Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Mugello, 2020

Ocon: Restart call was so late I thought there was a mistake

2020 Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000

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Esteban Ocon said he was surprised by the late timing of the Safety Car restart in the Tuscan Grand Prix, in which four drivers were involved in a crash which stopped the race.

A dozen drivers, including Ocon, were given formal warnings over their driving prior to the crash which put Carlos Sainz Jnr, Kevin Magnussen, Antonio Giovinazzi and Nicholas Latifi out of the race.

Valtteri Bottas, who was leading the race at the time, said the late decision to declare a restart, which is signalled by the Safety Car’s lights being switched off, was a contributory factor in the crash.

Ocon was running 10th at the time of the restart, two places ahead of the first driver who crashed. After reviewing the video of the incident he said it was apparent the restart had been called late.

“Clearly the Safety Car lights got switched off a lot later than what we are used to in that race,” said Ocon.

The Renault driver was at Arrabbiata one, turn eight on the Mugello circuit, when the team told him the Safety Car was coming in. Ocon said he was briefly confused about whether the restart was going to happen on that lap.

“From where I was sitting in the car I got told ‘Safety Car is in this lap’. But the guys were still driving like if there was another lap. So I thought maybe there was a misunderstanding with me and the team, maybe we are going for another lap. And actually, no, it wasn’t.”

As the restart was given Ocon accelerated to catch Daniil Kvyat, then slowed, then accelerated again. He and the other drivers were given warnings for “inconsistent application of throttle and brake from the final corner along the pit straight” at the restart.

“We stayed for a very long time at slow speed,” he explained. “Obviously, there’s a short acceleration which increase from the back because the guys at the back are catching up more of a gap. So it’s a bit like traffic [on a] motorway.

“It caught everyone by surprise just behind me. I got lucky to not get hit in the back, but some didn’t unfortunately.”

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22 comments on “Ocon: Restart call was so late I thought there was a mistake”

  1. Careful Esteban, don’t criticise the mighty Masi. Please don’t forget that it’s all your fault.

    1. Well, the description of what he was doing – going fast, then slowing, then speeding up again – is pretty much exactly what they should not be doing behind the SC @john-h.

      Sure, it does seem that the recent trend towards telling the drivers later is a factor. When I look at how SC restarts used to go a few years back, it seemed the almost always left the SC out a lap or 2 longer than was needed, so it is quite possible the reason for the later calls is more that they wait and then call it in relatively late, but still ahead of the last few bends to avoid keeping it out for another lap which would enable them to tell the drivers a lap ahead of time, but makes every SC longer.

  2. I’m very confused as to why the drivers think this call was “too late”. Ocon was at Arrabbiata 1, turn 8, that’s half a laps warning.

    Can someone tell me what’s going on?

    1. That was when the team told him, but not when the safety car lights themselves went out. A bit like playing to the whistle, you can’t be 100% sure until the SC lights themselves actually go out. This was the main reason for the confusion for a lot of drivers. And me, even I was confused why the SC lights were still on, despite the TV graphics saying ending.

    2. It’s not the call for the safety car coming in that was too late. It was the safety car lights going out indicating that the leader (Bottas) now becomes the de facto pace car. The lights are going out later and later, leaving the leader with little option as to how to start. So in this case Bottas was left with 2 or 3 corners before the end of the lap in which he had to let the safety car get sufficiently ahead so that he didn’t overtake it again and choose his moment to go. The only realistic option he had here was to go to the start finish line and gun it from there to avoid Hamilton sailing past with the draft.

      1. Because of the long straight the driver in front is the only one who cannot profit from a tow.
        Ideally you want to get going before the last 2 corners, as the drivers behind face loss of downforce if they are too close so they will fall back a bit. But that option is barred by the safety car keeping the lights on until beyond there.

        If you only start in the last corner the other cars get their tow without losing speed in the corners. it will be almost impossible to retain the lead then.
        So the leader keeps holding up the field as far on the straight as possible as to shorten the remainder of it and reduce the towing options.

        The point is of course that all drivers know that and should expect it. The fast accelerating should not be done. If there’s a gap to the man in front there’s ample time to leisurely close it until the starting line comes near.

    3. The drivers feel it’s late as the SC lights used to have to go out by the start of sector 3 on the lap it was coming in to give drivers plenty of warning & so the leader could allow the SC to pull away, Warm the brakes/tyres etc…. & get ready for the restart.

      The race control message that the SC is in at the end of the lap is displayed sooner but I don’t think the leader is allowed to drop back & create a gap to the SC until the lights go out and over the past year the FIA have started putting the lights out later & later which has given drivers less time to get ready & the drivers seem to feel that this is been done purely for entertainment purposes to keep the field bunched together longer by making the leader have to wait longer to slow down to create the gap to the SC.

