Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monza, 2022

F1 warned to avoid “knee-jerk” red flag rule change after criticised Monza finish

2022 F1 season

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Formula 1 should be wary of introducing new rules to govern the conclusion of races after the criticised end to its last round at Monza, Alpine’s sporting director has said.

The Italian Grand Prix finished behind the Safety Car as it took more than six laps to clear the track and reorganise the field after Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren came to a stop.

The anti-climactic end to the grand prix led some to argue in favour of a rules change requiring races to be red-flagged in similar circumstances to increase the chance of a racing finish. This happened at last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which was restarted with two laps to go.

Alpine’s long-serving sporting director Alan Permane said such a rule “sounds great” but could lead to unforeseen problems.

“It sounds like you have a six-lap sprint, everyone has fresh tyres and we go. There will be some unintended consequences but it’s happened before, we did it in Baku last year. I guess you can write that into the regs, it doesn’t sound crazy.”

While Permane expects “there will be something that we don’t like” about such a rule, he agrees F1 should endeavour to avoid races finishing behind the Safety Car wherever possible.

“We’re here to put a show on and that was clearly wasn’t acceptable,” he said. “It’s not an ideal finish at all. No one wants to finish under the Safety Car. It’s miserable. It’s really miserable for the fans.”

However he suspects tightening up existing procedures, including the complication of when lapped cars should be allowed to rejoin the lead lap, would be the best way to do tackle the problem.

“Maybe we don’t need to knee-jerk, to say every time it’s red-flagged within 50 kilometres of the end or something, you throw a red flag. Maybe we need to just make sure we get those Safety Car procedures right.

“We have been working to try and make them quicker. The problem is with Safety Cars later in the race, you’ve got these lapped cars and we’ve had endless discussions about how to improve that situation. And there are definitely many unintended consequences of changing that procedure.”

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The question of how to handle late-race restarts was debated at length following the controversial conclusion to last year’s world championship in Abu Dhabi, when FIA F1 race director Michael Masi failed to follow the rules in arranging a final-lap restart which swung the outcome of the world championship. Further discussions were due to be held following the Monza race.

But Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack said teams have disagreed over how such situations should be handled.

“It’s a topic that will come back again on the agenda because there has never been consensus, really, what is the best way forward,” he said. “You have also the situation that we have [at Monza]: Do you say, for example, if the race would have been two or three laps longer, do you leave the lapped cars where they are? Do let them overtake?

“I think this also is the decision of the race director. He has a little bit of playing area but at the end of the day Danny’s car was standing there also for quite long, so he cannot let the race go.”

Krack said it was “unfortunate” the race was not restarted and, like others, believes the opportunity to do so was missed partly because the Safety Car incorrectly ran in front of George Russell instead of race leader Max Verstappen for more than a lap.

“There is a set of rules and procedures in place that the race director has to respect,” he said. “And when you have a Safety Car so late in the race, there is always a risk that it finishes like that. I think it was a bit unfortunate that they caught George instead of Max so I think maybe a lap was lost. But mistakes happen.

“Obviously for the fans, it was not nice that is the race ends like that. But I think they were more disappointed that Ferrari did not win rather than the race ending behind the Safety Car.”

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Keith Collantine
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39 comments on “F1 warned to avoid “knee-jerk” red flag rule change after criticised Monza finish”

  1. I think both Permane and Krack are right, broadly speaking. There are other things that can be fixed first before worrying about the need to change the safety car/red flag procedure.

    The biggest problem at Monza was that it took too long to deploy the safety car, so that the leaders had passed the pits and had to do a whole lap at reduced speed before pitting, leading to the confusion where the safety car picked up the wrong car and it took too long to sort out. If the safety car had been deployed in a timely manner, Verstappen and Leclerc could have pitted straight away and the safety car picked them up at the pit exit.

    They managed to red flag Silverstone within seconds of Zhou’s crash, so there is no reason why they need to delay deploying the safety car when it is obvious that one is needed.

