Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says it was right to red flag the Australian Grand Prix late on due to safety reasons, even if it threatened Max Verstappen’s victory.
Verstappen was comfortably leading the race in Melbourne when Kevin Magnussen hit the wall at Turn 2 and left debris on the circuit. While the safety car was initially deployed, a red flag was used to ensure the clear-up could take place thoroughly before restarting the race, and although Horner admits it was annoying from Red Bull’s point of view he believes it was the right decision.
“It was always going to be hugely frustrating when you get a red flag and a restart with three laps to go,” Horner said. “When you’re the leader, you can only lose from that point.
“It was just a question of just go out there and do the best start we could. We’d had two pretty average starts in the previous two attempts. But the third one, he nailed, and all chaos ensued behind him, which thankfully we weren’t part of. And then obviously the red flag came out, and the race was never going to get restarted after that. A few cars sustaining quite a bit of damage at the end there.
“Safety reasons are why the red flags should always be thrown. There was a lot of debris on the track. When you look at it, it was the right thing to red flag it. The problem was there were only two laps to the end of the race. You’re always going to get winners and losers in that.”
And Horner says the way incidents late in races are handled has been under constant discussion following both Abu Dhabi in 2021 and Monza last year, with the target of a green flag finish taking priority.
“You can understand the rationale behind wanting to get finished under racing conditions rather than cruising behind the safety car for three laps. They might have been able to clear the circuit and get it going, I don’t know. Like all these things, there’s always something to learn.
“I mean it’s something that has been discussed. There has always been a preference to finish under racing conditions, so if by stopping a race enabled them to tidy up the circuit, rather than just cruise out the remaining laps behind the safety car, then it’s the right thing to do.
“The problem is that when you’re the lead car, and you’ve been controlling a 10-second lead all afternoon, suddenly it’s a massive variable that becomes a bit of a lottery.”