Two “unnecessary” disruptions in last two grands prix – Russell

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In the round-up: Formula 1 has unnecessarily disrupted its last two races, says George Russell.

In brief

Red flag was another “unnecessary” call – Russell

Russell criticised the decision to red flag the Australian Grand Prix after deploying the Safety Car in response to Alexander Albon’s crash. He compared it to the surprising use of the Safety Car when Lance Stroll retired dur the previous race in Jeddah.

“I was pretty disappointed initially with the decision to red flag the race,” he said. No words for that. Obviously, we had a similar situation in Saudi with the Safety Car coming out in an unnecessary circumstance.”

He said Mercedes “made the right decision” by pitting him from the lead when the Safety Car came out, though the later red flag took away the advantage he had gained by changing tyres. “Pitting, I think, was the right call under the safety car,” he said. “I was surprised when I saw Lewis and Max stay out, and I was kind of pretty pleased when I saw that because I thought it played right into my hands. And then obviously the red flag ruined things.”

Police arrest suspects in Leclerc case

Almost a year since Leclerc was mugged for a bespoke Richard Mille watch in Viareggio, Italy, local police confirmed they have arrested four people in connection with the crime. A number of watches were recovered, though it has not been confirmed if any belonged to the Ferrari driver.

The watch was taken after the thieves stopped Leclerc and asked him for a photograph. Following the robbery last year he said the police’s investigation “hasn’t been as smooth as what I’ve read.”

Former Mercedes designer “not surprised” team’s reign ended

Former Mercedes technical chief Aldo Costa says he isn’t surprised the team was wrong-footed by a change in the technical regulations last year, but is convinced they can bounce back.

Costa, who worked for Mercedes between 2011 and 2019, told La Gazzetta dello Sport his former team’s defeat “didn’t surprise me, in the sense that they have been winning for many years, they have been the reference for everyone.”

“It’s perfectly fine that they didn’t interpret a regulatory change in the best possible way. More precisely: they didn’t have the timing that others had, because then they recovered during the season. And it is in these things that the strength of a team is seen. They have all the numbers to return to winning.”

Despite Red Bull’s dominance of the 2023 season so far, Costa is convinced the championship will become more competitive. “I think so,” he said. “It could be a three-way fight. I think we’ll see a good show.”

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Comment of the day

Phil echoed the views of many readers who don’t want to see red flags being used to create action:

I know safety is a paramount consideration but I still feel that if an incident can be handled under a Safety Car or a Virtual Safety Car then in nearly all circumstances this should happen. This always worked up until two or three years ago and it should work now. Red flags have become increasingly common and it seems something of a coincidence that this has happened since Liberty took over the sport. I completely realise this is not their rules but the FIAs but are they under influence to spice up the action?

The main exception to this I think, as others have mentioned, is where there is some other circumstance like rain, poor visibility or the particular location of an incident in an Albon or Magnussen crash like situation. In this case a red flag would be justified.

Even with a red flag though again I think the ability to change tyres and make repairs, other than those causing a danger to others, should be removed.

We all like an element of the unexpected which is exciting to most people. Of course over the years a lot of the chances for unexpected events have diminished with increased reliability and tighter rules. However, I don’t think throwing in somewhat unnecessary restarts, is the way to tackle this and spice up the show.
Phil Norman (@Phil-f1-21)

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On this day in motorsport

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33 comments on “Two “unnecessary” disruptions in last two grands prix – Russell”

  1. For me what we had before Liberty came in and the Americanised show started to get put above the sport worked perfectly.

    A Virtual Safety Car is used if a car has stopped off track in a safe place and can be recovered quickly, easily and safely. Likewise if there is a bit of debris on track that can be collected quickly and safely with cars at reduced speed.

    A full Safety Car is used if a car has stopped which is harder to recover and may require a tractor or something to go and collect it. Or if there has been an accident or contact that has graveland debris on track which can be cleared fairly quickly but will require multiple marshalls on track.

    Red Flags should only be called in the most extreme circumstances. If a barrier is damaged, If there has been a big accident with multiple cars on track or if the track is blocked. Or if a driver has been injured and an ambulance needs to be sent out. Or if there is a situation like Suzuka last year where visibility is poor and the chance of aquaplaning is high.

    I’ve never seen a race stopped due to gravel or for as little debris as was on track after Kmag’s brush with the wall. There was no sporting or real safety reason for either as both could very easily, quickly and safely been handed with cars at slow speed behind the SC as we have seen in similar situations many times before.

    To hear Brundle for example try and compare gravel on the track to what happened to Massa in 2009 with a very heavy spring he hit at basically full racing speed just shows he’s nothing more than a Liberty shill now because they are not even comparable. It’s not even really comparable to the Kmag incident as at slow speeds behind the SC with drivers having driven past the site once thus knowing where the debris is is nothing like what happened to Massa.

    If your going to call a red flag everytime there is gravel or a bit of debris on track then whats the point of the safety car since it’s those sorts of things it was introduced to deal with?

    Why not just be honest and admit the show is been valued above the sport in the Liberty Media era! I’d still disagree but at least respect them all more than when there trying to spin it the was they are.

