(L to R): Max Verstappen, Red Bull; Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2022

F1 drivers told to keep single-file at Safety Car restarts

2022 Australian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers have been forbidden from drawing alongside each other during Safety Car restarts.

FIA F1 race director Niels Wittich reminded drivers this morning they must stay behind the car ahead of them during restarts.

He did so by highlighting part of article 55.14 of the sporting regulations, which states: “In order to avoid the likelihood of accidents before the safety car returns to the pits, from the point at which the lights on the car are turned out drivers must proceed at a pace which involves no erratic acceleration or braking nor any manoeuvre which is likely to endanger other drivers or impede the restart.”

In a document sent to all teams ahead of final practice on Saturday, Wittich indicated how the rule will be interpreted. Drivers will be considered in violation of the rule if any part of their car is alongside the car ahead. They do not have to follow the same line as the car ahead, but they may not begin to move alongside it.

Some drivers have been observed doing this at recent Safety Car restarts. Max Verstappen did so when Charles Leclerc led a Safety Car restart in Jeddah, and did the same at the contentious restart at the end of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

In the latter case, Mercedes protested Verstappen for overtaking Hamilton before the race restarted. The stewards rejected their protest.

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2022 Australian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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18 comments on “F1 drivers told to keep single-file at Safety Car restarts”

  1. This will upset a couple of drivers but it needed clarification one way or the other.

  2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    9th April 2022, 4:46

    Good! I thought it was ridiculous in Abu Dhabi and even more so in Bahrain. I’m liking these race directors. The white line is the edge of the track and stay behind means stay behind!

  3. I agree. Good decisions, so far.
    The Verstappen intimidation of other drivers, before safety car restarts has been ridiculous…!

    1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
      9th April 2022, 6:56


      1. orange clown

  4. Hm, but how is this going to work with weaving, braking, speeding up to get heat into the tyres.

    I do get that they wanted to make it clear that Verstappen was taking it too far with trying to dictate the leader where he could and couldn’t be on track by being there himself.

    But as Palmer pointed out during FP3, you do need to heat up your tyres before the restart and that is done by braking and putting some power on, which means it is almost certain cars will be moving somewhat erratically and might have to get next to the car ahead to avoid hitting them. How are they going to police that?

    1. @bascb I think we most often see weaving and brake warming in the laps behind the Safety Car before the restart or through the first couple of sectors leading up to the race resuming at the end of a lap.

      The two most obvious examples that come to mind of drivers drawing alongside before restarts recently both happen to involve Verstappen – in Abu Dhabi and Jeddah – mainly because he was in second place attempting to pressure the leader and so naturally had all the cameras trained on him at the time.

      In both those situations, Verstappen was actively waiting for the race leader to accelerate to full racing speeds so he could react and attempt to overtake once reaching the green flag. In that phase of a restart where the leader controls the pace – not the Safety Car – the responsibility lies on the leader to not drive “erratically” as the rules implore, meaning that the race leaders often maintain a constant speed and trajectory until the point they decide to hit the throttle, at which point they are forbidden from backing off again to avoid a chain reaction behind.

      It’s for this reason that I feel as though it should be fairly clear in most circumstances when a driver is deliberately ‘crowding’ a rival ahead illegally and when a driver is taking reasonable actions such as heating their tyres and brakes in a controlled and sensible manner. It’s when it gets to the final phase of the restart, the point when the leader is about to get back to racing speeds, where I believe this rule is going to be most obviously applied to drivers who don’t keep behind their rivals.

      1. Yes, I think you are right there @willwood, although I rather think this was more meant to warn drivers not to do this to prevent them from having to ever take steps to police it. I do feel it is good that they point to such issues beforehand to give a clear sign of what they intent not to have the drivers to, makes it clear up front.

      2. Bahrain was also notable, not least because Verstappen compromised his own line through the final corner as a result.

    2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      9th April 2022, 6:22

      @bascb It happens exactly the same way the lead car warms its tyres and brakes behind the safety car! Drop back, then weave, close up and brake. The lead car can’t draw alongside the safety car. Its an example of clarity enacted and I’m all for it.

  5. Another Verstappen rule.

    Sigh.. I liked the little gamesmanship.

    And Charles tricked him by making him go on the marbles in Jeddah. So, it wasn’t necessarily an advantage for the pursuing driver.

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      9th April 2022, 6:30

      @sumedhvidwans Gotta ask yourself why there are so many “Verstappen rules!” If it was a red flag standing start would the 2nd place be allowed to draw up alongside 1st before the lights went out? No. That’s the point for me. 1st has the advantage because they’re 1st! You can’t just take that away because you feel like it. 2nd stays behind. Simple. No conspiracy.

      1. You can disagree however this new instruction is outside of the Sportibg Regulations and is the start of a slippery slope. If the FIA are concerned with the restart procedure the relevant sections should be rewritten so it is clear, not an interpretation issued. After all, it’s all they do….

    2. It’s the other way round, last couple of year’s the existing rules weren’t consistently enforced. And despite Max long standing whining that the stewards are against him, he did use those gray areas quite a lot.

  6. Not sure why the headline states something that is not part of the statement. It clearly mentions that drivers need not be in a single line, which implies the following car only needs to be behind, but need not be along the same line.

    Thus, you can have double file restarts but just not alongside each other.

    1. thats not what single file means

      that just means one at a time

  7. He got away with a lot… oh well, onwards

  8. I thought it added to the excitement last year in Abu Dhabi. It seemed like Max was pulling alongside to show Lewis the red on his tyres and put the fear in him. Now the rules have changed he will have to sit back but I did enjoy him showing some character and pushing the limits.

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