Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2021

Eight safety questions raised by Azerbaijan Grand Prix crashes and F1’s reaction

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 skirted disaster in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Two drivers survived high-speed tyre failures, and several of their rivals voices concerns over how the incidents were handled.

What caused the failures, did F1 respond correctly to them, and what action needs to be taken to avoid similar situations in future races?

Why did the tyres fail?

The origin of Sunday’s problems was the two failures which struck Lance Stroll on lap 30 and Max Verstappen – who had victory in sight – 15 laps later.

F1 can be satisfied that both drivers walked away from huge crashes with not a scratch on them. Each was tipped nose-first into a barrier at one of F1’s fastest tracks at speeds of around 300kph. The two chassis appeared to remain intact, and Aston Martin have already confirmed Stroll will use his again in France once it has been repaired.

The remains of their damaged left-rear tyres, plus Lewis Hamilton’s left-rear which also suffered a cut, were taken back to Pirelli’s headquarters in Milan on Monday for inspection. All of these were of C3 (hard) compound, but Pirelli is also inspecting an unspecified number of other tyres.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Feature: “Who’s next?” “Why are they waiting?” Concern and confusion on drivers’ radios after Baku crashes
This is not the first time F1 tyres have failed without warning in the last 12 months. Both drivers suffered similar failures last year – Verstappen at Imola and Stroll at Mugello. Three other drivers – Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz Jnr – experienced sudden tyre deflations at the end of the British Grand Prix.

Pirelli provided its softest range of tyres for this year’s race at Baku, one step softer than those it brought for the last race at the circuit in 2019. However, no driver used the hard tyres during that race, and most ran stints of well over 30 laps on the medium tyre, approximate to the hard used this year. Moreover, during Sunday’s race, several drivers ran longer stints on their hard tyres than Stroll and Verstappen did, indicating the failures were not simply or solely a matter of wear.

Until Pirelli reveal the details of their investigation, which they intend to do prior to the next race at Paul Ricard, there is not point pre-judging the outcome. However immediately after the race Verstappen suggested debris would be blamed for the failures, and later that evening Pirelli’s head of motorsport Mario Isola said their preliminary analysis indicated as much.

While Verstappen and other had driven through Stroll’s crash scene, where might Stroll have collected damage from? There were few other incidents prior to his crash, though the leaders had to swerve to avoid a tree branch at turn 15 on lap two.

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Have the changes for 2021 not worked as intended?

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Narrower rear floors were among the changes for 2021
The latest failures are a worry for Formula 1 and Pirelli as teams were forced to make several costly changes to the cars this year in an attempt to prevent a repeat of last year’s failures.

An initial package of changes was agreed, then F1 decided to go further in order to significantly reduce downforce levels and ease the strain placed upon tyres. The alterations to the floor, brake ducts and diffuser – all at the rear of the car – were a bone of contention at the beginning of this year, as Mercedes and Aston Martin claimed they lost more performance as a result of them than their rivals.

Nonetheless, further failures have occured. There are, however, notable differences between what happened last weekend and the British Grand Prix deflations which prompted the changes for 2021. The Baku failures occured at the rear of the car, not the front, and the Azerbaijan track is a far less punishing circuit than Silverstone.

Furthermore, as Isola noted on Sunday, the left-rear tyre is subject to less severe treatment than the right-rear at Baku.

Were the tyre pressures too low?

Following Friday practice in Baku, Isola said Pirelli had observed “nothing unexpected”. Nonetheless, prior to Saturday’s running the decision was taken to increase the minimum starting pressure for the rear tyres from 19psi to 20psi, bringing it in line with the front tyres. In 2019 the pressures were 20.5psi for rears and 21.5psi at the front.

As Isola described on Friday, one of their target for the tyres they introduced this year was to allow drivers to run lower pressures, in order to reduce overheating and produce better racing.

“With the new construction for the slick tyres we can run at a lower pressure,” said Isola. “One of the targets of the new construction, because it’s more robust, is to give the opportunity to go with a lower pressure.”

During the stoppage following Verstappen’s crash, Mick Schumacher was advised that Pirelli had told teams to increase their rear tyre pressures by a further 2psi. However this message, which was relayed to all teams via race control, was in fact a miscommunication, and Haas corrected their advice to Schumacher five minutes later:

Gannon So Pirelli have just raised the pressure minimum for everyone on the rear by 2psi. So everyone has 2psi higher rear pressure, now. We will, too. But this is a six-lap used set of C5s, still in good condition, because it only has like laps-to-grid sets a half-lap of pushing. So I’m raising the rear pressures 2psi and the front only one so we’ll have less stagger and you won’t lose too much front grip, you’ll lose a little rear grip but just drive with what you get, it’ll be okay.
Schumacher What happened in the incident with Max?
Gannon He crashed alone, by himself. Ah, okay, now I understand, maybe it was an issue. That’s why we have this tyre pressure change. They’re just being very cautious, they don’t know the exact detail.
Schumacher Okay.
Gannon Okay Mick Pirelli have changed the rules again, so we’re back to the original rear pressures, and I’m just taking out a little front pressure, just to give us a little more front on the one lap, two laps.

Nonetheless it remains to be seen whether Pirelli can continue with its preference for using lower pressures.

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Should the race have been neutralised immediately after both crashes?

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Verstappen’s crash prompted confusion on Leclerc’s radio
Several drivers queried why Formula 1 race director Michael Masi took as long as he did to send the Safety Car out in response to Stroll and Verstappen’s crashes. There was a delay of 43 seconds between Stroll’s crash and the Safety Car being deployed, and over 80 seconds in the case of Verstappen’s.

“I was wondering a little bit why it took so long, the second time when Max had the shunt, for the Safety Car to come out,” said Sebastian Vettel after the race. “Because it was quite clear that he was standing in the middle of the track and it took a little bit long. But we will see, we will find out why.”

Charles Leclerc described the decision not to send the Safety Car out immediately as a “fucking joke” on this radio at the time. “I was just surprised that there was not the Safety Car earlier,” he explained afterwards.

“That’s why I raised my concern on the on the radio, because for me it was clear that I would stop pushing with a crash like this, it was in the middle of the straight, which was quite dangerous. It just took longer than what I expected. That’s it. But I think all the drivers have been surprised the same the same way.”

