“Very, very dangerous”: Vettel warned race control over near-miss with marshals

2020 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel warned race control the presence of marshals on the track during the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix was “very dangerous”.

Six drivers who were released from behind the Safety Car passed close by a group of three marshals working on or close to the edge of the track approaching Acqua Minerale. The drivers were allowed to overtake the Safety Car in order to get back onto the same lap as the leaders.

The last of the drivers, Lance Stroll, passed close by one marshal at the entrance to the corner at considerable speed.

The marshals were working to clear the scene of George Russell’s crash, which occured during the Safety Car period which had been triggered by Max Verstappen’s retirement. As work to clear the scene was almost completed, race control instructed the drivers who were not on the lead lap to overtake the queue and the Safety Car, and re-join the rear of the train by completing a lap of the circuit.

The first four drivers – Kimi Raikkonen Antonio Giovinazzi, Nicholas Latifi and Romain Grosjean – drove around close together. Haas advised Grosjean that double waved yellow flags were still being shown at Russell’s crash scene before he passed the marshals. “It’s a bit dangerous the leave marshals on,” commented Grosjean on his radio.

Vettel was next to pass the scene, around six seconds after Grosjean, and discovered the same group of marshals, obscured partly from view due to the downhill approach to the corner.

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“They have to watch out, the marshals are on the track,” he warned his team on the radio. “It’s very, very dangerous. Tell the marshals to get out of the track.”

Stroll, the final driver to pass the marshals, did not appear to back off as much as the others. He passed by more quickly, taking around six seconds to cover the stretch from Piratella to Acqua Minerale, compared to eight for Vettel.

Article 39.12 of the sporting regulations states drivers who have been permitted to un-lap themselves during a Safety Car period should “proceed around the track at an appropriate speed” to re-join the queue.

RaceFans has approached the FIA for a response.

Last year a near-miss involving Sergio Perez and two marshals during a Safety Car period in Monaco led the FIA to issue a reminder to marshals not to enter a track without the permission of race control.

Grosjean also warned his team about the marshals
Grosjean also warned his team about the marshals
Stroll passed three marshals on the track
Stroll passed three marshals on the track

Thanks to several RaceFans readers who sent in tips about this story

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2020 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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50 comments on ““Very, very dangerous”: Vettel warned race control over near-miss with marshals”

  1. Lapped cars should not be released until the track is clear. I’m not one of Michael Masi’s regular critics but he needs a stern talking-to about this.

    1. The previous standards for safety car seem to have changed this year, and not for the better. Previously lapped cars were only released when the track was clear and safe, and they weren’t given two laps to catch up to the back of the pack, they were given just one lap so they wouldn’t be mixed among the drivers on the lead lap. At least since Mugello, they’ve restored when the drivers get the message that the SC is coming in, not at the last moment but around the end of sector 2.

      1. Yeah, there is no real reason why the lapped cars need to catch all the way up to the back of the field once they have been released. One lap would be sufficient. But then again, there is also no real reason why they need to continue driving to the safety car delta time either (assuming the track is actually clear, as above).

        1. @red-andy it is also concerning that this has happened given the near miss that occurred last year at Monaco when we had marshals enter the track without instruction, resulting in Perez nearly hitting them.

          Yet again, we are having cases where there seems to be a complete breakdown in communications between those marshals on the track and those who are meant to be running the race. In Monaco, it was a case of a non-FIA representative telling the marshals to go out onto the track at the wrong time – here, it’s not quite clear who exactly made the mistake, but clearly something went badly wrong in terms of communications.

          Given that we also had the incident in 2016 in Singapore of race control restarting the race after being wrongly informed that the track was clear, when in fact there was still a marshal present on track, this really should be a clear signal to the FIA that there are ongoing communication issues.

          Sadly, as others note, the fact that this has happened again for at least the third time in 4 years does suggest that lessons are not being learnt from repeated near misses. I hope that this acts as a wake up call to Masi, because I would expect a lot of people want to see action taken now before there is a serious accident.

        2. Coventry Climax
          10th November 2020, 17:44

          In my view, there’s no, null, zero reason at all, for lapped cars to be allowed to unlap themselves in a safetycar situation.

    2. According to Brundle, it is the marshall’s fault, at least it was in portugal.

    3. @red-andy Just a general question, why can’t lapped cars drop back instead of driving all the way round to the back? In other words, tell unlapped cars to pass those in front until everyone is in order. It can’t be that difficult logistically. And do it sooner. That way the pack stays as a pack too.

