Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 2021

F1 could use IndyCar rule to avoid repeat of Abu Dhabi controversy – Grosjean

2022 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Formula 1 could avoid a repeat of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix controversy by adopting a rule used in IndyCar, Romain Grosjean has suggested.

The former Renault, Lotus and Haas F1 driver moved to IndyCar last year and has joined Andretti for the new season which starts on Sunday.

The conclusion of last year’s world championship was soured by a controversy over FIA F1 race director Michael Masi’s application of the rules during a late Safety Car period. His decision to restart the race without following established procedures prompted a furious reaction from Mercedes, after Max Verstappen was able to pass Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to win the world championship.

Over two months later, following a detailed investigation, the FIA announced a wide-ranging overhaul of F1’s officiating procedures. Masi has been moved to a different role and two alternative race directors appointed in his place, along with an additional consultant. All will benefit from support from a new virtual race control facility.

Grosjean said he sympathised with Hamilton’s misfortune but questioned whether it was correct to call the outcome unfair.

“I really felt for Lewis in Abu Dhabi,” he said in a video. “As a spectator the last lap was super-exciting. It wasn’t fair. But is Formula 1 really fair?

Romain Grosjean, Coyne/Rick War, Laguna Seca, IndyCar, 2021
IndyCar closes its pit lane at the start of caution periods
“Sport should be fair, meaning you all have the same chance. Whereas if you’re in a Haas or Williams, you don’t have the same chance as a Mercedes or a Red Bull. So everyone’s saying it’s not fair, well, Formula 1 isn’t fair, guys.

“I’ve been racing 10 years in Formula 1 and I’ve had some really good cars, almost won some races and then the last few years just had no chance to win anything, not even to be able to podium. So that’s not fair because you train as hard as everyone else, but you don’t have the same tool.”

Verstappen was able to swiftly attack Hamilton at the restart because he’d taken advantage of the Safety Car period to fit fresh tyres. Hamilton had not done so because he wasn’t able to make a pit stop without falling behind Verstappen.

Grosjean suggested F1 could adopt a similar rule to one used in IndyCar to prevent a repeat of the situation.

“Is there a solution for for the decision? Maybe you can close the pits during a Safety Car, as we do in IndyCar, and then there’s no chance for one guy to get the advantage of another one. That could be an option.”

Unlike in F1, IndyCar teams are allowed to refuel their cars. F1 previously enforced the closure of pit lanes during Safety Car periods when refuelling was permitted. The rule was dropped at the end of 2008, after it played a role in the controversial Singapore Grand Prix that year.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 F1 season

Browse all 2022 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

51 comments on “F1 could use IndyCar rule to avoid repeat of Abu Dhabi controversy – Grosjean”

  1. I’d close the pits during the VSC.

    For the full Safety Car, closing the pits would help in some ways but it’d create a huge unfairness in another – anyone who’d chosen to run long would be stranded out on the track with no tyre life and none of the gap they’d built on the other cars (who obviously would have stopped). Post-SC, they’d have no real chance to build a gap because they’d have no tyres and the whole field would be compressed, so when they made their stop they’d probably be last.

    Every driver who’d run long would end up at the back, every time…

    1. @neilosjames yeah, it’d create more problems than anything else. I really don’t think there’s generally a problem with how SC and VSC works, but obviously Abu Dhabi was an unusual interpretation of the rules. But lets not ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’. Rewatching Singapore 08′, you forget how those regulations massively advantaged / disadvantaged plenty. It was really only a matter of time before someone manipulated them.

      1. @bernasaurus Just to be clear, the rules weren’t “interpreted” differently in Abu Dhabi – they were outright ignored.

        1. No – they were applied by the book.
          Read them!

    2. @neilosjames Agree with you there. Running long would put you in the “danger zone,” as they always say on the IndyCar NBC broadcasts. When everyone needs to refuel, the danger zone only lasts a few laps — as long as you can stretch your fuel. But in F1, with no refueling, it would eliminate the variety of tyre strategies and the ability to go very long that we currently have. It’s not even a rule that IndyCar teams particularly like, since the consequences of getting caught out are so severe. And as @bernasaurus says, it’s far more open to manipulation through deliberate safety cars than the current ruleset.

      1. What and take away more potential experiment of a race. Absolutely not.

    3. Yeah– In IndyCar, a safety car period can really, really screw up your race if you happen to get caught out. Similarly, if you can pit just a little bit earlier, you can wind up jumping halfway up the field as everyone else has to pit for fuel as soon as the pit lane opens.

      Without refueling, there’s less need to pit “right now”, but you could certainly be caught out if the pit lanes are closed and your tires are old enough you need to pit soon after a safety car.

      Either way is fine– But the teams need to know what to expect when that yellow flag comes out. Mercedes thought they knew what would happen, right up until it didn’t.

    4. Why not just lower the pit limit by 40% during SC and VSC (still give slight advantage during VSC as pit stop time is not increased but that’s marginal, bigger gain during SC but a completely fair system is hard to achieve). I would also add that when SC is released, cars should drop to VSC speed until catching up to SC. It’s kind of strange to see cars flooring it when SC is out in order to make it to the pit.

