under Michael Massi a Niki Lauda mantra of “let them race” was an agreed principle between race control and the teams. Clearly finishing races under the safety car is not delivering this and it should be enshrined in race control’s protocols.
One suggestion is that within a certain number of laps – say 5 – from an F1 race finish, if a VSC or SC caution is required, the race be red flagged, allowing between 1-3 racing laps to conclude the GP.
At present the red flag is used mainly by race control when there is extreme debris on the circuit or a barrier requires extensive work to replace. The latter is to preserve to total race time allowed together with safety matters so the session is stopped.
There’s no reason why a red flag with 5or less laps to go cannot become standard protocol. But for an incident which took place on lap 47/53 losing over 10% of a race behind the safety car for a relatively minor incident is not acceptable
All the teams at present are allowed to fit fresh tyres under the red flag and repair the cars. This may see some gain a small advantage but prevent a hugely disappointing end of a GP for fans who pay 100’s of euros to watch a racing spectacle.
"There's only one time in the history of the sport where they haven't done the rules like that today"
Lewis Hamilton admitted the ending to Sunday's Italian GP brought back memories of his Abu Dhabi title decider against Max Verstappen.
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) September 12, 2022