      1. I suspect they need to ensure the same number of laps and therefore fuel usage – otherwise a good idea.

      2. @david-br This would be grossly unfair to a car that is lapped just before the safety car is deployed. In effect the next driver ahead of him would then inherit a lap on that driver. This then artificially creates a two-tier race.

        The solution at the moment whilst time-consuming is the only way that issues can be dealt with safely whilst keeping sporting fairness. However I agree that only a couple of laps are needed since all you need to do is ensure that lapped cars do not interfere with the restart of the faster cars.

      3. If lapped cars were able to just drop back instead of doing a lap, they would have a fuel advantage. Effectively they would have at least 1 lap of fuel saved by not doing the lap.

        This would permit them to use stronger engine setting while the cars that have not been lapped will need to continue to manage their fuel

      4. Coventry Climax
        10th November 2020, 17:55

        How about not unlapping at all? I can’t see any reason to do any unlapping anyway. It’s unfair enough as it is already, with cars that built up an advantage, only losing it because someone else has a made a mistake or has a failure. Once the racing starts again, the cars that were lapped will get blue flags (another ridiculous rule) anyway, so they’ll have to get out of the way soon. They may be slower cars/drivers, but not by so much as it would mean danger to have them stay where they are until there’s a restart.
        That’s the trouble with racing these days, it’s governed by people who want to be important, so they make up rules. It’s like male dogs really, needing to pee at every pole and bush.
        As usual, less is more.

  2. What? Driving full speed by themselves in a safety car situation is dangerous? Who would’ve thought? /irony

    Obviously their safety is not as important as improving the show slightly by having lapped cars out of the way for the restart. They could of course accomplish this by dropping back instead of going around, but that would involve some technical solutions to the timing system which is apparently beyond what F1 is capable of.

    1. +1.

      And even if it IS needed, at least wait with unlapping until it is safe.

    2. I understand the “let them drop to the back and add one lap” argument, but that would mean that they have 1 lap less on their tyres/car/systems/etc and now have an advantage over those they are racing. That’s not fair.

      1. What’s fair about gaining a lap?

        Best is of course simply do the most obvious and fair and just leave the cars in place.

        1. @balue Obviously leaving the cars in place is what used to happen before the ‘unlapping’ rule was introduced in around 2007, but that had the same problem with the proposal to drop the lapped cars to the back of the field – it has a disproportionate impact on those drivers who have just been lapped, who go from being maybe a few seconds behind the car in front to almost an entire lap.

      2. Technically they are still doing the same amount of kilometers in the race just on advantageous SC. So yes they are saving tyre wear but still within completing the length of the race.

        1. That’s not true at all. If the leader crosses the line to start final lap, all lapped drivers finish the race when crossing the line thereafter, so it’s not uncommon for drivers to not go the “full distance”.
          Now if lapped cars just dropped back, they did just save kilometers to the non lapped drivers that HAVE done the lap and now are sitting at their back bumper. If 9th place is lapped and just drops back behind 8th place who isn’t lapped and with the lead pack he has less kilometers right then and there as well as an advantage in all categories of performance – so be it minimal, could be the difference for scoring points.
          Leaving the cars in place in this day and age is just dangerous. The cars being raced are literally pushing the limits in almost all aspect of physics and stress, and putting under performing cars at the front is just asking drivers to put themselves in dangerous situations.
          Everything in Formula 1 is, and has to be, all about safety. I think the situation from the weekend is the biggest thing the FIA needs to get under control. The track communication is lacking immensely and I think there needs to be a better on track system for the marshals to follow and react to. Some sort of lighting system or some sort of wearable tech that initiates track crews. One thing I’m not completely sure of, or knowledgeable about, is the vetting that the marshals have to under go. I know pretty much anyone can sign up initially but do they have to take safety classes and such?
          I know this incident is not related but how does the FIA control marshals acting on their own? Seems like they get to take the fire of a situation they have little control over. Hopefully things will improve as the new regulations come into play in 2022, hopefully this allows the FIA to focus more on policing and managing the race rather than all of the off the track 💩 that is thrown on their plate as well week to week.

  3. Well first of all it’s a bit of a damned if you damned if you don’t, because if they brought out a red flag to do the clean up safely then people would be crying that it was just done in order to have an exciting restart as they did in Mugello.

    Secondly, unlapping is just silly anyway. Why get the drivers to go all the way around the grid (which takes so much time to do safely) when you can just send them to the back of the pack, in order, and adjust the timing manually so that they are on the correct lap. We’ve also seen another issue with unlapping where drivers that have had that lap get an advantage with temperatures and pressures.