Leclerc’s radio underlined the potential dangers of covering the crash scene with yellow flags instead of a Safety Car. As he passed Verstappen’s crashed car on the right-hand side of the track, Leclerc was given conflicting instructions about where he needed to go to avoid the stationary Red Bull:

Marcos Padros Go to the left, left on the main straight. Right, to the right. Er, crash in the main straight, on the left, stay to the left.

Did all drivers respond correctly to the yellow flags?

Having chosen to initially cover both crashes using double waved yellow flags, Masi was unhappy with how many of the drivers responded to them. During the race broadcast McLaren were heard complaining Yuki Tsunoda had failed to slow sufficiently for either crash.

Joseph Just to confirm, we’ve informed race direction about Tsunoda not slowing down in front.
Norris Yeah it was double waved yellows and he didn’t even slow down.

But in his reply, played over the world television feed, Masi made it clear he wasn’t satisfied with how any of the drivers reacted. “Quite simply, for me, the entire field should be penalised for not slowing for double yellows in accordance with the regulations.”

“For me, all of them are obvious,” he added. “Lifting a little bit is not enough and I’m going to tell all drivers accordingly at the next meeting.”

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Baku City Circuit, 2021
McLaren were unhappy with Tsunoda’s response to yellow flags
Masi’s response is surprising for several reasons. First, some drivers clearly slowed far more than others. Schumacher, for one, backed off considerably as he passed the Stroll crash scene.

Others further ahead did not slow down as much for the same incident, but it’s debateable how much they should have done. This is a flat-out section of track with blind corners – should it really be left to the drivers’ discretion how far they should slow down to be safe?

Moreover, if the drivers were in breach, they should have been penalised, even if it meant issuing sanctions to all or most of the entire field. This is not without precedent – 12 drivers were formally warned over last year’s restart crash at Mugello.

Why were drivers given incorrect information about the Safety Car?

Following Stroll’s crash, several drivers were shown Safety Car boards by trackside marshals well before the Safety Car was deployed. This caused further confusion. Eventual race winner Sergio Perez was among those who saw them, and slowed down approaching turn five as a result, in the mistaken belief the Safety Car had been deployed long before it was:

Perez Safety Car.
Rennie Not Safety Car yet. There is no Safety Car.
Perez What the fuck? I saw the…
Rennie Safety Car, Safety Car now.
Perez I saw the board a lot earlier.
Rennie Copy.
Perez The marshal…
Rennie Recharge on, recharge on. At the moment, pit entry is closed so we are staying out.

Perez was far from the only driver to be confused. There is an obvious potential risk of some drivers slowing because they believe the Safety Car has been deployed, while others continue flat-out.

Why was the red flag used inconsistently?

Russell called for a red flag after Stroll’s crash
The decision to red-flag the race in response to Verstappen’s crash made sense. It allowed marshals to clean the area with no pressure of time and without cars repeatedly passing the scene.

It begged the question why wasn’t the same done for Stroll’s crash. Of course, that’s easy to say with hindsight, especially if it ultimately transpires that Verstappen’s tyre failed due to debris from that crash.

But some drivers called for a red flag at the time, notably George Russell:

Russell They’ve got to red flag this, surely, we’ve been driving through a load of debris.

Masi said the red flag was used during the second crash in order to give the drivers the chance to race to the finish, instead of taking the chequered flag behind the Safety Car.

Will Mazepin face a sanction for his last-lap swerve?

Report: FIA to examine Mazepin-Schumacher near-miss which was overlooked during race
The final drama of the day was overlooked by the stewards, but may yet result in action. Nikita Mazepin swerved alarmingly towards Mick Schumacher as his team mate overtook him at the same point on the track where Stroll’s tyre had failed. The consequences of a crash at that section of the track could have been dire.

Drivers have been sanctioned for similar moves in recent races. Lando Norris was shown the black-and-white ‘unsporting conduct’ flag at the Spanish Grand Prix for a late defensive move on Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Mazepin’s move would appear to deserve at least as much. He clearly anticipated Schumacher’s attempt to pass him, as his eyes were fixed on his right-hand mirror as the other Haas drew within range. The stewards may not have seen the move at the time, but it deserves investigating, to avoid sending the impression that driving standards only apply to those racing at the front of the field.

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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...

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80 comments on “Eight safety questions raised by Azerbaijan Grand Prix crashes and F1’s reaction”

  1. If you see Mick’s onboard, you’ll know what a liar Masi is. The Haas driver slowed to almost a complete halt while passing the Verstappen crash scene. Masi sounded more like a petulant bully on the defensive in his response to McLaren than a race director. He has to go, right now.

    1. Here’s the very dangerous and very unacceptable incidents that I feel Masi is responsible for:
      – Turkey 2020, crane incident at the Q2 restart.
      – Bahrain 2020, marshal running across track during SC period.
      – Imola 2021, deciding Vettel’s penalty too late.
      – F2 Monaco 2021, letting Deledda race when he failed to qualify.
      – Azerbaijan 2021, restart over red flag when there was 3 laps to go.
      Five more very dangerous incidents and the outcome will be 100% clear.

      1. You missed the SC debacle at Mugello, blaming all the drivers (again) instead of looking into the procedure with SC lights going out confusing the drivers. One of the things about Charlie was his contrition, something Masi has none of.

        1. RandomMallard (@)
          9th June 2021, 15:08

          @john-h This one has confused me for a while. You are right in mentioning how late the SC lights went out, and whoever’s fault this was clearly has to take a large portion of the blame for this. But what confuses me is that it was announced that the SC was ending at T10 at the start of S3 on the TV graphics. So I think one of 2 things happened there. Either:

          1. Masi/Race Control were too slow to tell the SC crew that it was heading in and to turn their lights out, or

          2. The secondman in the SC was too slow in turning the lights out.

          Both of these explanations appear to be the most reasonable, and if it was in fact number 1 then clearly that is another fault of Masi’s.

        2. It was also before incidents were very serious in Turkey.

      2. RandomMallard (@)
        9th June 2021, 15:04

        While Masi has no doubt made some awful mistakes, I think some of these are a bit harsh on him. Unless the FIA have mind control technology they’re not telling us about, then they can’t completely stop a marshall running across the track. Again here this weekend, it may have been that some marshalls pre-empted the Safety Car and displayed the boards too early (well, at the right time really as it was Race Control who were too late).

