FIA race director Michael Masi has explained why it took so long to reach a decision on the Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc incident after the Austrian Grand Prix.
Masi noted the contact between the two drivers with three laps remaining on Sunday and referred it to the stewards to investigate at the end of the race. Verstappen and Leclerc were summoned at 1800 local time – nearly 90 minutes after the race finished – and the decision to take no further action was finally communicated more than three hours after the checkered flag.
“The first part was the proximity to the end,” Masi said. “The primary part was we didn’t get going until 6pm, with all the various media commitments with regards to the pen and post-race conference.
“The hearing itself was about an hour, with all parties involved. Then the stewards deliberated, looked at other cases, precedents, speaking between themselves, by the time you write a decision and attempt to make sure there’s no typos or anything in it, summoning the teams back, delivering the decision to them… time flies a lot more when you’re sitting outside like all of us than when you’re sitting in the room, I’d suggest.
“It was just that they were considering absolutely everything. They had all four people, both drivers and both team managers, in there for an hour.”
While Masi – who only referred the incident to the stewards and didn’t participate in the investigations – appreciated the need to confirm the race result for fans, he said getting a fair sporting outcome is the priority.
“I think it’s a tough one, because it’s one where you want the right decision made, considering all the circumstances and all the factors that are around and using as much information as you have available. So that’s one part,” he said.
“The other part is that it’s no different in some areas to a technical matter. Post-race scrutineering, if there’s a technical matter that gets discovered and it’s the winner, it’s a different circumstance. It’s just one of the nuances in this sport. We can’t blow a whistle and freeze everything to make a decision and then play on.
“We try wherever possible to have the podium be the podium, but when it’s in that last two, three laps of the race, it does make it quite difficult. But if it was something that happened on lap three, I think if the stewards felt they had everything it would have been play on. So it’s a tough one, it’s a balancing act.”
Masi also gave his own interpretation of the incident and decision, stating he could see differences between the collision and the previous lap when a similar move resulted in both drivers staying on the track.
“I’m not a party to any of their discussions whatsoever,” he said. “I refer something to them, and it’s for them to completely make their determination. Having had a good read of the decision itself, I think from their end, it was looking back at the lap earlier.
“From what I can see, their view was he had learned from the lap earlier, he went into the corner, braked later, Charles obviously saw him coming and stayed out wide. Max, in braking a lot later, was effectively late-apexed, and at all times a full lock and trying to power out. So the same thing that happened the lap previously didn’t occur again.”