BEVERLY HILLS, June 07, (THEWILL) – There was a discrepancy in the application of red flags at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday in the Baku City Circuit, especially with regards to the Red Bull F1 team’s Max Verstappen and that involving Lance Stroll of Aston Martin.
On Monday, Michael Masi, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) race director, had to explain the reason why Verstappen was red-flagged after his crash but after Stroll’s lap-30 incident, which wrecked his Aston Martin, the race continued behind the safety car for a handful of laps.
It had raised so much questions by watchers because when championship leader Verstappen crashed in his Red Bull a few laps from the end, Masi opted to halt the race.
Masi had to clear the air with the rationale for the difference in decision-making. The race director said: “There was more than enough time, space on the right-hand side of the track when we were recovering it [Stroll’s Aston Martin], and [I was] confident with the way that could be cleaned up in that fashion.
“When looking at everything, we weren’t confident that the recovery on the pit straight and the amount of debris that was everywhere could be cleaned up in the appropriate time so it was in the best interests of the sport to suspend and restart.”
The race regulations clearly allow the director the option of a restart rather than stopping the race completely, as would have been the case in the past.
Masi added: “Thankfully for a number of years now we’ve had the race suspension regulations. Going back many, many years ago, when a race was red-flagged after a certain distance, it would go back two laps and so forth, but with the race suspension elements, yes, there is an option to not restart.
“But within the timeframe and the format of the regulations, we can restart and there was no reason not to.”
An audio clip, after the Verstappen crash but before a decision was taken to suspend the race, was obtained where Red Bull team manager Jonathan Wheatley asked Masi to red flag the crash given the concerns over tyres and the debris.
But, when asked if that played a part in his decision-making Masi said: “To be fair, it was already on my mind, but obviously from the perspective of what we communicate, we communicate to everyone equally.
“And looking at the number of laps we had to go, the recovery that was being undertaken and the fact there was so much debris on the pit straight, at that point, in my opinion, the best option was to suspend the race, clean everything up and then have a race finish.”