        Also, Masi isn’t the Race Director for F2. That job is held by Bob Kettleboro. And again, it is the stewards who decide penalties (such as Vettel’s) not Masi himself.

        But as I said at the top, his timings and reasons for SCs and RFs recently have been very questionable and I am really losing patience with him now.

        1. Regarding the F2/Deledda decision I actually meant about Masi’s explanation.

      3. @Dave You didn’t include last year’s Imola, marshals on trackside while a few drivers were catching the pack after unlapping themselves nor handing out Stroll his five-second penalty earlier in Imola this year for the situation with Gasly quite early on in the race.

        1. I’ll include that next time someone says that “it’s time to go” for Masi.

    2. @wsrgo Have you got a link to that onboard? I can’t find it on the interwebs…

  2. I’d add the brake bias control override being a safety issue potentially – If LH had been mid-pack and done that we’d have had a France ’89 issue, let alone if that sort of thing happened somewhere like Monza.

    Not saying for sure the mode should be banned or anything but it does raise a question at least from me.

    1. @mysticarl, I don’t quite agree. Mercedes drivers have two ways of changing brake balance, and they’ve never had this type of issue. Perhaps Mercedes might make some layout changes if they feel the need, but we shall wait and find out.

      1. @Jere It’s not a Merc specific thing, I’m sure they all have these modes.

    2. You raise a good point. From the sound of it there wasn’t any dashboard indication the Brake Magic had been activated, only a telemetry indication to the pit wall. One would have expected some sort of warning to have been given to Lewis that it had been activated. One could add questions about whether or not automatic overrides shouldn’t have been built into the software.

      1. Formula 1 is not for driving on the road. There are many settings and things on an F1 car that are by definition unsafe. Limit the Revs so they go 80km/h, gonna be very safe…

  3. I don’t get it, with yellow (or double waved yellows), they are still in racing conditions, no driver will slow more than any other just for the sake of it. They introduced VSC after Bianchi to have a relatively fair way to slow down drivers immediately yet it is seldom used. It doesn’t perturbe the race much to throw out the VSC as soon as something happens, best case, problem is solved quickly, VSC is ending and racing resume with minimal impact. Worst case, they decide to throw SC or red flag if required.

    Actually WEC system with sector VSC is the best way and F1 has the infrastructure to make it work. That would be the best way to handle most incidents and have quick and proper reaction.

    1. Completely agree 100% @jeanrien. The fact that the race director of F1 does not seem to remember why the VSC was developed in the first place in 2014 is just gross negligence. Double waved yellows are not enough, the FIA really need to replace Masi immediately before we have another death of an F1 driver or worse.

    2. RandomMallard (@)
      9th June 2021, 14:54

      @jeanrien I don’t think WEC use the slow zones (or sector VSCs) outside of Le Mans, or if they do they are used very, very rarely, as it has the potential that some drivers will have to go through that zone more than others, potentially losing lots of time, and the other potential issues with constantly slowing down/speeding up several times, as opposed to just once for a VSC or SC. Make no mistake they are perfect for a track like the Nurburgring or Le Mans, I just don’t think they can be scaled down as easily.

      But yes, Masi should have responded much quicker to both incidents on Sunday.

    3. @jeanrien Totally right. VSC has been there for years now. No excuses not to use it.

    4. @jeanrien @john-h Martin Brundle has said during Sky’s coverage a couple times this year that we are likely to see the SC used more this for “Marketing reasons”.

      I also seem to recall @GT_Racer I think it was saying last year that Liberty were pushing the view that a full SC & subsequent restart was better for the show than a VSC & that we should expect to see the VSC used less as a result. I think he also said that the standing restart after a red flag was implemented for the same reason, It was felt it would be more exciting for the show than a rolling restart.

      1. @stefmeister Your points could very well be true, but unfortunately, this approach is wrong and benefits neither safety nor fair competition in the long term.

    5. I have looked on Reddit at the clip that was compiled of all the drivers passing the Verstappen crash scene and it is incredible to see that the majority of the drivers go through without lifting. Only a few like Schumacher and Vettel were reducing their speed considerably.

      If Verstappen gets a grid penalty in Q3 in Mexico 2019 for not lifting when passing the Bottas crash while yellow was being waved, why do all these drivers go by unpunished?

      1. @aegges66

        The inconsistency means that drivers will keep gambling with their and/or their colleagues lives to get an advantage, because it will pay off sometimes.

      2. @aegges66 Because that would have meant punishing the ‘right sort’ of drivers, and that’s obviously not on.

    6. The biggest problem imho is the wording of the rule for double waved yellows. To slow significantly.
      What is significant? A litlle lift? Or slow down under a certain speed?
      It just isn’t policeable like this, at least it isn’t policed correctly, which we also saw in Baku. Which imho is the cause of Bianchis fatal crash.

      It should be imho to slow down under a certain (fixed) speed like with the VSC, but only for the part of the track where double yellows are waved and not the whole track like the VSC .

    7. Yeah, you are quite right there @jeanrien. The VSC was brought in exactly to do that.

      There are clearly quite a few questions that need to be answered over choices made what instrument to use and not to use in what situation. Only too often it feels like ignoring the serious risks that Whiting had learnt not to underestimate from sad experience.

    8. The worst of this is how they used the hammer on Vettel with 5 grid place drop and license penalty points for not abandoning his lap in Bahrain qualifying, even though they admit he didn’t see the flags, yet here they all see the flags and the stricken car but just whiz past full blast and it’s all A-Ok.

    9. @jeanrien Yellow flags can be deployed without reference to Race Control, whereas anything stronger than that has to go through Race Control (since VSC, SC etc affect the whole track and only Race Control is likely to have the full track’s context to go on). Thus yellow flags are always likely to be the first response to such incidents as these, no matter how responsibe Race Control becomes.

      I would be interested to know whether the FIA is still using the 0.2/0.5-second rule for yellow flags implemented just before Malaysia 2014. (It never got formalised into the rulebook, because it’s an interpretation of the rules rather than the rules themselves, but it was the definition Charlie Whiting used for determining whether a driver had slowed down enough, absent clear and visible-to-the-driver aggravating features – and I’m not entirely sure if the “absent clear and visible…” bit was an original feature of the interpretation). If it is still a feature, then Masi needs to either change that, or accept it, and either way stop complaining that (many/most/potentially all) drivers are doing exactly as the FIA instructed them to do. If not, then Masi needs to communicate the replacement interpretation to drivers and public alike – because “slow down and be prepared to stop” is too subjective to be operationally useful to a driver, however useful stewards have historically found its flexibility.