      Extreme E showed the way red flag restarts could look like with great results. Let’s just have interval restart, technology is there and is definitely the fairest. I don’t like the free to work on the car during red flag and would prefer to have a pit stop time added to the interval restart for teams working on the car, keeping a strategic but fair element to the race.

      1. Extreme E showed the way red flag restarts could look like with great results.

        That was brilliantly done.

        However, that was a much simpler situations, given the red flag was thrown just as everyone hit the “pits”, plus there were only 4 cars and they were not spread out around an entire circuit. It could be done for F1 (for SC restarts, too), but it would be much more difficult to accomplish safely and effectively.

    5. I agree, maybe they keep it the way it is but if there is a safety car in the last 10 laps of the race then the pit lane is closed. With 10 laps to go all strategies would have already played out

  2. Max still would have been on fresher tyres. He might not have had the confidence to pass where he did but I feel almost certain he still would have found a way through later in the lap. The real issue was the select few cars permitted to unlap.

    1. I don’t think so, mercedes seemed far superior and hamilton seemed to have the measure of verstappen post VSC pit, so even if the tyres verstappen had obviously would heat up faster, especially when you see how close to repassing hamilton got, I’m pretty sure he’d have defended with only the tyre delta caused by the VSC.

    2. Max choose to put himself behind those backmarkers by pitting. He had the benifits of the fresh tire, but by my reconning should have paid for that decission. The race would have been all the more spicer if they hadn’t cleared
      the back markers. Whatever followed on that last lap would then have been fairer.

  3. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Safety cars add a lovely bit of variety to races. Occasionally an ill timed safety car can ruin a race, but more often that not it spices up an otherwise dull event.

    VSCs on the other hand create 2s gaps between cars, ruin any fights, and turn a good race into a procession.

    1. Indeed, SC seems to be far better in terms of the show in general.

    2. does it not just freeze the race, the VSC ? I understood they all slow down to the same speed — no lap / sector / times, no ? And then there is the BIG underlying question whether we want more show or more sport (that turns only occasionally into a show, by surprise)

    3. VSCs on the other hand create 2s gaps between cars, ruin any fights, and turn a good race into a procession.

      Erm… Huh?

      Apart from potentially slightly increasing the gaps where they are very small and a few variations due to it still being human-controlled to hit the ETAs, a VSC neutralises the race so that it is in approximately the same state at the restart that it was when it was thrown.

      The SC, on the other hand, is a complete craps shoot: It could occur at any time, destroys many drivers’ races and rewards others. It’s a roll of the dice. You may as well just have a random number generator run once a minute, and if it comes out right the race is stopped and everyone lines up on the grid, in terms of the effect on the race. It’s sometimes necessary for safety reasons, but it’s a necessary evil, something which should only be used where absolutely necessary, IMHO.

  4. Closing the pits during caution periods is one of the worst rules in IndyCar. It greatly penalises all those who happen to have stopped in the laps before, and greatly rewards the chancers with nothing to lose. We (mostly) all want to see the best driver win, but this rule has turned many IndyCar races into a complete lottery where the best team/driver combination lost on the day due to a roll of the dice.

    1. Indeed, it is the main reason why I am no longer engaged by Indycar: too many undeserved lottery wins over the last several seasons. It wore me down. I found myself not really enjoying the outcomes as an non partisan viewer. I hope that F1 does not continue down this path.

      1. Agree: it’s a lottery.

  5. Terrible idea.
    Cars should be able to unlap themselves as soon as field is bunched up, dont have to wait for track to be clear. In Abu Dhabi, other than that portion of sector 3, the rest of the track was clear, including main straight and the 2 back straights. They litteraly drove without a point for 3-4 laps.
    Unlap asap, then when track is clear we can go racing immediately, not waste 2 more laps for unlapping backmarkers.

    1. +1
      + there still is the time-saving idea (by Vettel’s Seb ?) to allow the lapped cars to dropping back through the field, rather than unlapping by driving a whole lap in front of the field.

    2. IIRC, the last time this was attempted (unlapping before clear) there were several near misses between marshals and unlapping cars. Not to say this shouldn’t happen, but there would need to be measures in place to prevent this, to keep it safe for the marshals.

    3. Why bother with unlapping at all? I don’t see the benefit.

      1. @fluxsource

        I have to say I agree.

        The only real justification for it is that it can make for an unsafe situation, with slower cars mixed in with faster ones on the restart and battles going on among back markers while the leaders are trying to get through. However, these are supposed to be the best drivers in the world, they should be able to handle it safely and get through, especially with blue flags (although this is pretty close to my view of blue flags, too).

        The other justification I hear is that it “makes a better show”, but that’s actually a manipulation of the field in an attempt to make things artificially more exciting, giving yet more of an advantage to a driver behind when they have already had the their gap to the car ahead artificially closed up anyway. I see it pretty similarly to how many view DRS: it generates artificially entertaining circumstances. Just as it is more interesting to see a multi-lap battle between two rivals for on track position than a DRS-assisted breeze past on the straight, it is much more enjoyable to see someone gaining by a few tenths per lap until in striking distance, working hard for it, than when they are artificially placed right on their opponent’s rear wing.