      1. @stefmeister +1 It’s all explained well here by Mark Hughes on the ‘official home of Formula 1’ (which incidentally has improved greatly in the past year or so, congratulations to whoever is responsible).

  3. Maybe the line for the restart should have been just after the final corner. And not almost at the end of a 1 km straight

  4. How can they be criticised for speeding up then slowing down if there is a gap in front but the lead cars aren’t going?

    It’s an absolute joke that the FIA haven’t admitted any fault or need for improvement considering pretty much complaints across the board from the drivers. This is when you would expect the GPDA to make a damning statement and demand improvements.

    I wonder if we’ll see that or otherwise what political powers are preventing that from happening…

    1. @skipgamer +1 When FIA have got to blame 12 drivers – and the remaining lot (at the front) blame FIA – you know there’s a problem. Both Bottas and Hamilton claimed that Mercedes raised a concern, based on the F2 and F3 race restarts after a SC, but they were ignored.

      I don’t get how the drivers can be blamed. Rolling restarts are dependent on the lead driver accelerating to race speed, which in a F1 car is obviously very fast. So all the other cars are waiting for that moment. Cars close to the front can see the lead driver, but not the back of the pack – certainly not at Mugello, where there’s also an uphill section before the straight. So the rest of the pack are looking for signs of acceleration among other drivers. Just one gets it wrong, even momentarily, and that sets of others. The same happens in traffic on a normal road! You think a delay on a section of motorway has cleared, then the cars bunch up again. The problem is obviously the system and how it’s implemented. Masi is deflecting blame.

      1. @skipgamer @david-br Really good points. I agree, the drivers can hardly be blamed given the set of incentives and the information available to them.

        At the same time, I wonder if there aren’t steps the drivers and teams can take to make this kind of restart work. Jenson Button opined that the drivers aren’t as used to them as sports cars drivers, who restart in similar circumstances. And if this style of restart becomes the norm, I would think the teams should look at having US-style spotters who are constantly feeding information about the leader and the pack to the driver to help them avoid the concertina effect.

        1. @markzastrow That makes sense about the spotters, though even so it seems IndyCar has a lot of big accidents still? The system was working in Formula 1. The drivers have said why it has become more problematic, precisely how late the signal is given for the lead driver to be able to drop back and bunch the field before the SC line. They’ve said that this is a deliberate policy to make the restarts more lively. That translates as some reacting quicker than others! So the potential for mayhem is kind of inbuilt – and especially when the lead driver is releasing the pack half way down a long straight. Personally I thought Bottas’s agitated weaving was slightly reckless too, but don’t see that as a major contributing factor. But it could have transferred some agitated energy down the field in a concertina effect too.

          1. @david-br Yes, IndyCar did have that big shunt at the start of the race at Gateway a few weeks back. It was a double file start, which perhaps makes such things more likely but also lower energy, since there’s not as much of a physical gap from the front of the field to the back. And the drivers that triggered the IndyCar shunt—Palou and Askew—are both rookies, so perhaps that speaks to experience and a driver culture of watching out for one another that helps make things less likely.

            But I agree with you, that to some extent, there is instability built into in the system. And perhaps that is even greater in current F1 cars given the acceleration they’re capable of.

  5. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
    14th September 2020, 11:18

    Doesn’t a team tell their drivers “safety car in this lap?”

    1. @passingisoverrated That’s what Ocon explained right? They say this on the radio “SC in”, but then the lights on the safety car don’t go out until the end of the lap.

    2. @passingisoverrated Yes, The race control message is displayed earlier in the lap but the leader isn’t allowed to drop back from the SC & build a gap to it for the restart until the lights go out.

      The SC lights always used to have to go out at the start of the 3rd sector on the lap it was coming it but recently they have been leaving it later & later which keeps the field bunched up for longer & it’s this drivers are unhappy about as they feel it’s putting the show above safety.

      It kind of reminds me of Indyacr awhen a few years ago for entertainment purposes they decided to move to double file restarts. Drivers weren’t happy as they felt it created more risk which was a concern that proved to be correct as the double file restarts proved to lead to more restart lap accidents so they ended up switching back to single file restarts. The initial start is still double file but subsequent restarts are single file.

  6. F3 and F2 kids managed it without a problem, but F1 kids couldn’t.

    1. Correlation does not infer causation.

    2. @regs Possibly because F1 cars accelerate a lot faster.

  7. The FIA will always insist they did it the right way.
    The drivers have only the sefety car lights to know what is going on.
    They have very limited visibility of what is going on ahead.
    Another reason why drivers have to accelerate to keep up even if the race has not started is because there is also a “ten car’s lenght” rule, which you as a driver must not fall behind by.
    Maybe its the drivers who are stupid, but its another race where drivers have been confused by the FIA lights. This tells me something is wrong within that organisation.

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