    1. The only trouble with all of that is that today’s drivers can’t be trusted.
      And if anyone keeps going on about the 20 best drivers in the world I’ll bust my stitches.

      1. But you can trust the drivers ….. They will all complain that the Safety Car is too slow.
        If you have 20 cars (5.5 m long) and they all run around 9 car lengths behind the car in front, that is a train 1 km long. Add in a high speed Safety Car, and the end result is that there isn’t much time for the marshals and sweep crew to clear things up before the cars are back again.
        The Albon incident left a fair dinkum wad of gravel on the track, In the end they used a street sweeper to clear it.
        For those that would dismiss “a little” gravel on track, check with Helmut Marko on his thoughts.
        I would be the first to moan about Red Flagging races, I hate it, but between the rules, the wants of the drivers, the push for more safety and a total aversion to having personnel on-track while cars are circulating, it is going to be the new normal.

        1. @rekibsn A street sweeper didn’t get used & similar or much worse situations have been perfectly manageable with SC in the past, so driving between the gravel-filled sides at SC train speeds was perfectly doable & the same with personnel & a recovery vehicle on a track.

        2. @rekibsn

          a high speed Safety Car

          That’s the problem right there.

          This could also have solved the entire 2021 Abu Dhabi debacle in an instant. Just drive slower (and in that case, allow all lapped cars to pass with laps to spare). The SC driver isn’t in a race. F1 drivers can moan as much as they want, the SC is not there for them but for the marshals. Who, it should be noted, are volunteers.

    2. +1. Well said!

      Coming soon, to an F1 near you: The Formula One Cup Series Playoffs! -_-

      Actually, I’d better not joke. I’ll give the morons at Liberty Media ideas.

    3. @LyndaMarks You couldn’t be more right. Red-flagging for some gravel or debris on track is indeed excessive, especially when looking at countless much worse past incidents, such as Kubica’s Montreal shunt, that left more debris & required external vehicles, including an ambulance on track.
      Therefore, both Melbourne incidents were definitely safely manageable with SC based on past precedents.

      1. @jerejj

        No (bleep) Sherlock…

    4. Even the Sporting Regulations say that “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 session or the race will be suspended.”

      Despite the gravel and debris from Albon’s and Magnussen’s crash you could easily argue that it was safe enough to drive under SC.

    5. Ever since Whiting passed after the 2018 season, we’ve gone from common sense like staying green with a local yellow to recover a car that was way off the track/on the same side of a turn’s apex/leaving it out there if it was on the shoulder of a long straight to VSC, safety car or red flag regardless for almost anything, including a piece of styrofoam on the grass. It’s sad and embarrassing.

      Also, car retrieval is so much slower than it used to be. I am sure having to confirm it’s not a shock danger slows it down slightly, but not by that much. I have watched many GPs where cars that crashed on the first lap were recovered before the pack even got back again for the second lap. Now, it takes them 5+ laps to retrieve cars and restart if we’re lucky.

      Jonathan Parkin gave a great example of this speed (which wasn’t unique to Monaco before someone goes buck wild pointing it out): “

      Take Monaco in 2001 for instance. Nick Heidfeld went into the barriers on Lap 1 then Juan Montoya crashed at the Swimming Pool on Lap 3 I think it was. No Safety Car needed in either case and both cars were cleared rapidly

      I wouldn’t dream of wanting to continue like this but even during the ‘90s they recovered three cars under green that were on the track in Montreal. Not advocating that. Just showing how unacceptably far the pendulum has swung.

  2. My conclusion is that F1 isn’t a sport anymore. There’s no care for legacy, integrity or fan loyalty. It’s all about hype, numbers and dollars. All us long-term fan’s are replaceable if we don’t like the new flavour, that’s pretty clear.

    I still follow F1 but it’s with this understanding. I’ve wasted too much energy on F1 drama, which is exactly what LM want. They have no interest in fixing ambiguitues because they create noise and engagement. They’re intentionally pushing people’s buttons. We’re being played.

    For me, F1 is far more enjoyable when following at arms length.

    1. I’m afraid I have to agree, @antznz. I’m moving farther than arm’s length. Tired of Liberty having a leg up on my (former) love of F1.

      1. To be specific, Wittich + 2/3 the stewards of that race have/had no motorsport experience and think an SC/RF is expected of them for any crash. Besides Bernoldi, everyone was a legal expert or an attorney and not a racer in Australia.

    2. I think the decision for a standing restart was the entertainment decision. I think the real problem is that during Masi’s time they came to this new practice of an SC or VSC ANYTIME a car pulled off safely or a car had to be recovered. Through 2018 (the last season of Whiting), the race would still be run with a dead car parked in a safe position off the side of the track or be recovered under a local yellow at worst.

      However, it’s gotten so Mickey Mouse now that even fans and pundits immediately scream for a safety car no matter how far out of danger the car. It’s this new zero tolerance that even the smallest level of elevated risk must result in a VSC, SC or red flag.