      For that matter, if institutional memory is as poor as is implied by Masi’s comments regarding the approach to red flags, I could entirely believe the interpretation has been replaced without this being clearly communicated to all FIA staff – leading to multiple interpretations in use by even the one organisation that needs to present a consistent position about it.

      Note that any replacement interpretation must be handled carefully. For the stewards, a flexible approach is needed because this is a rule that can be applied in thousands of subtly different situations, separable into several distinct categories, and it’s not clear we yet know every possible category (races can be pretty inventive when it comes to flag-worthy drama). However, the drivers need to know exactly how much to slow down by in all of these situations, so that they can be confident of complying with the rules – otherwise they will simply go for the approach that loses the least time while (in their minds) minimising the risk of being called to the stewards’ office. Since there’s also a rule on the books that prohibits excessive slowness on the track (that is also a safety rule), they need to know what speed range successfully threads the regulatory needle. The interpretation I linked has certain major weaknesses, but does at least give the drivers and stewards alike the information they need to proceed.

      1. Good point about deployment and timing. But with a big shunt on the main straight, they still had pretty poor reaction time to throw in something else than double waved yellows.

  4. As much as I enjoyed the chaotic final few laps (from Verstappen’s accident onwards), I had to question the procedure behind the red flag and it baffled me that the decisions taken seemed to be “because the race director felt like it” rather than any stone rules. Once there was a red flag, there were three options which potentially benefited three different drivers; 1) The race stops fully and Verstappen potentially wins on countback. 2) The race finishes behind the Safety Car meaning Perez wins. 3) The race is restarted giving Hamilton the opportunity to win.

    It seems clear to me that Option 3 was chosen because it would create the most drama at the end of the race (they weren’t wrong…). This option wasn’t even considered after Stroll’s accident. They could just have easily finished behind the Safety Car to secure a Perez win and Vettel podium because it’s a good look for the sport. Option 1 benefited Fernando Alonso in Brazil 2003 when his own crash cemented his place on the podium (which he failed to actually stand on!).

    Why isn’t there a procedure to stop this controversy? Eg: if there is a red flag with, say, 5 laps to go, the race is stopped and the finishing order is the last complete racing lap. Or that the race will ALWAYS restart when safe, from the grid, no matter how many laps are left.

    I hate the possibility for interpretation. Give us all a proper rule; sometimes it will create drama, sometimes it will ruin it, but at least it would be fair.

    1. Whilst I agree with the sentiment, the devil is in the details @ben-n. For example if there was a hard rule of 5 laps, that would be completely different on one track to the other, plus the fact it opens up the possibility of a driver (or team) deliberately causing a red flag (we can all think of teams in the past that would have entertained that idea).

      What needed to have happened is that either the race finished behind the safety car, or at least the restart should have been a rolling one (Option 2). I remember the debates we had on this website a few years back around the introduction of standing starts, and the gimmick really played out this last weekend. However, ultimately if it’s possible to complete the race distance then they really should try (SC or otherwise), unless there is a light/weather issue as we saw in Malaysia years ago.

    2. @ben-n I wish rolling restart would only ever be used after every red-flag stoppage, never a standing one.
      I agree with you on stopping a race prematurely if a red flag comes out only a few laps from the end.

    3. @ben-n Regarding finishing the race after the red flag – there was such a long delay in throwing the red flag that I believe Verstappen would not have won on countback. It’s also debatable if a driver causing the red flag should be able to benefit from it (not suggesting for one second it was deliberate), but as it stands he would.

      Regardless of the arguments for or against a standing start after a red flag, there was no reason in Baku for the race to not run it’s full distance.

    4. @ben-n The fact that the options were entirely at Race Control discretion is deliberate, because a decision that important has to be in the hands of one person, and the circumstances that could potentially lead to it are too numerous for specifying a specific stance in the rules to be viable. However, there is a long precedent (stretching back decades) to use the least restrictive method of managing a race that appears to be compatible with safety.

      Standing start is currently the “least-restrictive” method permitted in the rules, Masi saw no safety reason against it pertaining to that specific restart, so he went with it. (Had there been a reason not to do so, rolling start under Safety Car – in this context effectively a single-lap shootout – would have been the next option, and a total red-flag only if restart proved impossible).

      There used to be a hard rule whereby getting to a certain point and having a red flag did indeed stop the race in its tracks. This was “Case C” in the pre-2004 regulations*. Then Brazil 2003 happened, the FIA decided it could not risk another situation where a week’s headlines were dominated by inability to determine who had won, and decided that henceforth all races that could be decided on track must be. (Naturally this introduced the question of what happened if there were problems deciding who lined up where, which is why soon afterwards, the countback rule was changed from “2 laps” to “the latest position the FIA can determine” – in F1, that can be the last point all remaining runners were recorded to have crossed a full timing sector but is can be the last completed lap as a fallback position).

      * – For those of you not watching F1 back then, the cases referred to 3 different set ways of handling a red flag. Case A, if 2 or fewer laps were completed, was to do a restart from original grid order, minus anyone unable to make it back to the pits, with work on the cars unrestricted/restricted only by parc fermé until the “10 minutes to restart” call was made, and with the part-completed laps removed from the total. Case B applied any time from lap 3 until 75% of the race was completed; it required a standing restart if possible, with no work allowed except as approved under that specific version of the rules, and half-points if the race could not be restarted. Case C was for races that had less than 25% of the distance left to go. The race stopped and would not be restarted, with full points issued.

  5. The safety car should have been called straight away. Can’t be leaving it up to the drivers to decide what is slow enough. No one wants to be the guy that’s overtaken because he slowed more than the guy behind him.
    The safety car call was just so obvious, the fact it took so long especially after Max’s crash is inexcusable

    1. You are not allows to pass a car under yellow.
      An incident always triggers a yellow flag. So you can never pass a slow car.