    F1 should look at alternatives to unlapping seriously.

    1. I still just keep thinking of the second lane on a straight or section similar to a joker in rallycross that Brawn was talking about ages ago when he was first appointed, not only serving as an opportunity to serve time penalties without being as severe as driving through pit lane. But now also as an opportunity to fix this easily, those who need to unlap would then also have a designated spot in which to slow down and rejoin at the back of the pack.

      Sad that idea has just kind of just disappeared…

    2. Well first of all it’s a bit of a damned if you damned if you don’t

      Well, there is also the option to wait with the unlapping until the track is clear.

      Otherwise completely agree.

    3. @skipgamer
      Why get the drivers to go all the way around the grid

      There is a simple solution to that and it is petrol. If they would just drop to the back of the grid they could use more fuel in a race because they have travelled/raced fewer laps. And that is a big no no to FIA.

      1. Rashmil Rajagopalan
        2nd November 2020, 12:33

        True. We as fans are often too harsh on F1. We would’ve cried either way

        1. But still they get that advantage with warmer tyres etc.

      2. @qeki While this is true, I don’t think this is a big issue in current F1. Most (if if not all) races are not fuel limited – the teams typically underfuel the cars and then do some fuel saving throughout the race because it’s faster. In some cases, it might even hinder the backmarker teams to do one less lap because they end up carrying more fuel than they need (sidepoint – I wonder if backmarker teams factor in the number of times they expect to be lapped into their fuel calculations…).

        In either case, I think the advantage of regaining the lap and restarting with better tyre and brake temperatures is probably a bigger advantage than saving one lap of extra fuel. So I think this is one of those ‘historic’ rules that doesn’t make sense any more and should probably be revised.

      3. That’s fair enough, but if you’re getting lapped then your performance to the rest of the field is obviously poor enough for that extra lap of performance to hardly be an advantage. In the really rare occurance a fast car finds themselves a lap behind then let them have it because they’re going to go on a charge through the field anyway. There’s always the fuel flow limiter to prevent getting any massive boost with the laps worth of fuel.

        In the current formula with such temperamental tyres that extra can be more of an advantage anyway.

    4. How about:
      1) Don’t allow them to unlap themselves
      2) make them fall to the back of the cars on the lead lap.
      3) do this safely by forcing them to drive through the pit lane
      They’re lapped. Tough luck. Don’t get lapped, don’t lose out further. For certain don’t allow them any form of advantage!

      1. @eurobrun – It’s not as simple as that. The safety car doesn’t pick up drivers who are about to be lapped – they pick up whoever is next on the track. Cars should remain on the lap they are on – if they are already lapped by the leader, they can drop to the back but if they aren’t lapped already, it seems ridiculously unfair to put them a lap behind.

        1. @petebaldwin
          Simple fix. Immediately call a VSC. Wait until the leader comes around, SC begins directly in front of the leader.
          F1 tries to make simple things sound like rocket science

          1. @eurobrun – Yeah that’d work. I don’t know why they suddenly seem so scared of using the VSC.

      2. @eurobrun, there are cases that this will cause an unfair result such as when a driver is a couple of seconds behind another and was just lapped when SC (regardless if there is a VSC before) comes in. The driver in front will continue to the end of the queue and the lapped car will stay a lap behind this instead of being just behind the other as per before the SC it ends up almost one lap down after SC pits! The SC in this situation causes a bigger gap than before (and huge) whilst normally just bunches all together in the same order as before.
        Basically the SC can reduce the gaps between cars but should never increase them, to me that is unacceptable

  4. > Secondly, unlapping is just silly anyway. Why get the drivers to go all the way around the grid (which takes so much time to do safely) when you can just send them to the back of the pack, in order, and adjust the timing manually so that they are on the correct lap.

    Never thought about that ! It sounds so much a better solution that I wonder what possible downside there would be to it.

    1. Sorry, was meant to be an answer to @skipgamer.

    2. @palindnilap They let them unlap themselves rather than simply dropping them to the back for 2 reasons.

      Firstly if you have a close battle for say 10th & the leader gets between them just before the SC it effectively ruins that fight & puts those from 11th back at a massive disadvantage, Especially given how important points are for the constructors championship & prize money payouts.

      The other reason is fuel. They only run enough fuel in the cars to get them to the end so if you just dropped them back those cars would effectively have 1 lap more fuel to use than the rest which would allow them to run a bit harder as others are having to back off to save fuel towards the end in a fuel limited race.