  6. “Verstappen was able to swiftly attack Hamilton at the restart because he’d taken advantage of the Safety Car period to fit fresh tyres. Hamilton had not done so because he wasn’t able to make a pit stop without falling behind Verstappen.”

    Hamilton was able to pit and stay in front of Verstappen. The only reason he didn’t pit was because Mercedes was hoping that Massi would succumb to their pressure and finish the race under the Safety car. It was their choice and the only reason they lost the title. Blaming others for that is just stupid.

    1. Hamilton was able to pit and stay in front of Verstappen.

      No, he wasn’t. There was only around a 10s gap between them IIRC. The only way he would have stayed in front was if Verstappen also pitted, which he would have been very unlikely to do.

      1. Well, if that happened Hamilton would end up on much fresher tyres and would have passed Verstappen with ease.

        1. Not necessarily. The tyre difference would have been much less than how it ended up, and Hamilton would have been trying to pass a very aggressive and talented driver with nothing to lose (even a collision would probably have left Max WDC). It wouldn’t have been easy at all, even assuming everything worked out that way.

          Remember, there was still a pretty good chance that the race would end under the SC, as much as they wanted to avoid it. Had it taken a lap longer to clear the car, there would have been no way to finish under green flags at all, and Mercedes would have thrown the race and championship away, something Max and RBR didn’t have to consider.

  7. I mean, F1 could just use the *F1* rules to avoid a repeat of what happened in Abu Dhabi, you know?

    1. Great if you love trundling around behind safety cars.

      1. How so? They could have just brought the safety car in and not unlapped any of the cars. That would have been completely within the rules, and in the circumstances, the most sensible available option.

        1. also true ! (I believe)
          It would have been even more of a thrill as VER would have reached HAM only by the end of the lap / the last few corners — likely. Plus the inevitable advantage of ZERO PALAVER :)

          1. I meant “Plus the not to be underestimated advantage of ZERO PALAVER”

          2. Would have been a lot fairer that way, for sure. I don’t think the organizers were trying to *rig* the race, as some have suggested, but they did desperately not want the whole thing to end in a big anti-climax.

          3. @dkor I can’t see how it would have been an anti-climax. Before the crash, there was zero question that Lewis was cruising to the win. Max wasn’t on a fresh set of tyres, ticking off a couple of seconds a lap. It was effectively over – and finishing under the safety car wouldn’t have been any less dramatic than what would have happened anyway.

            Either don’t unlap the cars, and have your one, exciting final lap, or do unlap them and finish under the safety car, as happened in 2012. You know, like Masi himself said he was required to do earlier in the year.

        2. @dkor Precisely what I’ve pointed out the whole time.

  8. There really is no need for a “solution”.

    All there really needed to be was an application of the rules as written and finishing of the race under SC conditions – happens rarely, but it happens and should have happened last season.

    Some might have been unhappy, but at least it would have been considered a “normal” circumstance, no one would have complained, and we wouldn’t be having the headlines that we’ve had since.

    1. also true (I believe)
      or you add a rule called “Title Decider Exemption”: you add up to 3 laps, if there was a SC in the last third of the race — that “manipulated” the season’s outcome
      [as a spontaneous idea of mine …]

      1. or you reduce the speed again — 30 km/h

      2. Good idea, but I’m not sure it would work – everybody might run out of fuel ;-).

      3. @dkor Indeed. Any on-the-fly race distance increase would risk running out of fuel & or failure to meet the 1L sample requirement, so impractical. Races have to end sooner or later anyway, so one can’t just increase suddenly as pleased.

  9. In Indycar (As with F1 when they had this rule) the pits are only closed until the field all catch upto the back of the SC.

    The problem with this in F1 is that unlike Indycar there’s only 1 pit box & 1 pit crew per team. So if you close the pits & wait for the field to pack up your destroying one car per teams race. And i know we do see this at times with things as they are but at least with how it is now when they pit with the field more strung out teams tend to have the opportunity to service both cars without badly disadvantaging one driver.

    Your also creating safety issues should everyone pit at thesame time & try to double stack. In Indycar (And Nascar) I’ve seen plenty of accidents in the pits during SC periods as everyone always tends to pit together.

    1. GOOD, NEW VIEWS !
      => no closed pits is the call

      1. or you reduce the speed again — 30 km/h

  10. I like this idea, it should be seriously considered on basis of safety alone.

    Pitting during safety cars tends to be hectic and messy, greatly increases the chance of an accident along the pit lane. Any accident can be deadly and we don’t want to see that.

    1. or you reduce the speed again — 30 km/h

  11. Closing pit lane for an SC period would only risk unintended consequences related to tyres & possible front wing damage, so no thank you.

    1. @jerejj +1

      It sounds like a good idea, but as soon as you look beyond the surface it presents massive problems.

  12. Did Grosjean remember that Indy has a pit spot for every car and F1 would have to double stack as soon as the pits got opened during SC?

Comments are closed.