The strange spectacle of Formula 1 cars standing up for a standing start ahead of a two-lap race in Azerbaijan led to much discussion.
When the cars sat in the pit lane during the red flag period caused by Max Verstappen crash, only three laps of the race remained. For any restart, an additional tour of the circuit would be required to get them back to the start-finish area, so only two rounds of racing were available.
When the top three finishers were asked what they thought of performing a standing restart in just two laps of racing, third place Pierre Gasly joked jokingly: “The Americans took over, so I was not really surprised that we go first with the entertainment.
“No, I was quite happy,” he continued. “It always brings a little more excitement. It creates a kind of adrenaline inside you. I knew there would be some options because you only start in two rounds, everyone is a bit like lions out of the cage and everyone goes after everything and tries to do as many positions as possible in a very short time. ”
F1’s rules mean that a restart would probably always happen. Days when races are abandoned if they were red-flagged after a distance of 75% or used ‘total times’ for two separate races to determine the final result are far behind us. The latter has not happened since the rain hit 1994 Japanese Grand Prix.
Although this area in the rulebook was rewritten a long time ago, the expectation races may not be allowed to go the distance under certain circumstances, but even though it now rarely happens. These days, it requires extraordinary circumstances – such as Jules Bianchi’s terrible crash at Suzuka in 2014 or the monumental downpour at Sepang in 2009 – for a race to be abandoned.
About the tire, Verstappen and Lance stroll had little reason to consider not restarting the race is a question that Pirelli’s study needs to address. As for the rules, as Formula 1 race director Michael Masi pointed out, there was no reason not to resume Sunday’s race.
“Fortunately, for a number of years now we have had the rules on suspension of races,” he explained. “With the race suspension elements, yes, there is an option not to restart, but within the time frame and within the rules, we can restart and there was no reason not to do so.”
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If the decision to restart the race surprised some viewers, the same was not the case for the teams. Even Red Bull, who had the most to gain by not restarting the race, saw the decision come. Team sports director Jonathan Wheatley was consulted on the matter to Masi during the race broadcast: “Consider a red flag and the possibility of changing tires,” he said.
But the decision to red-mark a race and then restart it so close to the end set a significant precedent for future occasions where the Safety Car drives with a handful of laps left. In such a situation, teams now have reason to expect that race control will consider red flagging the race to finish it ‘under green’.
Masi admitted Sunday’s race was red-flagged for precisely this reason. “We were not sure that the recovery on the pit straight and the amount of dirt that was everywhere could be cleaned up at the right time,” he said. “So I thought it was in the sport’s best to suspend and then restart under that circumstance.”
In future races, where the safety car is deployed near the end, virtually every team that does not lead the race will lobby Masi to throw a red flag, which Jacques Villeneuve explained in an interview with RaceFans this week.
“Ultimately, with the restart at the end, there is a problem with the red flag because it is random,” he said. “So if you want to give a red flag at the end of the race, then it must be in the rules that if it is under caution with three laps to go, there will be a red flag. So it is not ‘a race yes’, ‘a race no’.
“Because then the teams complain that ‘oh, you helped that team one time, but not us the other time’. So I think there has to be a firm rule. It is either that there is no red flag or that there is one with three rounds to go.
“That way, it’s always the same, and there are no quarrels afterwards.”
Appropriately enough, an American series provides a good illustration of why these rules may be worth considering. In IndyCar, last year’s Indianapolis 500 ended ‘under caution’, to the dismay of several drivers who expected it to be restarted, as previous editions had been under similar circumstances.
As red flag restarting has become more common in Formula 1, this extent of inconsistency can easily be a hotbed of controversy if left untreated.
Quotes: Dieter Rencken
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