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Drivers critical of Melbourne officiating


Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris are among the drivers critical of what they feel is the overuse of red flags.

Ever since the controversy of Abu Dhabi 2021 there has been a fear that the sport's powers that be prefer to restart races, as opposed to allowing the field to continue behind the Safety Car or under the VSC, thereby giving the potential, a la Abu Dhabi, for a one or two lap sprint to the chequered flag.

In the eyes of the drivers that appeared to be the case today.

"I was surprised with all the red flags, to be honest" said Fernando Alonso, who was 'eliminated' at the controversial second restart, "because the first one, I think, was because of a Williams in Turn 6. But we went through there one lap, I think, behind the Safety Car and there was a little bit of gravel, but nothing really too bad on track.

"But we never know in the car what's going on on the track itself," he added. "So apparently, maybe one barrier was not properly fit there, so I think the FIA has more information than us.

"If there is a red flag, it has to be for a reason," he continued. "We will ask probably in Baku what was the reason for the second? I know there was a piece of tyre debris in the first straight but the car itself was on the inside of Turn 4 so it felt quite safe there. And the safety car is for those kind of reasons so yeah, for us, maybe it was a different opinion. But as I said the FIA are the only ones that have all the cards on the table so in those kinds of situations, we trust them, and we try to keep them going."

"I just didn't understand why we needed a red flag," said race winner Max Verstappen. "I think if you would have had a Safety Car and then just had a normal rolling start we wouldn't have had all these shunts and then you have a normal finish. So they created the problems themselves at the end of the day."

Many believe that the sport's powers that be seek the restarts because they mean a more controversial, exciting show for the new Drive to Survive generation of fans.

"The whole point of red-flagging, it feels like it was just to put on a show," said Lando Norris. "We've gone all the way to Australia, put in so much hard work, drive 56 laps perfectly, and because they try and put on a show... you can just get unlucky and everything can get taken away from you all of a sudden. I just think it needs a small rethink.

"I don't like the restarts," he admitted. "I guess maybe in the first quarter of the race I understand it, but the second half and especially with four laps to go, I feel like you ruin a lot of things.

"I doubt they're going to change anything," he sighed. "I don't feel maybe the second to last red flag was needed. I don't know, I don't see everything. But from what I could see in the car, I didn't feel like it was needed. I felt like it was just a 'four laps to go, don't want to finish under Safety Car' kind of thing, and it just caused a bad end to the race. So, I think if we'd just finished behind the Safety Car, it would have been a bit more straightforward.

"At the end of the day, I know it is a show, but we're not here to just put on a good show, we want to race each other and be fair, and I don't think it's fair for everyone."

"I thought the red flag was totally unnecessary," said George Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association. "There was obviously quite a bit of gravel on the track, but there was a clear racing line. We've seen it far worse in the past.

"It's sort of reminiscent of the decision of last week in Saudi to bring out the safety car when the car was totally off the track," he added.

"I don't really know what's going on with some of the decisions at the moment," he admitted. "We're all trying to work together with the FIA to improve things, but it's seemingly a bit of a challenge."

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1. Posted by kenji, 05/04/2023 6:13

"@elsiebc...thanks for your clarification. I now get your drift. You may well be right as circumstances could appear to bear that out. I must admit that the frequence of red flags was quite a shock but then again I also feel as though the circumstances were rather unique. As iI have said earlier though, what evidence the FIA have for issuing red flags is not always open to the fans to see and I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt ATPIT. If this continues apace then I'm equally certain that there will be far more of a backlash. Until then...

My comment re F2 was not related to the parity of the cars but the fact that because of parity it's far easier to see that raw talent open and exposed. Some excellent racing with subsequent wheel banging to top it off but heavily monitored by the Stewards, as it should be. They are also extremely strict with track limits so the drivers do get a good grounding on what's acceptable and what's not."

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2. Posted by elsiebc, 05/04/2023 3:28

"@ kenji My comment is about the fact that red flags have become a technique to artificially create a show. There were more red flags throughout this weekend then there used to be over a full season, and I'm referring to during this millennia. Local yellows are a thing of the past. VSC's took their place but are being converted to SC's and the old Safety Car periods will all become red flags. And it's all for "the show". To hell with the "show", I want to watch "racing"! When you measure the "show" by the number of overtakes rather than the quality of them, then you will surely find ways to bunch the pack up and maybe even get the faster drivers to the back.