      1. You can after the yellow though. Gain time on someone where the yellow flags are & pass them after

        1. Roe, and it would appear that Raikkonen was possibly trying to do that – Raikkonen went flat out through the yellow flag zone, seemingly with the engine set into overtake mode, whilst Alonso ahead had initially slowed. In the end, that forced Alonso to hold his speed and watch his mirrors to see what Raikkonen was trying to do.

          In theory, a driver could have overtaken into Turn 1, which was technically a green flag zone – and it seems that there were drivers who might have been trying to do that.

  6. There needs to be an “automated” system regarding the yellow flags/double yellow flags/VSC/SC/red flag.

    • If a car stops ON the track, even if it’s not on the racing line → then at the very least the SC has to be deployed instantly… and then consider about red flagging the race (in the instance of a street circuit like Baku and incidents like Stroll & Verstappen, red flagging should be almost certain to give time on the marshalls to clear EVERYTHING, including micro-parts of carbonfibre that may be almost invisible, lying in the middle of the straight and can cause a puncture later on)!
    • If a car stops OUTSIDE of the track but in a dangerous spot (for example: Magnussen in Monza 2020, just before the pits) → then automatically VSC at least!
    • If a car stops OUTSIDE of the track but in a non-dangerous spot → then double-yellows at that spot.

    It’s criminal that it took 43 & 80 seconds for Masi to deploy the SC, for such slam dunk red flag incidents. What did he expect, that the cars and the debris will magically disappear on their own?

    Masi seems by far the most incompetent peroson at the most critical job. He gave us an unnecessary ‘grey-zone’ in 2019 with the black/white flag, he gives us a headache every weekend regarding track limits at selected corners that can change through sessions and during the race… and on top of that he’s bound to kill someone by his negligence of safety.

    1. @black I’ve been complaining about resorting to full SC instead of VSC when a car stops off-track and on a non-dangerous place (Bottas Brazil 2019, Russell Austria last year, etc.), but I agree with your double-yellow suggestion.

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        9th June 2021, 18:22

        @jerejj I think Brazil in 2019 required a tractor or other vehicle to be on track due to where it was parked, so I think a SC was definitely the right decision there.

        1. @randommallard Wrong, the crane never went past the barrier hole. Bottas parked right in front of it at T4 inside, so well out of the firing line. No one was ever going to hit his car, marshals, or the crane, so full SC was overboard. The same with Russell’s case and (I forgot to add previously) Norris’ case at Nurburgring. Fortunately, the most recent SC cases have all been entirely clear cut, i.e., no similarly questionable ones.

          1. RandomMallard (@)
            9th June 2021, 21:19

            @jerejj In Brazil the crane did come out of the barrier hole slightly. Not significantly, but slightly, and it was only slightly out the hole when Bianchi hit it. And at Brazil there is next to no room between the track and the barrier, so if someone was to go off there, and we have seen weirder stuff under SC, then they would probably hit that tractor. In Austria, there is a similarly small amount of space between track and barrier, and while they didn’t need a tractor, there were still marshalls very close to the track. As you say below:

            Safety should always come first before anything else

            In the Nurburgring, I think there was an even stronger case for a SC. It was right in the firing line if a car did go off, for example if they accidentally hit a button that turned off their brakes…, and the car was on fire. If anything I’m annoyed that Masi didn’t react quicker to Norris at the Nurburgring.

            The other common denominator in all three of incidents is that there were no gaps on track greater than about 15 seconds at most. This is slightly elongated by a VSC to about 22 seconds (on the assumption of a VSC being +40% pace), but if you need marshalls on track, or in the firing line, then you do want a slightly larger gap.

          2. @randommallard
            Sutil’s crash location is where drivers could directly hit a crane or stranded car when going off, but the inside of Brazil’s T4 isn’t like this. If someone goes off at T4, he goes straight ahead rather than spin into where Bottas’ car was, so zero risks with VSC.
            Yes, marshals pushed Russell’s car into a marked hole, but they were off track and out of firing line past a slow-ish corner, so equally safe for VSC.
            No one was realistically going to hit them either.
            Norris’ car was immediately in front of a hole, and no recovery vehicle went on the other side, nor was the car directly on the firing line. Additionally, the two corners in question are relatively slow-speed, so also a low-ish risk of hitting a stranded car that far from the track edge.
            Bottas’ case was the clearest for VSC, but anyway, I’m happy Masi went for VSC in Giovinazzi’s Turkey case and a few others since Nurburgring, and that otherwise, every situation has been clear cut for full SC, so less reason for questioning.

          3. I think you’re contradicting yourself, @jerejj
            If safety is always most important, shouldn’t all on-track incidents immediately induce a strong safety response? I mean…
            Nobody will crash into another car under SC, will they?
            Nobody will crash into a medical car, will they?
            Nobody will have both front wheels fly off the car when they hit the brakes, will they?
            Nobody will run off the road at 210kph under double-waved yellows and hit a loader recovering another car, will they?
            Oh, wait…

            I gather you’ve been watching motorsport for quite a while – I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll have no trouble coming up with a bunch of scenarios that nobody thought possible that did actually happen.
            Until they did.

          4. RandomMallard (@)
            10th June 2021, 11:03

            @jerejj Firstly I do agree with S here. Just because something is unlikely, it doesn’t make it impossible, and arguably the unlikely incidents are more dangerous as no one is expecting them.

            Secondly, I think we are perhaps overlooking the Marshalls a little bit here. I’m sure most of them (maybe not the lunatic running across the track in Bahrain) were pretty happy for a safety car in most of those incidents. Seen as most of them are volunteers, I would much rather see a SC than a mass exit of marshalls quitting due to lack of protection. They already weren’t being offered covid tests last year, so I expect patience was pretty thin for some of them.

            Also, you are right about Norris being right next to an access point. However, he was parked across the front of it, and due to the awful steering lock of an F1 car it seemed to be quite a pain to actually get into the access point.

  7. Clearly the drivers aren’t smart enough to do the right thing all by themselves under double yellows.
    They’d prefer to risk injury or death on themselves, each other and the track workers than slow down and possibly drop a few seconds.
    But at the same time, they’ll yell, scream and swear that something needs to be done…

    You control you own right foot, guys.

    1. If one driver lifts and the other ploughs on through the debris what then?
      No, you need to have the VSC so that all cars drive through incidents at a similar speed, end of.

      1. Yes, but only for the part of the track where the accident occurred. Not the whole track. So imho the double yellow flags should be interpreted as local VSC. And the ruling should use a fixed speed to stay under at the part where the double yellows are waved.

