The Safety Car finish to the Italian Grand Prix has split opinion in the Formula 1 paddock over whether the regulations need reviewing to try and avoid such an ending in future.
Daniel Ricciardo’s stoppage led to a Safety Car with six laps remaining and a number of drivers made pit stops in preparation for a late sprint to the flag. However, the Safety Car picked up George Russell initially and once it finally had race leader Max Verstappen at the head of the queue the field was too spread out to restart before the final lap, leading to jeers from the fans at Monza.
Explaining the lack of restart, an FIA spokesperson said: “While every effort was made to recover Car No. 3 quickly and resume racing, the situation developed and marshals were unable to put the car into neutral and push it into the escape road.
“As the safety of the recovery operation is our only priority, and the incident was not significant enough to require a red flag, the race ended under safety car following the procedures agreed between the FIA and all Competitors. The timing of the safety car period within a race has no bearing on this procedure.”
Despite the situation ensuring Verstappen won without being challenged by Charles Leclerc over the final laps, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the situation wasn’t how he wanted the race to finish.
“We had the race under control but I think everybody was robbed of that last two-lap shootout,” Horner said. “We need to understand why that happened, because it goes against the principles of what we’ve always talked about so I hope lessons can be learned from that.
“We always want to win under racing conditions and … I think Max would have had it under control but it was enough time to get racing again. It felt like the wrong car was perhaps picked up by the Safety Car and then it took more time to sort out and they just ran out of time.
“So it was frustrating for the fans, and the racers in us – we want to win under racing conditions, not a Safety Car, which I believe we would have done.
“I think we need to look at why it took so long to get going again, that took too long to restart. It looked like there was no damage to the car, it was not in a barrier or anything like that, so lessons to learn.”
In contrast, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was less concerned about the lack of a restart, but is also willing to see changes made in future.
“I think they followed the rules to the dot,” Wolff said. “There was a tractor on track with people, that’s why they didn’t let anyone overtake, because it’s still dangerous having cars overtaking when there are marshals out there, and there wasn’t enough time to finish the race under racing.
“That’s the rules, and everything else like ‘Why not a red flag?’, well a red flag is only when somebody is in the wall and injured or the track is blocked – none of that was the case, so proper application of the regulations.
“I think we all like a racing finish, I’d love to see a lap or two and see how the mayhem unfolds, so then if we need to change the regulations then I’m up for it.”
Perhaps more understandably, Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto was unhappy with the way the Safety Car was handled in Monza as it denied Leclerc an unexpected last chance of fighting for victory.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of changing the rules,” Binotto said. “The rules have been discussed, largely, especially after Abu Dhabi last year. They were discussed with the FIA, F1 and the teams, and we came to a conclusion that the current format is probably the right one to keep. So I don’t think it’s a matter of regulations.
“I am certainly disappointed for how long it took them to decide, and I think we are not understanding why it took so long to release the cars between the Safety Car and the leader.
“I don’t think safety could be the right reason for it because when you are released, as a driver, you cannot go simply flat out around the track, because there is a minimum lap time, which is set in the regulations. And this minimum laptime is there to make sure that whenever they are running and driving, they’re doing it safely.
“So what we do not understand is, with the current regulations that we believe are right, why it took so long for them to decide? I think they simply need to do a better job, because F1, and the show – and it’s not for Ferrari and the tifosi because if the Safety Car would have ended before, how would the race have finished? We don’t know.
“Max was the fastest car and was on new tires. But generally speaking, we should have tried to end the Safety Car as soon as possible and give more track time, race time, to the drivers.
“So the disappointment is how long it took them to decide, and we believe in that respect that they didn’t do a good job and need to do a better job in the future, because it’s not good for F1.”