Red flag, Suzuka, 2017

Whiting defends red flag rules following Vettel criticism

2018 United States Grand Prix

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FIA race director Charlie Whiting insisted Formula 1’s red flag rules are “perfectly logical” after Sebastian Vettel described his United States Grand Prix penalty as “wrong”.

The Ferrari driver objected to the three-place grid penalty he received for taking too long to reduce his speed for red flags in Friday’s first practice session.

However Whiting said it was necessary to have clear rules in order to enforce them consistently.

“It is better to have a hard-and-fast rule because we are continually asked how much they have to slow down,” he said.

“It’s like with more or less everything that the teams do on the cars, they want to know how much they can push it. They’ve got a clear limit and it’s an easy thing to follow and I just think it was a driver mistake.”

At the beginning of the season the FIA extended the delta time target which is used to control drivers’ speeds in Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car scenarios to red flag periods.

“I think it’s a perfectly logical approach because the principal was that there was no requirement to say how exactly how much you would slow down where a red flag was given which seemed at odds with having to do it when a Safety Car or VSC is out.

“You were told how much to slow down for a VSC and SC but not for a red flag, so it was a logical thing to do. The teams felt we needed to use exactly the same system for a red flag.”

The new rule has been enforced consistently, Whiting believes.

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“We’ve had three cases now where drivers have failed to stick to that. One of them was a mistake from the driver who admitted what he’d done, that was Daniel [Ricciardo] in Australia.

“Esteban [Ocon] in Suzuka and Seb this time, I don’t know exactly what they did, why they didn’t adhere to the delta time as we call it, but they seemed to manage it perfectly well when the Safety Car and VSC is out.

“I don’t know whether it’s a matter of drivers don’t remember, perhaps. It’s pretty clear, every light panel was showing bright red, it’s not as if you could actually miss it. But he didn’t do a good enough job on that particular occasion.”

Ricciardo’s penalty at the first race weekend established a precedent for Vettel’s penalty, Whiting explained.

“If someone doesn’t slow down for a red flag it’s serious, I think. In our guidelines we have a five-place grid penalty. Guidelines are exactly as the name implies, guidelines.

“The stewards felt that what Daniel did in Melbourne wasn’t too serious, imposed a smaller penalty. Of course he would have felt that was a massive penalty but that has become the precedent. I think when you look at it in the cold light of day it’s a bad thing not to slow down enough for a red flag, however you dress it up.”

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2018 F1 season

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30 comments on “Whiting defends red flag rules following Vettel criticism”

  1. Is this still a thing, that Charlie’s having to defend? Or is this just a deferred article from something he said over the race weekend?

    “Esteban [Ocon] in Suzuka and Seb this time, I don’t know exactly what they did, why they didn’t adhere to the delta time as we call it, but they seemed to manage it perfectly well when the Safety Car and VSC is out.

    And that’s the crux of the issue – these drivers never disadvantage themselves under the SC/VSC, so they can’t argue that the red flag rule needs changing.

    1. Especially since it seems to have taken Vettel about half a minute to react to the delta, surely his reflexes would easily allow him to react more timely.

      1. surely his reflexes would easily allow him to react more timely

        @bascb – Hamilton, Verstappen and Ricciardo beg to differ :-)

        1. Bottas probably as well, when we look back to two times Valtteri dropped back after being banged into by Seb :-)

          1. @bascb – wow, I just realized upon reading your comment – Vettel has tangled with every one of his competitors in F1(A). Kimi must be grateful that Vettel sees him as a wingman and not a competitor, but he’d still be nervous on seeing that #5 in the vicinity of his car.

  2. One can argue IF a red flag should’ve been waved in a certain situation, but not about what you to do WHEN it’s being waved.

  3. In a way I understand Vettel’s point – it is dangerous to suddenly drop you speed, and this may make someone faster hit you from behind. But the fact is that the rule is there, and should be observed by everyone. And as Keith pointed out in the other article, all other 13 cars on track at the moment reduced their speed – this effectively made Vettel precisely the faster guy that could ram other from behind! Not sure if Vettel realized the irony of it…

    1. all other 13 cars on track at the moment reduced their speed – this effectively made Vettel precisely the faster guy that could ram other from behind


    2. The only thing is, Vettel was no where near “suddenly” dropping his speed. He took over 27 seconds to slow down.

      1. @waptraveler: To be fair to Seb, Ferrari had just removed four months of updates – needed almost 30 seconds to determine where in the car they had placed the brake pedal last June.