      2. @john-h Not ‘end of.’ Your opinion is nothing more than that.

        If the problem is drivers choosing not to obey double waved yellows, then the solution needs to address that directly. Not just mask it with another system, which is exactly what VSC does. It’s comparable to DRS not addressing the racing and dirty air problems.
        The culture of safety breaches and rule breaking remains – and even intensifies – until it is directly dealt with and changed.
        Drivers shouldn’t want to speed through a crash zone – never mind whether they are allowed to or not.

    2. S, the drivers are smart enough to do the right thing. The problem is that “the right thing” for them is actually two different things, which conflict with each other, and they are trained to race under the applied rules in the absence of specificality in the written rules.

      Those things are:
      1) Win the race (or perform as well at it as possible).
      2) Comply with the rules.

      The presence of 1) makes it impossible to create a situation where wanting to speed through a crash zone isn’t part of a racing driver’s thinking (even in situations where that’s obviously a bad idea or plain impossible, it’s going to come in the form of wishing the crash wasn’t so bad/messy as to prevent speeding through, rather than a lack of desire to speed through). Contracts and careers are made and broken based on 1), so drivers can never ignore it. Resulting competition more or less requires that the “spirit” of the regulations is routinely ignored in favour of what the rules say, and more importantly how they are applied. The only way to excise the culture of “rule breaking”, as S sees it, would be to remove entirely the competitive element. At that point, F1 no longer works as sport or entertainment, and thus the only ethical option in terms of safety would be to not run it at all.

      Safety is in category 2), since part of the FIA’s job is to put important safety behaviours into the rules. That is itself necessary so drivers know what to expect from each other, particularly when it comes to interpreting text that by necessity must lose some precision in order to be confident of covering all applicable circumstances in the manner anticipated by the rule-writers.

      1) requires drivers to go as fast as possible without falling off the track. 2) requires drivers to go slower than that (in this category of situation). Drivers are simultaneously required to do both. How does a driver know how much space to yield to 2)? The regulations do not say. “Slow down and be preparared to stop” is not helpful to the drivers unless vision is so restricted that a driver is aware that they might have a visible surprise within their braking distance. (This is why, even on the 0.2/0.5 second interpretation era, Sergio Perez managed to get a penalty for insufficiently slowing down despite slowing down in Singapore 2016 qualifying – he was going round a blind corner and the stewards pointed out that he couldn’t be sure his braking distance was clear at the speed he went). For that matter, rain of any greater extent than drizzle reduces visibility to the point where almost stopping often wouldn’t clear vision across the racing distance (thanks to tyre displacement and quality aero), despite that amount of slowdown being dangerous in itself, so most drivers are used to at least some situations where the regulations outright prevent “being prepared to stop” on safety grounds. As such, even though the imprecision of the rule is helpful to Race Control and the stewards because of its flexibility, “slow down and be prepared to stop” is not operationally usable for the drivers, thus cannot be their yardstick for deciding their own actions.

      This was not last weekend’s scenario.

      On a long straight like Baku’s start/finish straight, the drivers can see everything at top speed that they’d be likely to spot at the lowest permissible speed. (A ban on going unnecessarily slowly is also a safety rule, that applies in all situations, but like “slow down and be prepared to stop”, most situations don’t specify what counts as too slow – qualifying outlaps are the exception because of the amount of strategising that happens in that scenario). This means that there is no incentive for them to slow down, unless they are concerned they might crash themselves, have doubts about their ability to brake sufficiently to stop within their expected stopping distance or believe that going above a particular pace is going to result in a penalty/other sporting consequences. In dry conditions, with no visible causes of a crash, this means anyone with a fully-functional car is going to go as fast as they think the applied rules (not the written ones) allow them to go.

      It gets worse. If there is inconsistency about the rules’ application, drivers will go at the fastest speed that meets the penalty risk profile they are comfortable with carrying – which will be different for every driver, and for some drivers will inevitably mean only absolutely certain penalty pacing will be avoided. There is reason to believe the FIA isn’t sure itself whether the 0.2/0.5 second interpretation of single/double-waved yellow flags still applies or whether there is now a different interpretation prevailing, and it’s not been clear about communicating this to the drivers. As a result, drivers have very good reason to be unsure about what pace equals what degree of risk of being penalised for going too quickly.

      As some drivers did not slow down at all, none got a formal penalty and Masi has indicated he will lecture those who didn’t slow down and those who slowed down a lot exactly the same, the FIA has just established that there are no pacings which are certain for sporting penalties, and none that absolutely avoid social penalties. It just accidentally mandated “go at whatever speed you think is best” – which means there’s no counter-pressure from 2) against the imperatives of 1).

      In short, what we saw last weekend was not the result of any culture of safety breaches. It was the result of the FIA’s actions and words conflicting with each other, and the drivers doing what they have been told to do by the FIA’s actions, in concert with the purpose for which they were on track in the first place.

      It’s going to take a lot of trust rebuilding for the FIA to reverse the damage it’s caused enough to actually solve the yellow flag interpretation issue – and I’m seeing no sign of interest from Masi on that point.

      1. @alianora-la-canta I don’t know what slow down and be prepared to stop means to you, but it means slow down and be prepared to stop to me. I saw only 3 or 4 drivers do that after Verstappen’s incident.
        The culture is absolutely the problem, and is the reason that most drivers went too fast or even flat out through a clearly unsafe zone under double waved yellows. An improved culture would encourage drivers to instinctively slow down, regardless of competitive gain or loss – because a double yellow zone should no longer be considered a competitive zone.
        In that particular situation, it should have been painfully obvious to everyone that the race was going to be suspended, or at least controlled under a full SC. There was nothing to gain by compromising safety.

        I’ve seen multiple instances (in other series) of drivers stopping their cars, jumping out and running to a crashed car to check if their fellow racer is ok – long before safety crews have the opportunity to arrive. Competition comes second to safety.
        I haven’t seen that in F1 for so long. Maybe only once or twice in over 30 years.
        And people wonder why F1 appears to lack humanity.

        I disagree that there is a conflict of competition and safety. Drivers who care for their own and each other’s safety (as they say they do) wouldn’t hesitate to slow down substantially in such an event. May I remind you of the spoken and written responses to Hubert and Bianchi’s deaths. The drivers’ actions do not align with their words.

