FIA chequered flag in Suzuka 1 lap too early

The FIA has come in for criticism for a plethora of mistakes this season from Formula One drivers’, team bosses and pundits alike. Much of the attention has been focused particularly on race control and also the inconsistent stewarding decisions made for sporting infringements.

Even before the Japanese GP began most teams and drivers believed the race would begin as a rolling start from behind the safety car because one side of the grid was holding more water than the other.

Clearly this gives certain drivers an advantage at the standing start.



Vettel says start on wrong tyres

Sebastian Vettel stated after the race, “we started on the wrong tyres.” Vettel clearly believed the full wet tyre should have been mandated at the start.

All the teams opted for the intermediate tyre because it is much quicker than the full wet, yet had the race been a rolling start the drivers would have been forced to start on the extreme wet tyre as regulated; the tyre Vettel believed was the proper tyre for the conditions.



Sainz crash would have been avoided

Given the aquaplaning which caused Carlos Sainz to crash at turn 12 it is hard to argue Vettel is wrong. The full wet tyre would easily have dealt with the standing water and rivers running across the circuit.

Further had the Sainz crash been avoided the next controversy involving a recovery vehicle on track while cars had poor visibility and were passing by would also have been avoided.

A further FIA error has come to light since the dust…. or spray… has settled ver the 2022 Japanese GP.

The race had been truncated due to delays and so was set to run within a two hour window so the chequered flag falls at an predetermined time before sunset.



The 2 hour countdown clock

So racing eventually began with around 40 minutes to go on the FIA countdown clock.

As the clocked ticked down towards the end of the 2 hours, TJ13 observers watching the timing data displayed by the F1 app noted Max Verstappen had completed several mini sectors in the first third of the lap before the 2 hour countdown clock dropped to zero.

They noted this probably meant there were between 4 and 6 seconds left on the clock when Verstappen crossed the line.



Last lap FIA regulation

The FIA regulation states that when the clock hits zero, the leader must complete one more full lap.

Yet despite the clock being positive by a few seconds when Verstappen began what became his last lap, race control threw the chequered flag at the end of that lap.

The race was cut short by one lap.



Alpine confirm Suzuka 1 lap short

Alan Permane, sporting director of Alpine, confirms the belief the Joan’s GP was cut one lap short. Speaking to he explains.

“There were still five seconds on the clock. That’s why he [Verstappen] should have finished the lap,”

“Based on our systems, which are linked to those of the FIA, I’m sure Max was going into the last lap when he crossed the [finishing] line [and the chequered flag was shown].”

The Alpine boss also provided circumstantial evidence that the chequered flag was thrown a lap early.



Lost lap costs Alonso

He notes Verstappen took the chequered flag at 2:01:44 and the fastest lap of the race, recorded by Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, was 1:44.411.

Clearly to have crossed the line with the clock still positive, Verstappen would then have claimed the fastest lap of the race.

There were implications for Alpine that the race was just 28 laps instead of 29 because with just over 7 minutes to go, Fernando Alonso pitted for new tyres. He was around 5-6 seconds a lap quicker when he returned to the circuit and was catching Sebastian Vettel at a rate of knots.



More despair over FIA race control

As the chequered flag fell, Fernando was overtaking Vettel for P6 and was record 1/1000th of a second behind him as the race finished.

Clearly had the race run its mandated 29 laps instead of the 28 race control allowed, Alonso would have finished one place further up the field. 

So despite all the other issues to come out of the Japanese GP which the FIA have promoted the drivers they will investigate fully, in an age of digital timing and in a multi billion pound sport, the governing body and its current personnel is struggling to act competently.

READ MORE: Brundle: FIA should “crack down hard” on Red Bull

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