    1. @red-andy Deploying SC indeed took unnecessarily long, & not even VSC initially, as happens quite often before full SC deployment.
      Not the first time neutralizing has taken unnecessarily long, so this is something that has slightly carried on from last season.

      1. What? Only 2nd???

    2. If the safety car had been deployed in a timely manner, Verstappen and Leclerc could have pitted straight away and the safety car picked them up at the pit exit.

      I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Variable reduction of speed VSC.
      Depending on the circumstances, you can set any percentage reduction in speed that you want, from a mere 10-20% reduction all the way to a 90% reduction, although the latter would rather draconian.
      Instantly applied to every car, and you could even have an additional reduction in the area of the incident if required.

      It comes with an absolute guarantee that drivers won’t whinge that the safety car is too slow and needs to speed up. No guarantees they won’t just whinge, though.

      I can see one minor flaw which might need a tweak to the % figure across the board.

      You can go back to full on racing within seconds of the track clear message.

      1. The main reason they go from VSC to SC is to have all cars together, which helps the safety of the clean up crew.
        Making the VSC ‘smarter’ (or ‘more complex’) doesn’t do that.

        – I’d ban the unlapping immediately (the chasing cars already had a big advantage in eliminating the gaps, why make it even easier for them?. Also, if unlapping is not allowed anymore it makes the ‘pit, or not to pit’ decision a bit more challenging;
        – If possible add laps to the race if ‘lost’ due to SC in the last 50k/10laps (1 extra for 2 laps under SC);
        – any SC should become an automatic Red Flag if lasting more than 6 laps (e.g. when mistakes are made in picking up the lead driver).

  2. & rightly so, & I reiterate that red-flagging should only ever be a resort when truly necessary on safety grounds regardless of race phase.
    Just because something SC or even VSC-worthy happens within the last x number of laps in any given race doesn’t mean that incident or case should get different treatment than if it happened earlier, which would be double standard treatment by definition. If red flag-worthy, yes, but only if, not otherwise.

    1. @jerejj. I fully agree. The race should only be red flagged due to an incident severe enough to require it.

    2. Absolutely, the regulations are pretty clear on which track conditions require a red flag. The FIA needs to do a better job handling existing regulations, not create new ones. Leave the ‘for show’ red flags with Masi and Indycar.

      As an aside, some of the complaints by teams and drivers seem wholly and cynically motivated by the idea that a restart would allow them to take a position their genuine race pace hadn’t earned.

  3. Red Flags should be used only if the track is undriveable due debrie (not some carbon but parts of a car engines, wheels suspensions … ) a accident so severe as a car stuck in the safety barriers….

  4. Imagine a red flag 10 laps before the end. Standing restart. Crash, red flag. 9 laps to go, 1 hour passed with 0 racing laps completed.
    Shouldn’t red flags be used for critical situations only?

    I think VSC should be applied differently. It should rather be a WEC-like slow zone and the rest of the lap could be under green.
    Also the lapped cars thing should be a much, much faster procedure. 90% of the track if safe to let lapped cars overtake at any time. And after they’ve overtaken the field, do not let them pit for tyres during SC. If there is not enough time left, lapped cars should let everyone in the lead lap go by. It would be simpler than them overtaking everyone. Yes, they would be screwed but do not fall one lap behind and you won’t be…
    Or it could be at RDs discretion whether to let lapped cars unlap themself or make them let everyone in the lead lap by. Depending on how many lapped cars are there and what is their position compared to the lead car.

    Actually the outcry is now about ‘Why didn’t they do something like in Abu Dhabi’ (let them race somehow) whereas there was a huge outcry after that decision…

    1. At least the officials followed the rules this time… It may not have been exciting, but at least it wasn’t a farce.

  5. Give all marshal points a trolley jack. Rics stuck car would have been gone in 30 seconds!

    1. How? they lift the trolley jack and car from gravel and/or sand? Those work in Monaco and tracks with only asfalt.

    2. From the grass (or gravel)?

      A helicopter with lifting cables might work though, and will add to the show.

