Max Verstappen questions FIA’s red flag decisions with Australian GP ‘a mess’

Thomas Maher
Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso spun at the Australian GP restart. April 2023.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso gets spun at the restart of the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, April 2023.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has questioned the call for a standing start restart, saying it was the trigger behind the late carnage in Melbourne.

Verstappen won the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, but had to cope with the unpredictability of a standing start with two racing laps to go following a late-race red flag.

Having had a comfortable lead out front, Verstappen’s situation looked precarious given his poor initial start that saw the pole-sitter slip to third place by halfway around the opening lap.

But the Dutch driver held his nerve on the final start to keep the lead and fend off the attentions of the cars behind, only for the race to be red-flagged once again due to unfolding carnage behind with several collisions and incidents littering the track.

“I think the race itself, towards the end, was a bit of a mess with all the calls,” Verstappen told the media in Australia after extending his lead in the Drivers’ Championship.

“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.

“I think it left a lot of drivers confused why we needed a red flag. Today was quite messy.”

The two-time World Champion said the carnage was self-inflicted by the decision-making by Race Control, saying a more conservative rolling start would have been the wiser choice.

“I just didn’t understand why we needed a red flag,” he said.

“I think if we would have had a Safety Car and then just have a normal rolling start, we wouldn’t have had all these shunts. And then you have a normal finish. So they created the problems themselves at the end of the day.”

Max Verstappen struggled to get his RB19 off the line

Asked to explain what had happened at the initial start to cause him to slip to third, Verstappen revealed he’d been quite nervous about having to repeat the process after the red flag as a result.

“The first one was not good, I just didn’t really get off the line well,” he said.

“I think, actually, my starts just got better and better. At least that’s an improvement. recommends

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“I had a terrible first one. So I was actually not really looking forward to it. But luckily, we seem to improve it a bit afterward.

“But I think it was a bit more difficult because of how cold the tyres were, as we also didn’t really know what you’re gonna get off the line.”

Fernando Alonso happy to have left decision to FIA

Alonso, who briefly looked as though a third consecutive podium had gone begging after being spun around by Carlos Sainz at the final restart before the FIA reset the order, agreed with Verstappen in expressing surprise about the amount of red flags, but admitted the possibility the drivers on track don’t have as complete a picture.

“I was surprised with all the red flags, to be honest, because the first one was a Williams at Turn 6,” he said.

“We went through there one lap behind the Safety Car and there was a bit of gravel, but nothing really too bad on track.

“But we never know in the car what’s going on the track itself. So maybe one barrier was not properly fitted there – I think the FIA has more information than us.

“So, if there is a red flag, it has to be for that reason. We will ask, probably in Baku, what was the reason for the second? I know there was a piece of tyre debris in the first straight but the car itself was inside of Turn 4, so it felt quite safe there.

“The Safety Car is for those kinds of reasons. So maybe, for us, it was a different opinion. But the FIA are the only ones that they have all the cards on the table. So, on those kinds of situations, we trust them and we try to keep on going.”