Red Bull were advised Perez should let Leclerc past – Masi

2021 Italian Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez could have avoided his five-second time penalty in the Italian Grand Prix if the team had heeded the words of Formula 1 race director Michael Masi.

The Red Bull driver fell from third place to fifth in the final classification for last weekend’s race after being penalised for cutting across the Roggia chicane while passing Charles Leclerc.

Team principal Christian Horner said after the race Red Bull thought race control would tell them if Perez needed to relinquish the position in order to avoid a penalty.

“That was tough because we were expecting a call from the stewards to say if they weren’t happy with it, give it back,” said Horner. “Of course the call didn’t come and then when eventually the penalty comes up, the gaps aren’t opening.

“So that was tough for him. He drove a good race today and third on the road, fifth overall was a frustrating result for him.”

However according to Masi race control did not receive a query from Red Bull about the move.

“They didn’t ask race control,” he said. “I suggested to them that they might want to look at giving the position back and they said they were looking at it themselves.”

The stewards ruled Perez gained an advantage by leaving the track at the corner to complete the pass. During the race he told his team Leclerc had forced him off at the corner.

“He didn’t leave me any room,” said Perez. “Do I need to give it back?” Race engineer Hugo Bird told him: “I think you’re fine for now.” Several laps later Perez was informed of his penalty.

Following the Bahrain Grand Prix this year when Max Verstappen went off-track while overtaking Lewis Hamilton, Horner said “we had an instruction from the race director to give the place back immediately”.

Read RaceFans’ in-depth exclusive interview with Michael Masi in Wednesday’s edition of the RacingLines column

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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...
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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45 comments on “Red Bull were advised Perez should let Leclerc past – Masi”

  1. I suggested to them that they might want to look at giving the position back

    Traffic warden 1: ‘You might want to think about not parking there.’ And walks off.
    Traffic warden 2: Gets out pad and paper.
    I mean, which are you going to ‘respect’ by moving your car immediately?
    Red Bull thought they’d try their luck given how hard it was to overtake at Monza. That’s all. The advantage was blatant. The issue is that not returning the position also potentially affected the races of other drivers. This should have been a clear instruction and black-flag if Perez fails to obey that instruction. Where is the issue in that?

    1. The thing is @david-br, the race director is not really the one policing these kind of things. So Masi really cannot do much more than make such suggestions.

      1. @bascb I agree to some extent and it’s actually why I’d prefer to see the race director be able to make these calls on the spot. The time taken for stewards to analyse a fairly clear-cut incident means that the race has already evolved a lot, making returning the place difficult, while compromising the other driver/s. Masi could have been more assertive, though, as he has been on previous occasions: as the report says, Horner previously took one of Masi’s remarks as an immediate ‘instruction’ to return the place. Why not the same this time?

        1. Because they believed they could achieve better results this way, I expect.

          1. Yeah I see what you are saying @david-br, but at the same time, where I am, if a ‘street manager’ (Masi not being police, on account of not giving the penalties ;) tells one ‘I would move that car if I were you’ then not getting a quotation from the next police officer is being lucky; ie. Red Bull were clearly, as @bascb says trying their luck (even though quickly yielding, and then retaking the position soon after was a much surer way of getting it done; Leclerc showed in the same race that waiting a corner wasn’t even needed!).

            And given where we sometimes wonder at what Masi decides, or not, esp. with respect to safety, I don’t think I’d want to add the extre burden to the race director of additionally policing, investigating and judging who’s at fault at all of the incidents that occur, when we currently have a panel of stewards for that.

          2. @bascb No, I meant why Masi wasn’t perceived to have given an instruction, rather than a recommendation, but you may be right, it’s how Red Bull ‘interpreted’ what he said that probably matters more here.

            @bosyber I don’t think it should be so much of a burden, I guess is my reasoning: just let the race director call decisions if he (or she) wants, and refer them if the director thinks they need steward analysis. I’m more in favour of allowing a ‘referee’ to decide on quick penalties etc. during the actual sports event, for the sake of the event itself, and basically accepting that they sometimes get it wrong, rather than taking so long for some decisions and even then being subject to appeals etc.

    2. That’s the funny thing about the English language where a sentence can have a different meaning than you’d make up from the words in isolation, especially when put in diminutive fashion.
      “You might want to think about…” means you are expected or even obligated to do something, “Not bad” means absolutely fantastic, etc.

      But I would expect Horner (or whoever did the communication) to register the meaning, and the foul was clear enough and a repeat from what happened in the sprint race, where Perez nearly got a penalty as he waited for half a lap before returning the position.