  6. Why is the whole SC discussion limited to the disadvantages at the end of the race? The goal should be to have a nutrulisation that does not effect the outcome of the race not only the ending. But I guess the SC discussion is used to make more of a F1 show instead of a fair competition.

    1. What do you mean by

      does not effect the outcome of the race

      ? An incident in itself affects the outcome of the race. A change in temperatures, rain affects the outcome. A fan throwing something on track affects the outcome. Think about race strategy. An SC, VSC changes it –> affects the outcome.
      “Neutralization” in this case roughly means a restart, new start. Not status quo as of LAP XX.

      1. A neutralisation can also be a SC or VSC. What I mean is that it should not benefit or disadvantage one driver more than the other. The introduction of the VSC is a good example because this keeps the gaps. It should be the goal to not effect the race or at least try to keep it fair. The number of SC’s exploded this decade and have a huge effect on the outcome based on luck

        Your examples of the rain or change in temp is IMHO not valid because they are the same for everybody and are “natural conditions” a SC/VSC or red flag is artificial.

    2. So much focus on rules supposedly (fia rewrote THE rule afterwards) not being followed at abu dhabi and now the same people do not care about rules, they just do not want the outcome of the race to be affected. A crash affects the race. Protocol was not adhered at monza and we stood 15 minutes looking at how great of a race director Niels is.

      1. First of all I’m not the same people,,,,,??? Second this is not related to Abu Dhabi or Max/lewis. I already regret my comment if it leads to the same discussion we had last year

        I really think the rules should be designed to not benefit or disadvantage one driver more than an other. So keep the gaps no pitstops and no new tires during RF

  7. F1 sporting regulations:

    50.1 If Competitors or officials are placed in immediate physical danger by cars running on the track,
    and the clerk of the course deems circumstances are such that the track cannot be negotiated
    safely, even behind the safety car, the sprint qualifying session or the race will be suspended.

    Should it become necessary to suspend the sprint qualifying session or the race, the clerk of the
    course will order red flags to be shown at all marshal posts and the abort lights to be shown at
    the Line.

    This is the definition of a red flag. Anything that takes remaining laps into account is a gimmick.

    1. Anything that takes remaining laps into account is a gimmick.

      I disagree.
      If a safety car happens early in the race, teams can still adjust their strategy.
      This is not possible towards the end.

      1. I mean red flag decisions.

        1. I know, and replied as such.
          I don’t mind if a Red Flag decision is different during the latter laps (to avoid finishing under SC) than earlier in the race.
          The reason is as explained above.

    2. I’m not sure anyone is suggesting that the rules should be broken by the officials (again). Instead, the calls for red flags to be thrown in certain other circumstances are calls to change the rules to make this possible.

  8. If they do change the rules, will it apply to ALL red flags or ANY red flags?

    As we know from 2021, there is a BIG difference between the two!

  9. So we had a race finish behind a safety car. It happens, should have happened last year as well but it’s a rarity. Let’s just move on.

    1. Agreed. It happens rarely, but it does happen. It may be a disappointing way to end a race, but it’s the way F1 works and the way it has to be under the current rules.

      1. Not necessarily.
        There was a safety concern with marshals and a recovery vehicle on the track. Absolute 100% justification for a red flag if Race Control want there to be one.
        And all perfectly warranted under the current rules.

  10. For a minute they had me scared there when there wasn’t an instant reference to Abu Dhabi last year. Then the second paragraph did. So predictable..

    1. It’s pretty standard journalism to mention the issue has been debated at length and the cause for that debate. There was no discussion on what happened and the quote was perfectly relevant for the article. Maybe this isn’t the site for you if you don’t like factual journalism.

      1. Fair point

    2. You think an article about safety cars at the end of a race shouldn’t mention the most controversial safety car decision of recent times when that was at the end of a race?

      A hugely debated, massively criticised event relevent to the discussion should be simply ignored?

  11. I have no issues with races finishing under the safety car when required as defined by the rules and for the safety of all on the circuit. I take issue with races finishing under the safety car though where the reason for it happening seem to be due to the speed of implementing the correct procedures. The annoyance many had with Monza was it seemed there was more than enough time to clear the car off track and have at least a couple of laps of green flag racing but this opportunity was fluffed by several processes failing.