        I truly hope F1 gets over their marketing sensitivities and hands all offending drivers severe penalties, regardless of how bad it makes F1 look.
        If they don’t, they should expect the same response next time.
        Except next time, the situation may not be avoidable by following cars, and Spa 1998 may be recreated at a much higher speed.
        Or worse.

        1. S, apparently the rule doesn’t mean “slow down and be prepared to stop” to you, otherwise you’d have nothing to complain about regarding most drivers’ reaction to the incident.

          The view lines were clear and only a handful made no attempt to slow down. As such, Lando Norris may have been flirting with the “no unnecessarily slow driving” rule given precedent in Canada 2015 (where Roberto Mehri was investigated for slowing down about 50 km/h under a red flag… …for driving too slowly. Bear in mind the requirements for red flags are stricter than for double-waved yellows). Thus, most drivers literally slowed down (their speed was below the speed they used the previous lap) and were literally prepared to stop (they did not perceive anything in their braking distance at any point, and no identifiable objects were in their braking distance). Literally what S told them to do.

          Thank you for proving why making a version of “slow down and be prepared to stop” that can be operationalised, as requested in my previous post, is essential. Your comment also clearly demonstrates the inherent conflict between competition and safety common to all high-speed competitive sports.

          No amount of “improved culture” would ever result in drivers instinctively slowing down in such a zone, because it goes against the purpose for which they were present at the track in the first place. It’s possible in most industries, because people in most jobs are not directly hired for speed even if it is an implied assumption in many roles (for example, an aircraft engineer isn’t hired specifically to do their job quickly, they’re hired to do it correctly. “High pressure” simply gets used as code to account for only getting a limited amount of time to turn around each plane). When speed is an implied assumption, cultural training can be used to downplay it, and sometimes structural changes can render it irrelevant. However, when speed is the #1 duty on the job description, demanded by the very purpose of the activity in which the drivers are engaged and the FIA requires speed to even gain admittance, speed as instinctual response becomes compulsory. Not merely optional, and certainly not dispensable.

          Rules act as a brake to instinct, because every activity has occasions where acting according to the #1 duty interferes with other things that need to happen. In this case, the FIA’s regulations are the counterweight to instinct. This increases the importance of putting safety rules that can be operationalised into the regulations, phrased with appropriate humility and without assumptions (beyond the reader’s ability to read literal English or literal French). This tells drivers what they need to do to maximise their safety, in a way that can be adapted to any situation in which a driver will find themselves during a race weekend.

          This is necessary. Everyone in the paddock knows it. Once you understand that, you will understand the drivers’ words and actions regarding safety are, for the most part, aligned. (There is the occasional exception – Kimi Raikkonen in his early F1 years comes to mind – but most drivers do their best to follow the safety rules, even in situations the rules don’t appear to have fully considered).

          F1 forbids jumping out and running to a crashed car to check if their fellow racer is OK, on safety grounds. It’s classed as “disobeying the instructions of the marshals”, because there’s a standing order to get on the safe side of the barrier without delay. Being outside a car on the racing side of the crash barriers for longer than necessary does not become safer if it is to check someone else is OK, since car-driver collision physics don’t consider intent. (If a driver can get out before the marshals arrive, that’s a loophole in the rules that is occasionally exploited). Some other series permit such behaviour (typically where the risk/benefit balance is more heavily tilted to “benefit” in certain situations – in F1, there’s rarely any benefit to the checked driver in having another driver do any checking). That’s why you see it in other series but not F1. (If F1 appears to lack humanity, a lot of it is regulated out).

          The drivers have seen plenty of occasions where responses to accidents have been different to the ones they expected, and street circuits typically have at least one occasion a year where what appeared to be a slam-dunk Safety Car got handled under double-waved yellow flags or Virtual Safety Car (both of which preserve the gains made by speeding through a yellow-flag zone). Such a common occurrence would definitely be counted against any driver who failed to take the possibility into account. If the FIA wants drivers to assume accidents like that will get a full Safety Car (or more) for such accidents, it needs to start applying them – and start applying them efficiently, not 30+ seconds after the crash like Baku (a timeframe that makes drivers think it’s trying to avoid putting out a Safety Car, thus increasing the chance they think the FIA won’t do so next time).

          For further examples of how the FIA’s attitude has contributed to safety problems, I would point you to the spoken and written responses to Japan 2014 (which were bad enough that the FIA was obliged to settle with the Bianchi family and commit to seven safety improvements). Apart from some foot-dragging over the Hubert case, the FIA conducted itself considerably better, so I am hopeful it is learning. Well, operationalising the yellow-flag rule properly would be another sign of learning I would be keen to see the FIA do.

          (I want the FIA to penalise all drivers who broke the rules, because failing to do so communicates that the new interpretation is that everyone must continue at full speed through any accident that is not red-flagged. However, Masi’s words suggest the FIA has no idea who the offending parties actually are, rendering the exercise impossible. Telling the drivers off in the next briefing indiscriminately is likely to aggravate the situation and cement the “go at full speed or else” message – because those who went at full speed and those who slowed down a lot would get exactly the same punishment – rather than do anything to encourage compliance).

  8. Except for the Mazepin thing, it’s a good summation of the mess that was Baku

    1. @balue I thought the Mazepin incident was a carbon copy of what Grosjean did to Sainz and Ricciardo in Britain last year.

      1. @wsrgo Yes it’s not really that unusual at all. I believe even fair Raikkonen has done the end-of-straight-swerve. Somehow it’s the end of the world when Mazepin does it.

        1. Because were it not for Schumacher’s insanely fast reactions @balue, that Haas would have been an aeroplane.
          And no, it wasn’t cool when Grosjean did it either. No top driver would.

        2. @balue I wasn’t taking your side actually :) Grosjean was given a formal warning for that I believe, and Mazepin should have been too. I don’t recall Raikkonen ever pulling something like that to be honest.

        3. @balue Because it looked a lot like the Red Bull Baku 2018 crash, with the only difference being that Schumacher found a way of preventing that collision. Intra-team collisions are not something to promote as sensible behaviour, and I think the only reason Nikita avoided a penalty in this instance was because intra-team collisions are traditionally for the team boss to punish as they see fit. (Priviledged position or no, I cannot imagine Nikita would have enjoyed Guenther Steiner telling him off, which I suspect will have been the consequence).

