David Coulthard believes stewards fear of wrong calls is leading to ‘overcautious decisions’

Michelle Foster
The red flag is waved from the gantry. Melbourne April 2023.

A marshal waves the red flag during the Australian Grand Prix. Albert Park April 2023.

David Coulthard reckons the Australian Grand Prix stewards were overly cautious in throwing the red flags after Kevin Magnussen’s late-race crash on Sunday.

As the race entered its final six laps with Max Verstappen nine seconds up the road from Lewis Hamilton who in turn was running about two seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso, Magnussen hit the wall at Turn 2.

Sliding into it at speed with what was a hard impact, the Dane not only lost his right-rear tyre but chucks of metal and carbon fibre too. His car continued to spew debris as it slid along the track.

While initially Race Control put out the Safety Car, that became a red flag on lap 55 and the drivers headed back into the pit lane for the day’s second of three red flag periods.

Alonso responded to the message with a “what!” with Verstappen also expressing his disbelief over the radio: “What the f**k! We don’t need a red flag.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

‘George Russell and Mercedes trying to make headlines with Red Bull sandbagging claims’

Ted Kravitz questions why Michael Masi returned to F1 paddock in Australia

The updated Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship standings after the Australian Grand Prix

Speaking in the post-race press conference, he maintained: “I don’t think we needed that second red flag, I think that could have been done with a Virtual Safety Car or a Safety Car at worst.

“We’ll talk about it, I think it left a lot of drivers confused about why we needed a red flag.”

Restarting the race with two laps remaining there was chaos and carnage that saw four cars eliminated in crashes within the space of a few corners.

That led to even more criticism of Race Control’s decision to red flag the race, Verstappen saying “they created the problems themselves.”

Former F1 driver turned pundit Coulthard believes it’s because they were being overly cautious.

“I think okay he hit the wall, he got a puncture, there’s a little bit of debris on the track, but I just don’t see the red flag in that,” the Scot told Channel 4.

“And this is really what’s too confusing for me.

“It’s almost like… it’s a difficult job, let’s get it, the referee is always going to be in a difficult situation and in this case of course it’s the stewards and the race director.

“But it’s like they’re so nervous of making a wrong decision, they’re just taking the overcautious decision every time.

“A full Safety Car would have handled that in my opinion.”