      They were warned (albeit in ‘code’), it was a foul, they’ve seen it before; 3 strikes and still no action…
      Had Checo given the position back immediately then he might have been able to keep Bottas behind (as he did anyway, but then without penalty) and maybe pass Leclerc later on.
      At the worst he would have been passed by Valtteri and not be able to pass Charles again for the same result as he had now, but that’s a maybe. And a missed chance.

      1. Maybe! But Masi isn’t a native English speaker and arguably it’s quite a British use of English too that you’re talking about.

        1. …….Masi is Australian?

          1. Therefore he speaketh Australian. Which is not English. 😄

      2. Bart, Masi can’t speak for the stewards. If he’d already passed the incident on to the stewards, all he could do was ask for the action that would have made the deliberation redundant to be taken.

  2. Gamesmanship to stay where you are and hope to pull out the 5 seconds.

    If Perez had given back the place immediately would Valtteri of been able to pass him?

    1. Yeah I think they hoped to pull away with Bottas stuck behind Leclerc but unfortunately for them, McLaren were cruising around in front of them and Bottas got past Leclerc anyway.

      1. Actually, I think they expected that Mclaren would help them to pull away those 5 secs as they would also benefited from Sergio finishing ahead of Leclerc.

    2. That was probably their thinking, yeah.

  3. This is pretty big. Perez certainly wasn’t told about that – I doubt Liberty would have omitted that nice soundbite!

    Sadly it does not surprise me a bit that we again find Horner et all giving us a fairytale version of what went on with quite a bit of disregard for the reality behind it.

    1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
      14th September 2021, 16:09

      Though trusting Masi’s word is almost as bad as RB.

      1. Sorry, but while it does seem that Masi and the FIA like to avoid going into some questions, he isn’t going to lie to a journalist when posed a direct question. He can just refuse to answer or go with a “not part of my job to steward these things” to avoid that @come-on-kubica

      2. @come-on-kubica On this occasion, there’s radio communication that made it onto broadcast to back (part of) Masi’s position, and contradict Red Bull’s. Thus, Masi is likely to be closer to the truth than Red Bull.

    2. Given he’s a known cheat in his personal life, its no surprise his loose morals manifest in his professional life also.

      1. Can we please stop with these kind of reactions?

        1. I mean, everyone here is commenting and judging who we should believe. I think it’s fair enough to judge someone’s character based on their past actions – professional or personal.

  4. In he post race interview in Spanish Pérez said that he was notified to return the place to Leclerc too late. Maybe race control told them when Bottas was already in front of Leclerc?

    Reply moderated
    1. Thing is, that really doesn’t need race control to tell them. They are big boys, it’s about as obvious as you can get to hand the place back.

  5. This is what I don’t like about where RB is going. If you know you have to give a position back, you do so immediately when possible. You don’t start calculating what might happen if you can open a gap and get 5 seconds ahead. I’ve heard Verstappen say something similar after Bahrain. He didn’t want to give the position back and take the penalty. I can accept thousands of racing incidents a la Silverstone or Monza, but this is just a wrong approach.

    1. As a business (as all the teams are) it’s the right approach, unless the stewards are going to penalise you for it.

      Personally, I would welcome a rule that said something along the lines of “acting in a manner to purposefully get a penalty (or not avoiding a penalty) will increase the penalty you are given”.

    2. tielemst, According to the radio that was broadcast, Red Bull thought they were in the right, and that handing the position back or getting a penalty would therefore be an injustice.

    3. You don’t start calculating what might happen if you can open a gap and get 5 seconds ahead.

      But that’s what teams are going to do if they know they’ll get a 5 second penalty for these manoeuvres. In the Spanish broadcast we have Pedro de la Rosa and Toni Cuquerella (ex chief race engineer for Ferrari among others), and they both were mentioning that teams keep this in their calculations, because sometimes taking the 5 second penalty is more profitable than giving the place back if you can open a gap.

  6. Apparently, drivers have poor memory. The stewards don’t car how you got ahead so long as you didnt do it on the race track, they will apply a penalty. Doesn’t matter if you were torpedoed or lobbed there by a storm.

  7. Perez fits in well at RB. RB drivers never have to back off. One thinks he can cut a corner to pass if there isn’t room and the other thinks it is fine to torpedo if there isn’t room in a corner.

  8. I don’t like these 5-sec-penalties for overtakes completed off the track. They often don’t work very well, because in almost every case the punished driver manages to pull out a lot more than a 5 sec gap.
    Reversing positions should be the way to go in such cases, as it nullifies the advantage and the driver has to try the overtake again.
    After watching both onboards I’d say Leclerc still left Perez enough space to make the corner, but the RB driver would’ve had to take a very tight line into the second part of the chicane and possibly run fully over the kerb, which probably would’ve unsettled the car. Perez might’ve not only lost the place to Leclerc, but also one to Bottas.
    Cutting the corner and trying to pull out a gap was the much better option for Perez and RB.

