Ex-Ferrari engineer on Red Bull’s ‘weird’ change of tune from Abu Dhabi 2021 to Australia 2023

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen celebrates yet another P1. Australia April 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates yet another P1. Australia April 2023

Former Ferrari engineer Ernest Knoors has called Red Bull’s reaction to the second red flag in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix “weird” given two seasons prior they begged Michael Masi to end the Abu Dhabi GP “under racing conditions”.

In a red-flag interrupted Australian Grand Prix, Red Bull’s reigning World Champion Max Verstappen said he did “not really understand” the red flag for Kevin Magnussen’s lap 54 crash and called it a “bit of a mess”.

The team’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko said it had made the race “even more dangerous” while team boss Christian Horner spoke of a “massive variable that becomes a bit of a lottery”.

Instead Red Bull believed the race could have continued behind the Safety Car even it meant that would be how it finished.

That’s in sharp contrast to Abu Dhabi 2021 where Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley urged then race director Masi to put into play a situation that would allow for a “motor race on our hands”.

It was a race in which, because Masi did set up a motor race, Verstappen won his first World title.

Former BMW and Ferrari engineer Knoors pointed out the team’s “weird” change of tune.

“I think it’s a bit of a weird reaction,” he told Motorsport.com.

“We all know what happened in 2021. The end of the season where the race was not neutralised by a red flag, but by a Safety Car. Some drivers really got a big advantage from that.

“Then it was said: ‘Yes, but we have to make sure that the race always ends under racing conditions, not under the Safety Car.’

“Then we also had the race in Monza last year, where the race also ended under a Safety Car in the final phase.

“And now Race Control actually does what you would expect, they neutralise the race.

“Everyone gets the chance to get new tyres, even if your tyres are damaged by all the rubbish that was on the track because of Magnussen’s accident, you can just get new tyres.

“You restart. Everyone has the same chances and then that’s not good enough either.

“I think in that sense that Race Control has made the right decision. But this circuit is already very peculiar because of the first two corners, which makes it difficult to do a start without disturbances, without accidents. That will play tricks on you. If you have to do that twice, you also have more chances of accidents.”

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The restart led to a multi-car crash with both Alpines and Nyck de Vries unable to complete the final lap of the grand prix as a result.

Knoors reckons the drivers, those who caused the chaos such as Carlos Sainz, Logan Sargeant and Pierre Gasly, deserve the blame for the restart chaos, not Race Control.

“So maybe everyone was a little over-motivated,” he added. “And maybe the drivers can take a look at that themselves, whether that’s the right way to deal with a restart.

“I think the only thing Race Control could have done differently is to say: we’re not going for a standing start, we’re going for a rolling start. Then you also avoid that very big bottleneck in Turns One and Two.

“Because the track is so dangerous in the first two corners , instead of a standing start, do a rolling start behind the Safety Car. Then you could have raced one more lap and there was probably less chance of an accident in the first corner.”

But, he added: “I think neutralising with the red flag is okay, that can also be justified because there was so much debris on the track.”

Verstappen won the race ahead of Lewis Hamilton to extend his advantage in the Drivers’ Championship to 15 points over his team-mate Sergio Perez.