      Letting cars un-lap is simply the fairest solution.

      1. I have to say I think the fuel argument is not valid. If the car is slow enough to be lapped, I don’t see how having an extra litre or two of fuel is going to make that much of a difference. The cars should be in race order behind the SC with lapped cars at the back, but the lapped cars are still a lap (or more!) down.

        1. @scbriml Given the advantage the Mercedes & Red Bull have over the rest it’s not that uncommon to see cars well into the top 10 get lapped now & remember cars in the top 10 are eligible for the point for fastest lap.

          How to deal with lapped cars under a SC is something that has been looked at a lot over the past 20 years & the procedure has changed a few times. Everyone in F1 at both the FIA as well as FOM & the teams agree that what they do is the fairest & best way of doing it. Some fans may disagree but we don’t have all the facts or all of the information & knock on effects that these procedures have.

          Saying ‘Drop them to the back’ is easy for us but we don’t have the full or as deep an understanding of the knock on effects as those actually in F1 do so in this instance I think we just need to accept that how it’s done is the best way to do it.

      2. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
        2nd November 2020, 14:04

        @roger-ayles
        Actually, it is for two main reasons… the First being your first point. The second reason is for the timing system. The timing system can not be adjusted and modified until everything is completed at the end. The timing system is something that should not be tampered with during a race and the entire point of it is to accurately track positions and laps of the event. Nothing to do with fuel loads.

        As for the safety concerns, these lapped cars should not be released until all cleanup is complete and no marshals are on track.

        1. @flyingferrarim The live timing screens regularly update on-the-fly once each driver crosses the line irrespective of where they are on a given track, which positions, and whether everyone is on the same lap or not.

          1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
            2nd November 2020, 16:17

            @jerejj
            yes, the timing system updates on the fly, this wasn’t my point. The point was that this system also tracks much more than time itself. It does track position order and laps completed (this includes laps down as well). Each car has a specific transponder identifier and position is set by the order in which each crosses the beacon(s) set on the track. My point is that the system can not and should not be manipulated during an event. The only way to manipulate the order/positions (positions or removing a lap down) is to physically do it out on track and not via the timing system.

  5. In a sport so much about safety, how it this possible… was this the third of fourth near-miss with marshals in the recent past? Singapore with the field coming into T1, Perez (?) at Monaco, and now this. I seriously hope things will change before we have a fatal accident, not after one.

    1. @kaiie – Sadly F1 has previous when it comes to not dealing with near-misses. How many times did Brundle say “one of these days, someone is going to hit one of those tractors?”

      Near-misses should be treated with the same weight as accidents but I can guarantee F1 would have taken a different approach if one of those marshals was hit compared to what they’ll do now having got away with it.

      1. @kaiie @petebaldwin Yes, this should immediately be dealt with, but it will not.

        Horrible to think we were close to another fatality at Imola.

      2. Masi is not fit for his job, sadly neither was Whiting.

  6. Its just a miracle Stroll didnt collect those guys as well. He’s really getting this f1 thing now. Only one mechanic injured and no bent metal. Go Lance.

  7. I would offer up a different POV. Race Control may not have known the workers were still on the track until the situation was unfolding. At least one of the three marshals was not very speedy. I watched him slowly kick the breaking point marker to the side of the track. I kept thinking it is Styrofoam, pick it up and get on with the task at hand.

    Simple fix, have 3 people who check with the marshals in their sector to ensure they are clear. Once clear, then release the lapped cars.

    1. @blueruck The marshal in charge of each post is already meant to be in contact with Race Control…

    2. They have cameras all over the track at every corner. There’s no excuse for race control @blueruck.

  8. For all of us with memories long enough to remember the 70s, this will immediately have us thinking of Tom Pryce and the young marshal who also lost his life that grim day at Kyalami. It’s possible that the halo would have spared Stroll from Pryce’s fate in the event of collision but I doubt anything could have saved the life of another poor marshal.

  9. Right thus whole safety car business needs some disruption.

    Letting people unlap themself does 0 for my entertainment.

    Remove blue flags, restarts should be rolling start as all other series can manage, so we get a fight in to first corner.

    And Stroll needs to get… Meh. Runs over his own mechanic, and then scares some Marshalls.

    Maybe Vettel is sloe, but atleast he has some concern for Marshalls.

  10. Don’t have a massive problem with them unlapping, but why are they doing so while there are still Marshals on the track? It’s the race director again, Masi and his cronies. The onboard footage from Stroll on YT is worth watching, it’s crazy.

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