    There is absolutely no need to change the rules to ensure a race doesn’t finish under a safety car. Throwing a red flag and restarting neutralizes and devalues the other 90% of the race. Fix the delays and inefficient processes first and then reassess the issue. I’d also like to see specific “safe zones” on circuits for cars to park up where recovery is easier so drivers don’t have to look or guess where is best to park their car.

  12. No, I really do think people were upset the race ended behind sc, I don’t think a single fan thought an sc period should last 15 minutes.
    The mistakes at Monza were worse than Abu Dhabi’s. Niels has managed to be even worse than Masi. Masi tried to correct his premature bad call for “no cars are allowed to unlap” and put things back on time for what everyone expected, a restart under sc, but it was too late, too much time had been wasted by that point. Masi then decided to interpret a rule in a way many did not appreciate and the rest is history, the rule has been rewritten and so ironically Masi got sacked for a mistake he did not commit.
    In Abu Dhabi the marshals bottled it, I’m sure they tried their best but they chose the worst way to clear the track and they took too long to get ready.
    At Monza the marshals did not manage to push Ricciardo’s car, but they would have cleared the track quickly had the sc been deployed earlier and picked the right car, the burden is all on Witich, on mistakes race direction wasted at least 3 laps.
    Just because monza is not meaningful for the title and the outcome of the race was likely not going to swing dramatically had the race followed the rules, it does not mean that rules were not broken, the protocol was not implemented correctly and we ended up with a situation where the race was decided and won by the safety car.

  13. All F1 has to do is look at NASCAR’s Green-White-Checker/Overtime rule to see how things can go totally astray with pushing so hard to not have a race finish under a caution flag. As the old saying goes, cautions breed cautions and re-forming the grid will invariably cause accidents on the restart, which will lead to further caution laps/red flags.

    How many attempts to finish under green do you allow? One? Two? Unlimited like NASCAR? At least NASCAR allows their cars to refuel but with a fixed amount of fuel, F1 wouldn’t be able to do that.

    You can also look at the stats from NASCAR and see that more than a 1/3 of the time there is a change of the lead during “overtime”, so if F1 went down this route we should expect that the final result will be pretty jumbled up compared to how the result would have looked before the caution period. Is that really what is intended? We want racing, sure, but we don’t want artificially jumbled results because of a caution flag in the final few laps. And that is what you see in NASCAR.

  14. This could be solved with a simple formula, I think:

    Cars, of course, are still burning fuel behind the Safety Car so we can’t just say something like “if a SC is needed within the last 10 laps of the race, laps behind the Safety Car won’t count towards the race laps total”. We’d probably have some cars running out of fuel.

    But we could say that “if a Safety Car is needed within the last 10 laps of the race, one extra lap of racing is added to the total race distance for every two laps behind the safety car.

    To solve a very late Safety Car, we could add: “if a Safety Car is needed within the last 2 laps of the race, one extra lap of racing is added to the total race distance for every lap behind the safety car”.

    (After all, they are saving fuel behind the Safety Car, too: this way we could end the race with both enough fuel and a green flag.)

  15. The discussion around what to do shows how last year’s decision at the last race was only “acceptable” because it was the last race of the season. If the same procedure for unlapping was followed in any other race almost every team would have protested as it was grossly unfair to the drivers from position 3 all the way down.

  16. It seems to me that the safety car is causing as many problems as it is solving.
    Let me put on my radical cap from many years ago and propose abolishing the safety car altogether.
    I’m happy with yellow, double waved, VSC and then if necessary red flag.

    There is still ample opportunity for consistency/inconsistency, conspiracy theories etc as long as an individual needs to make the call about suspending the race a race.

    Thank you @f1mre
    clerk of the course deems circumstances are such that the track cannot be negotiated
    safely, even behind the safety car, the sprint qualifying session or the race will be suspended. Drivers have even gone off following safety car, so……..

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