    The stewards need to make sure the drivers don’t exploit a loophole in their penalty decisions, i.e. deliberately cutting corners or making passes off track, knowing very well the penalty is ‘just 5 seconds’.
    Drivers are very creative in making excuses for their actions. Getting pushed off the track has become the standard excuse in the last 15 years.

  9. My only question is – when is it mandatory to give the position back? It seems that sometimes the stewards issue an instruction to give the place back (e.g. Bahrain 2021), and sometimes it’s many laps later and they just get issued a penalty. Is it optional? Can the team decide to either give the place back or take the 5 second penalty? Because as Max said in Bahrain, he probably could have pulled the 5 second gap so he would have rather done that than give the position back. Or does it depend on when the stewards get round to deciding whether the pass was legal or not? Which in turn depends on whether the footage was shown live, and how important the drivers are.

    Honestly I’m pretty sure Redbull knew it was an illegal pass, but by the time they would have communicated to Perez to give the place back, Bottas was too close behind Leclerc so they thought it would be too big a risk to try to ease Leclerc back past Perez without losing track position to Bottas anyway. They would probably rather guarantee that Perez stayed ahead of Bottas to help prevent him from possibly even winning the race. And they probably expected Perez to be able to build more than 5 seconds to Leclerc to nullify the penalty anyway. But that’s the problem with 5 second penalties for these illegal moves – it is often better to take the penalty than to give the position back, as a place can be worth a lot more than 5 seconds. So I guess in those cases you just try your luck and hope the stewards take too long to notice it.

    1. @keithedin If one overtakes illegally but hands the place back immediately, that always cancels out the penalty. However, Race Control is not obliged to remind anyone of this.

  10. Simple solution to this:
    1. If a team is in doubt they should ask. The stewards are juggling many things and only look at things which are brought to their attention, most of the time through the race director, sometimes indirectly by a competing team crying foul.
    2. To incentivize #1 the penalty should be that the driver at fault has to drop back behind the driver they overtook. Even if that means that driver is now a couple of places back. In the very worst case scenario they made the pass off the track, rejoined unsafely causing the other driver to take avoiding action and drop further places, then the attacking driver needs to fall back that many places as well and rejoin behind the defending driver.

    I know someone will say, “are you trying to take the fun out of racing? we already have too little passing during a race, this will deter drivers from trying to make a move” to which I reply, moves are to be made on track, there is no fun in racing if someone cuts a chicane or rejoins unsafely causing the defending driver to take evasive action and lose time.

    1. The team can ask, but as they’re not allowed to ask the people who ultimately decide if the move is legitimate, they can only ask Race Control – who can only give suggestions. Teams should know the “if you return the place immediately it’s no longer a penalty” policy as it’s been standing policy for quite a while now.

  11. I distinctly remember there being a call, because it was played on Channel 4’s highlights reel. Red Bull tried to argue it.

    Not sure why Red Bull bothered, really. Simply because it was phrased as a request instead of an order does not invalidate Race Control’s right to issue a penalty for non-obedience, and Masi has already stated he does not have the right or privilege to provide additional information to the stewards once he’s asked them to look at an incident.

  12. Are Perez and Red Bull that dense… Duh… you gain an unfair advantage give the position back asap. If you don’t get that get out of racing…

  13. “I think you’re fine for now.”

    Seriously? In what parallel universe was that overtake ever going to be “fine”? Not in C-137 for sure.

    Agree with others that they must have assumed he would pull out those 5 seconds and be “fine” in a very unsporting kind of way.

  14. I’m sorry, but if there’s one thing about which the rules are very clear about than it’s corner cutting. It’s (rightly) always been punished and probably always will be. Name me one occasion when a driver who did it escaped a penalty. So it’s one of the few black and white decision where it’s absolutely unnecessary to ask the stewards what to to. Either give the place back or accept a penalty. But the penalty is just too lenient so many teams decide to just carry one. This time it luckily didn’t work but please Red Bull stop pretending you didn’t know what was going to happen

    1. I think it should be enforced to give the place back.

      As already commented the gamesmanship in knowing you are getting a penalty and being able to nullify it with being in a faster car. This will encourage more off track over taking.

  15. seems to me MASSI is scared of HORNOR

  16. More like third place off the road, Mr. Horner.

  17. Masi gave an instruction in the form of a suggestion to be polite. Horner and redbull being the cheats they are decided to not follow the instruction. Hence the penalty. How many of us watch f1 and know that if u cut a corner gain a lasting advantage u must give the position back. I think redbull counted on perez gaining more than the 5 second penalty loss.

  18. Some drivers are their own worst enemies.

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