1997 F1 champ Jacques Villeneuve called the Italian Grand Prix “terrible”, adding that Race Control only made it worse.
For the first time since Bahrain 2020, Formula 1 saw a grands prix end behind the Safety Car as Max Verstappen was released to cross the line and take the chequered flag at Monza.
The potential was there for a grandstand finish, leader Verstappen, who had been cruising, seeing his advantage shattered as the Safety Car came out following Daniel Ricciardo’s retirement. The top three of Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and George Russell had pitted for soft tyres.
But even once Ricciardo’s broken McLaren was cleared, there was no race resumption, a move which drew criticism from many in the paddock, and boos from the fans in the stands.
Villeneuve shares the disappointment, saying a lacklustre Italian GP was capped off by Race Control sinking to a “new low”.
“I thought the Italian Grand Prix was a really terrible race,” he wrote in his column for Formule1.nl. “I think it is especially sad for the tens of thousands of people who bought very expensive tickets. They saw no show, no finish line: in fact nothing at all.
“This race could not captivate. There was no strategic battle, there were no battles on the track. It was empty, especially when you compare it to everything we have seen this year. We wanted more, but we didn’t get it.
“That was partly due to the sub-standard race management. They are not very strong this year, but this was a new low. It should be exciting and aggressive and that’s how the race should be run. We are not in endurance racing, this is Formula 1!
“A race should never, ever end behind the Safety Car. There was so much else that could have been done: a red flag, sending the stragglers [lapped cars] through earlier… There was enough time, we could have raced another two laps.
“It made me realise that last year was not so bad. Mistakes were made, but there was always the intention to race again as soon as possible. Yesterday it seemed as if this was not important, unbelievable to see. This was not right, a finish like this has to be avoided.”
Red flagging the Italian Grand Prix would have been right call
Though the FIA has to rightly focus on safety, with the race neutralised on Lap 47 of 53, and Ricciardo’s car firmly parked and not wanting to move, the red flags should have flown.
That would have allowed the marshals to remove Ricciardo’s McLaren from the track with the aid of the crane, while preserving some racing laps to follow to end the Italian Grand Prix.
Would Verstappen have still won? Most likely yes unless something went wrong, but at least fans would have been treated to some racing with the pack bunched up for those final few laps, rather than a procession over the line.
To Villeneuve’s point, the 2022 Italian Grand Prix had certainly not been a classic up until that point, so this decision rather capped off what had been an uninspiring race.