        1. Jiminy Cynic – lmao

  4. Charlie must get a bit bored having to re state the rules.

    Drivers of course are never wrong. Just ask them.

    1. @dbradock – how does a race car driver spell “wrong”?
      Answer: “W-R-O….ooooom!”

      1. Lol, like it.

  5. I’m more interested to hear why only Sainz got a penalty at the start and nobody else.

    Or why track limits in general are enforced on such an inconsistent basis. Every track on the calendar have to white lines on either side of the asphalt. Why not make this a ‘hard-and-fast rule’ that a driver is penalised the same way Sainz was, whenever they exceed track limits.

    The fact that drivers weren’t penalised by going wide at the second to last corner at COTA made no sense. Allegedly it was because no advantage was gained, but drivers wouldn’t run wide lap after lap if it was destroying their lap times.

    Nothing against any driver in particular, as they’ll all seek an advantage, but the inconsistencies on enforcing track limits are so confusing to a viewer at times.

  6. I entirely agree with him.

  7. Charlie and his crew do a hard job and they do it well. It’s like being a police officer, those that dont need you dont know what you do, then some others that know you dont really like you.

    People need to realise the stewards make decisions on penalties, but Charlie does influence this.

    Seb is frustrated but I think he knows he made the error.

    1. @garns – well said. I’ve criticized Charlie in the past, but will agree that they do have a hard (and often thankless) job.

      Seeing the general comments about Seb’s penalty – it does appear that a lot of people on this site are also frustrated with him doubling down on his excuses for his error, so that’s a good thing.

      1. @phylpy
        Yes they have a thankless job. Charlie also always travels to do circuit inspections in between races, like Vietnam or Thailand. He actually has young kids as well. He does a great job.

        Seb is just frustrated Lewis will beat him again this year. Personally I think Lewis can come across a little fake , but he is an exceptional F1 driver. Seb got beat easy by Dan at RBR in 2014 and then got criticized that he only won as the genius Adrian Newey designed his car.

        As a 4 x WDC that’s hard to take

        He went to Ferrari to show he can do this. I think he can, but things aren’t working so far.

    2. Really? A hard job? Thankless maybe, but hard? Dude they sit in a chair and view replays in HD.

      Get out of your bubble peopls…

  8. The decision against Sebastien was the correct one, despite the fact that it denied us the chance of seeing Vettel and Hamilton going wheel to wheel last Sunday. The flags are there for a reason, rules are rules, and as long as those rules are consistant I am fine about it.
    Vettel was frustrated about it, that is understandable, but it was a practice session. I wasn’t important compared to Saturday and the race itself. It kind has summed up the German’s season since the summer break, another stupid unnecessary mistake that he didn’t need to make. For me, that is what stands out the most from this!

    1. The good thing is, when Vettel didn’t deliver at Monza or COTA, Kimi stepped up and gave us an enjoyable race.

      1. Yes indeed @phylyp, imagine if Kimi had been as clean and faultless the whole year (those Q3 mistakes early on etc), and last year, it would have been actually an interesting WCC fight!

  9. The delta times are there precisely so nobody can complain about arbitrary or unfair treatment from stewards deciding what ‘slow enough’ or ‘safely’ is. The reverse of that arrangement (and the drivers apparently asked for the delta times for red flags) is that the line is absolute – miss it and you get penalized. I can’t believe this is even debated by Vettel or anyone else. The ‘pit sympathy’ seemed to revolve around the fact that the ‘show’ would be harmed. Completely ignoring the fact that (a) Vettel is quite capable of sending himself to tbe back of the grid on lap one, and (b) other drivers can provide the show. Which duly happened on both counts.

  10. Just because you’ve driven passed a crash doesn’t mean there’s nothing else going on further along the track, it may be there is a large puddle of water or oil on the track around the next corner. There weren’t any points at stake in this session, so why not obey the instruction? If Sebastian was concerned about his WDC points then he’d have promptly obeyed the instruction. Not obeying the instruction for 28 seconds suggests winning at that GP wasn’t a priority.
    There’s many reasons why Charlie is right and Sebastian is wrong, but this is taking up too much time.

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