Claims that the FIA is using Safety Car restarts to increase excitement in Formula 1 are “quite offensive” to FIA race director Michael Masi.
An early Safety Car restart triggered a crash on the pit straight during Sunday’s Tuscan Grand Prix after a number of drivers at the back of the field accelerated before race leader Valtteri Bottas had chosen to do so. Twelve drivers in total were warned for “accelerating an decelerating in an erratic manner”, but Lewis Hamilton and Bottas both claimed the late turning off of the Safety Car lights were the root cause, and blamed it on the FIA wanting to spice up the show.
It’s just… the FIA or FOM, I don’t know who’s deciding what’s happening with the Safety Cars, but they’re trying to make the show better by turning the lights later, so we can’t build a gap early and then go like the corner before the race start,” Bottas said. “They in the main straight, so maybe it’s time to think if that’s right and safe to do so.
“I think our team opened up the discussion again before the race, saying that it’s a bit of a concern here, but they said basically they’re going to keep doing it because it’s better for the show. I think that was the reply.”
However, despite Hamilton also defending Bottas and agreeing that the restarts are designed to try and make the race more exciting, Masi was strong in his response.
“Absolutely not,” Masi said. “From an FIA perspective, safety is paramount, full-stop. End of story. In my capacity as race director and safety delegate, that’s point-blank; that’s where my role is – sporting integrity and safety. And anyone who says otherwise is quite offensive personally.
“Simply put, they can criticize all they want. If we have a look at a distance perspective from where the lights were extinguished to the control line, probably not dissimilar, if not longer, than a number of other venues.
“The Safety Car lights go out where they do, the Safety Car is in pit lane, we have the 20 best drivers in the world, and as we saw earlier in the Formula 3 race, those drivers in the junior category had a very very similar restart to what was occurring in the F1 race and navigated it quite well, without incident.
“I don’t think there’s any need to review the Safety Car restart rule.”