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.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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