There was a scary moment for the marshals at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after lapped cars were released whilst they were still on track.
The Safety Car was brought out late into the race at Imola as Max Verstappen’s stricken Red Bull car was recovered from the gravel trap.
There was another incident during that Safety Car period as George Russell suffered the heartbreak of throwing away a glorious opportunity to score his first-ever World Championship points.
Russell, with cold tyres, lost the car going downhill into Acqua Minerali and crashed into the barrier, leaving the marshals with another clean-up operation to deal with as debris scattered across a portion of the track.
Article 39.12 of the Sporting Regulations state:
‘If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message “LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE” has been sent to all teams via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.
‘This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the Line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first Safety Car line for the second time after the safety car was deployed.
‘Having overtaken the cars on the lead lap and the safety car these cars should then proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking, and make every effort to take up position at the back of the line of cars behind the safety car.
‘Whilst they are overtaking, and in order to ensure this may be carried out safely, the cars on the lead lap must always stay on the racing line unless deviating from it is unavoidable. Unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the safety car is still necessary, once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.
‘If the clerk of the course considers track conditions are unsuitable for overtaking the message “OVERTAKING WILL NOT BE PERMITTED” will be sent to all teams via the official messaging system.’
Looks like cars were told to unlap themselves while marshals were still on track 😱 Stroll flies by the Russell accident at full racing speed. The onboard vid is like something from the 1960s 😳😳😳 https://t.co/Ip1r9LbUUT
— Tom Bellingham (@TommyWTF1) November 1, 2020
But the call for the ‘lapped cars may now overtake’ procedure to commence appears to have been given too early.
The area where those marshals working on the Russell accident were under double waved yellow flag conditions.
Kimi Raikkonen, the first of the cars able to unlap himself, did slow down considerably when entering this part of the track, as did Antonio Giovinazzi behind him.
Romain Grosjean was alerted by his track engineer that Turns 10 and 11 was still under double yellow conditions and the Frenchman commented it was dangerous for the marshals to be there.
Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, was not told about the double waved yellows when he was unlapping himself, but he did lift off once he saw the marshals.
“Tell them to watch out,” Vettel reported. “There are marshals on the track.”
But the scariest on-board footage of them all, as embedded above, is from Lance Stroll’s car where he whizzes past the marshals dealing with the Russell accident at full racing speed.
Thankfully, no marshals were hurt on this occasion but it is clear another valuable lesson needs to be learned on track safety in Formula 1.