    3. I agree 100% (unfortunately). This is no longer F1 to me.

  3. It gets even better now.
    Massa mulling legal action to overturn 2008 race result.
    Prime time TV fodder.

    1. @davedai Ikr, he should’ve done something before the prize-giving gala/last 2008 WMSC meeting, but almost 15 years later, lol.

      1. In short the logic behind is: you can’t do anything after wdc gala, which he was told in 2009 when he and most of us learned about what happened in Singapore the year before.

        So why try now? Bernie in a recent interview admitted he and head of FIA Max Mosley knew about what happened in Singapore in 2008 before the year ended but both stayed silent to avoid scandal. Not saying Massa should be given the wdc 15 years later but have to admit he has a point this changes things a bit

        1. Can’t see anything really changing but statements like this from Bernie should be good for column inches ,”shocking revelations on TV” etc.

          I still feel sorry for Massa today. He won the final at his home race in Sao Paulo and did everything right. He was cheated out of the deserved title, while Hamilton had all the luck in the world and won his first championship.

          “Today I would have arranged it differently.”

        2. So why try now?

          If nothing else, it’s good to bring up now that Aston Martin’s decent start to the year means Alonso is getting some attention again. The same Alonso who, of course, had absolutely no idea what his team’s most senior figures, his team mate, and their respective race strategists were up to. No idea at all.

    2. This is entirely separate and unconnected issue.

  4. Russel really panicked when he had Hamilton and Verstappen behind him. He sounded like he was crying when he told his engineer to back Hamilton off. The unnecessary reds would have effected him less if he had the stones. Guys worse than Bottas as a lapdog to Hamilton.

    1. James Hosford
      5th April 2023, 5:12

      What on earth are you on about?

    2. Russell was told by the team to manage his pace and tires only to discover Lewis chasing him for an overtake.
      So he is right to question why Lewis is pushing for an overtake while he is being told to manage pace to save tires.

      1. This. To me it is clear Mercedes favour Lewis. I can understand that from their shared history but the sensible route is of course to support the youngster. It’s a bit like Aston getting blinded by the light and hiring Vettel. Decisions based on bling and nostalgia rather than data.

  5. While I’ve already read Russell’s view before, he couldn’t be more spot-on.
    The unnecessarily hasty SC deployment in Jeddah got caused by uncertainty on Stroll’s car positioning, but this shouldn’t happen these days, given all the modern technology available.

    Solving the watch robbery took quite a while in the end.

    Three-way fight someday, but probably not this season, or at least not for the championships.

    Serious sport or senseless Netflix fodder? F1 should be the former, but admittedly, the latter seems to be the case occasionally.

    COTD is spot-on in principle. Red-flagging should only ever be the resort in extreme cases unsafe for both SC & VSC, like always pre-2020, with SC for situations not extreme enough for red & unsafe for VSC, & VSC for situations not extreme enough for either red or VSC. Rain & poor visibility, yes, but the particular locations in the AusGP incidents didn’t justify the most extreme neutralization option based on much more severe past instances, so contradictory in the end.
    Once again, banning tyre & other changes (other than those absolutely necessary for safety) would be redundant, & for consistency’s sake, pit stops also become disallowed during SC & VSC neutralizations.

    1. So endeth the sermon from @jerejj, premier exponent of pontification

  6. Wow. COTD. Thank you Ida Wood.

    1. Deserved COTD. You are completely right. The sporting regs clearly say that the race will be suspended if the track can’t be negotiated even under SC conditions and even though there were gravel and debris, would think the cars could easily go under SC conditions

  7. Russell highlights a common problem with F1’s lackluster race directors. They don’t make clear decisions between FCY, Red or whatever because they don’t actually control the race. Why? They can’t penalize people. A group of in-crowd and part-time amateur stewards do (unless it’s Gasly, or Sergeant, or anyone not driving a Ferrari really).

    A race director that can penalize people according to the FIA Code – i.e. failure to properly observe yellow flags – doesn’t have to resort to safety cars or red flags nearly as often as they do now. Every silly driver who thinks he can ‘catch up to the pack’ under FCY will earn himself a one-way ticket to the pitlane, and subsequently the bench for banned drivers.

    The one thing Wittich can be blamed for – to an extent – is the wishy-washy decision to go from FCY to Red Flag. Either he or Freitas did this last year as well (I think in Saudi Arabia?), and it is very unfair on the drivers who make a stop.

  8. I completely agree with COTD. Rather ironically, the restart after Magnussen’s accident was arguably a more dangerous scenario than the debris on the circuit caused by Magnussen! We used to go years between red flags. Now we get them multiple times per season (per race even!) for some of the most mundane things. Were the stones on the circuit after Albon’s accident really on a par with Brazil 2003, Europe 2007, or Sepang 2009 as examples? I can’t help but feel it could have been cleared quite easily under a safety car, especially so early in the race when the field was still relatively close together. I feel like red flags should be reserved for the most serious incidents or hazards and should be avoided where possible. They kinda undermine the concept of a grand prix.

  9. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    5th April 2023, 12:59

    Didn’t Bottas pick up a puncture due to debris on the track at Baku?

    1. Is your mother named Sandy?

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