PS: I enjoy watching F2 but not so much for the parity of the machines but rather for the rawness of the talent as they learn their craft and what works and what doesn't."

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3. Posted by kenji, 05/04/2023 1:30

"@ Elsiebc...I'm a bit confused as to what your message is? Are you suggesting that by employing a red flag and a subsequent standing restart imposed, negates the lead drivers advantage?If so then that has been the case for quite some time.. The grid reforms in race order anyway and a rolling start can be worse if the lead driver gets jumped as has quite often been the case in the past when the first corner is a long way from the start finish line. I do like the closeness between teams since the new rues have been adopted. It highlights the driver skills much better. That and the fact that the past has somewht skewed this perception as the car was downplayed in favour of specific driver cults. As a salient point F2 races spec cars and they are quite exciting to watch...not that I'm suggesting F1 should follow this path as then it wouldn't be F1 as we know it."

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4. Posted by elsiebc, 04/04/2023 15:53

"I watch (watched?) F1 for the best drivers and the best constructors. For a driver to have a 10 second lead on second best only to have it unnecessarily risked "for the good of the show" borders on travesty. By the same token, if the best constructor's car is 30 seconds up the road I can enjoy that because I am watching the best of the best cars and I realize that the time on the track is only a small percentage of their actual "race".

If I wanted to watch cars of equal quality and where any of seven different machines could win, I'd watch a spec series. "

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5. Posted by kenji, 03/04/2023 23:01

" raise some very interesting points for consideration. I don't have any problems with the standing start being employed. The ensuing chaos was the result of manic driving. If anyone is to be called out then those drivers involved must shoulder the blame. The fact that Gasly was not penalised is a travesty. "

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6. Posted by Pavlo, 03/04/2023 11:15

"I totally agree with Lando, there should be no standing starts in the end of a race. Standing start is thrilling and exciting way to start the race, adding some random to the beginning. But then after watching many laps of fights, strategy, performance, to have it all scrapped with a restart is stupid and feels unfair.
I think “generation Netflix” is also disappointed by such finishes."

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7. Posted by Stitch431, 03/04/2023 8:46

"Oops I left in the second line saying the same after rewriting it. Well at least Netflix will have a great episode on this one ;-)"

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8. Posted by Stitch431, 03/04/2023 8:42

"Actually, I'm not surprised because Masi has been kicked out after a lot of pressure from Mercedes, and was replaced by Niels Wittich who comes from the Mercedes ruled DTM ... To me it was obvious that they were going for this kind of restart to give Lewis a better chance to overtake Max. Why is everyone so surprised?
At the insistence of Mercedes, Masi has been kicked out and a 100% pro-Mercedes figure has been appointed as race director.
I am convinced this chaos would not have happened if Michael Masi were still at the helm."

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9. Posted by rambler, 03/04/2023 4:14

"This will continue to happen until all race officials are trained and experienced. There is no 'Super License' for race officials most seem to have fallen into the job. The FIA should talk to other sports about how they set the standards and train their officials. In a high speed, high tech sport you need speedy answers, not a wait while the stewards are dragged out the bar to make a decision. "

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10. Posted by SF 158, 02/04/2023 22:27

"It was like "Hey, you didn't like Australian Michael Masi as a race director? What do you think of this?""

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11. Posted by kenji, 02/04/2023 22:24

"I do think that Alonso hit the mark when he said that the FIA are the only ones with all the actual details upon which to make decisions. The decision to red flag wouldn't be taken lightly and I very much doubt that manipulation of the rules would be implemented in order to suit 'the show'. As is many the case that some teams will benefit and some won't. That's F1...ten teams and ten different opinions."

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12. Posted by Defiant, 02/04/2023 22:18

"It's moments like these, I'm so pleased I don't waste hours of my life watching F1 like I used to. It truly has become a charicature of itself."

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13. Posted by Anthony, 02/04/2023 17:41

"Sadly it does appear that the desire to put on a “show” ( especially for tv audiences) is overriding the true nature of the sport. I’m not optimistic that the current owners and management of F1 will recognise how harmful this will be in the long run …."

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