Former Formula 1 driver Jean Alesi defends race director Niels Wittich saying “He applied the rules”. Among only a few voices defending the Australian Grand Prix race direction is Frenchman Jean Alesi, who believes that Niels Wittich only applied the rules last Sunday in Melbourne.
Former Formula One driver Jean Alesi has come to the defence of FIA race director Niels Wittich after the chaotic Australian Grand Prix was repeatedly interrupted by red flags and finished behind a safety car.
Last Sunday in Melbourne, the third round of the 2023 season was interrupted several times and the drivers made three starts. The penultimate start was a real carnage as several drivers crashed at the first corner – including the two Alpine drivers who collided and had to retire.
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Controversy in Melbourne
The various red flags waved by race management on Sunday in Melbourne provoked strong reactions from fans, teams and drivers alike, with some not hesitating to say out loud what everyone else was thinking: Formula 1 wanted to create a spectacle by interrupting the race several times.
But on the other hand, there are also voices that have been raised in defence of race director Niels Wittich, whose decisions have been heavily criticised. This is the case of Frenchman Jean Alesi, who believes that Wittich only applied the regulations last Sunday in Melbourne.
"Half the job just seems to be avoiding people who are a bit out of control and making a lot of mistakes and crashing into people…"
Lando Norris reflects on his P6 at the Australian Grand Prix pic.twitter.com/wBwME6NOzU
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) April 2, 2023
“I don’t share the criticism of the race directors [at the Australian GP] and Niels Wittich. He applied the rules perfectly,” said Alesi in his column for Italy’s Corriere della Sera.
“The Australian GP was the subject of a lot of controversy about the behaviour of the race directors. I understand the impression of having seen a chaotic race but I don’t share the objections. In my opinion, the race director applied the rules perfectly.
“At a track like Melbourne, when gravel and other debris invades the track, it is essential to use the red flag.”
“As happened after the Albon and Magnussen accidents, and after the collisions in the last few laps. There is no alternative and the risks for those running are high.”
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“Sainz penalty correct”
In the penultimate start that cost many drivers dearly, Spaniard Carlos Sainz unintentionally collided with Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin (pictured) and as a result received a five-second penalty that dropped him down the order to P12.
Some felt that the penalty imposed on Sainz was too severe, but again Jean Alesi was keen to defend the race director.
“I think that the sanction imposed on Sainz is also understandable. As it happens in football and other sports, a penalty can also be imposed at the end of a match in the face of an irregularity.”
“And, honestly, it was Sainz who made a mistake shortly after the third restart. The fact is that after this race-not-race in Spa [in 2021] and after the final in Abu Dhabi 2021, the crowd – huge – has become the judge, the absolute protagonist. This broadens and multiplies the debate.”
“It’s certainly good, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to question whoever is running the races, especially when there are concrete reasons to decree a neutralisation.”
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Alesi couldn’t be more wrong about Wittich’s actions. What does he even mean by applying the rules? Nothing in the rules requires red-flagging within the last five laps.