Christian Horner: Race director should have red-flagged Italian Grand Prix

Michelle Foster
Safety Car out at Monza from TV. Italy September 2022

Safety Car out at Monza from TV. Italy September 2022

Christian Horner has weighed in on the debate of whether it is better to red-flag a race or finish it behind the Safety Car – he is in favour of the former.

As Max Verstappen raced away with the Italian Grand Prix win, 16 seconds up the road from Charles Leclerc, it then looked for a brief moment as if Formula 1 fans would be given a grandstand finish.

Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren ground to a halt on the side of the track and everyone waited for the Safety Car to be deployed. And then they waited a bit longer.

That, coupled with the Safety Car picking up the wrong car as the race lead, meant time ran out to get the race restarted and it finished under Safety Car conditions.

Fans were unimpressed, booing as Verstappen took to the podium, while drivers and team bosses alike were asked whether a red flag would have been better suited.

Horner says yes.

“I think there are always lessons to learn,” he said, quoted by “But it goes against the principles of what we discussed, that it’s not good to finish races under Safety Cars.

“If they would have known they couldn’t get it going, they should have red-flagged it and restarted. But obviously that didn’t happen.”

Like others, the Red Bull team boss has criticised the FIA’s handling of the situation.

Not only did it take a while to deploy the Safety Car, but it then missed the race leaders and slotted in ahead of the wrong car.

Added to that, Horner feels those that needed to unlap themselves could have got the go-ahead sooner.

“I think that could have been sorted out in time, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think it was a case of picking up the wrong car.

“The Safety Car didn’t pick up the leader and then that caused a huge delay for them to have to catch up and then the released cars to catch up.

“I think you could have at least got one racing lap in there. Most probably two.”

The Safety Car leading drivers. Italy, September 2022.

The Briton believes Formula 1 needs to “avoid scenarios like we had at the end of the race”.

The Safety Car rule was enforced by the race director to the letter of the law, Formula 1 having clarified the regulations after last year’s controversial finish to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

That Sunday, then-race director Michael Masi allowed only some cars to unlap themselves to set up a final lap shootout that Verstappen won to clinch his first World title.

Asked if he believes in future a red flag would be a step forward in the rules, Horner replied: “I think it’s better to get it right in the first place.”

Read more: How Monza proved the FIA have learned from Abu Dhabi mistakes