    2. Wait what? We’re mentioning him here?

  9. It might be an idea to always extend the yellow flag zone to the following corner under all circumstances, even if the waved yellows go after the incident. That way nobody should have to worry about getting overtaken after slowing. Yes some may slow more than others but I don’t see much of a solution to that, other than immediately always having a VSC every time there’s a yellow on the track at all.

    1. @mysticarl, I don’t see much point in continuing a yellow flag zone past the accident site or the earliest following light panel.

      1. @Jere It would eliminate a driver being worried about being overtaken by the car behind immediately after the yellow, because he would be able to freely accelerate out of the corner after the incident

  10. I wouldn’t consider a downforce reduction of 10% significant, but premature to ponder how enough was this.
    Yes, the neutralization on both cases should’ve occurred earlier.
    The double yellow thing, difficult given how many failed at meeting its definition.
    The last lap close-call between Haas drivers, a misunderstanding caused it. I doubt Mazepin intentionally attempted to create a flat-out collision.
    BTW, Rennie isn’t Perez’s race engineer.

  11. I’ve mentioned Turkey 2020, Bahrain 2020, Imola 2021, F2 Monaco 2021 and Azerbaijan 2021 in my previous comment earlier, but thanks to everyone here who know more incidents I’m listing them down below:
    – Monaco 2019: marshals at close proximity to the cars. (pointed out by ‘anon’)
    – Mugello 2020: Safety Car debacle. (pointed out by John H)
    – Imola 2020: marshals on trackside while drivers were unlapping. (pointed out by Jere)
    Also two corrections – I didn’t mention Stroll’s Imola 2021 penalty decision, as pointed out by Jere too. And what I actually meant about the F2 Monaco one was about Masi’s explanation. The total incidents are up to 8 now.

  12. The race should be red flagged when Lance crashed, so they could do some tire investigation on all cars. And more time for the marshals to clean the track.

  13. Also generally, just leave Masi alone – venting anti-fan boy rhetoric really isn’t necessary, and claiming opinions as facts and saying things like he’s going to kill someone is very juvenile. I don’t know if he just annoyed a load of Aussie sports car fans in his time before F1 or what but some of the grief he gets is mental. He’s not perfect but give him a break.

  14. Coventry Climax
    9th June 2021, 16:58

    Question 9: And what will actually be done with the outcome, once Pirelli / FIA have completed investigating?
    Bottom drawer, I’m afraid.

  15. Even the TV coverage, which is far less comprehensive for of entire field than Masi has available, the delay incasing a Safety Car was unconscionable. On that high speed straight it should be automatic. A Safety Car message would have had everyone slowing down as they cannot pass and must stick to the mandated speed.

    There were obvious serious consequential accidents waiting to happen and Masi was dithering. That is unacceptable.

  16. I think it is most likely that the reason that the safety car wasn’t called for so long is because once the cars had passed Verstappen, they had the whole lap to go before they returned to the scene of the accident, and so to maximise the number of racing laps, the FIA decided to let the cars do that lap before calling the safety car. Personally, I don’t think this is right, and it should have been called immediately. Does anyone actually care about that one extra lap? I feel like this is an example of ‘the show must go on’ going too far.

    1. @f1frog I wholly agree with you. Safety should always come first before anything else, and especially shouldn’t get sacrificed for the sake of the show, entertainment, randomness, whatever.

      1. With you all the way. Everytime I hear about “the show” it sends shivers down my spine (still decades later) . No need for chapter and verse, suffice to say the track wasn’t at it “best”, lead up races abandoned etc. and what would today pass as the Race Director called the drivers together and this is pretty much verbatim, “OK we have a full house, we are going to put on a show, nobody do anything stupid”! . Well they didn’t, but as fate conspires, even at reduced speed, some minor incident escalated, end result end over end into the barrier and an exposed 6×4 supporting upright finding its way though a dear friends open face helmet. The only solace I get from this (seemingly always running in my background), tragedy is that the track is long gone and on its location stands a large childrens’ and teaching hospital.

  17. Nigel Mainsail
    9th June 2021, 19:49

    This is an old article but references damage to left rear tyres at Baku, hmmm…..

  18. The Pirelli failure analysis is a farce.
    They have been denying claims for years now.

    This is obviously not a thread wear issue, like they say. But that statement is totally irrelevant, it’s as to say it’s not caused by the tide of the sea.

    This very likely not caused by debris either.

    Pirelli raised the minimum tire pressure during the weekend, indicating they were worried about the tire not surviving the load. This is likely a failure of the cord/steel in the tire. Saying steel so most will understand. Currently they don’t use steel anymore but some Kevlar-cord composite. This cord needs to sustain the pulsation / deformation of the tire throughout the race. Analyze the cord structure for fatigue under an SEM and you will likely see it failed at the peak stress position and due to bending fatigue. Not an overload by the tire ripping itself apart. For any mechanical engineer with material science knowledge this is a very simple thing to ask /demand from Pirelli. It’s proof that they need to show. Show the full root cause analysis and you will see it’s unlikely due to a cut of the cord system but a fatigue in the system itself. You can sell one root cause as the other to people that are unskilled and gullible..

  19. I think it is essential that drivers and teams have complete trust, confidence in and respect for the Race Director, and that the Race Director must earn it.

    1. Perhaps F1 should cease trying to undermine the race director then?

      1. Perhaps the Race Director should cease undermining himself? (For example, by issuing penalties to the people who broke the rules – and only to those people – instead of declaring them all innocent on a sporting level but deciding to lecture guilty and innocent alike at the next race).

        1. Is that what he’ll do? How do you know?
          Certainly, I agree he could do a better job – but so can everyone else in F1.

          Having seen all drivers’ driving response to Verstappen’s incident, I’d certainly give everyone a good talking to as well. AND penalise all of those who I wasn’t satisfied with.
          The drivers ask for a safer workplace, and yet they themselves are the primary contributor of a lack of safety. Voluntarily.

          The race director trusts the competitors to obey sporting and safety regulations, and they did not.

          1. S, “declaring them all innocent on a sporting level but deciding to lecture guilty and innocent alike at the next race” is what Masi has said he’s going to do. Most of the drivers followed the rules as written, the rules are simply written badly.

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