Mercedes’ technical director Mike Elliott has stressed that his team want consistency in terms of how Safety Car rules are applied.
The intervention of the Safety Car late in the Italian Grand Prix resulted in the topic of the rules regarding such incidents coming under the spotlight once again, due to the different approach taken to last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
While the Safety Car was withdrawn with a lap to go at Yas Marina, despite the rules suggesting another lap was required, the Safety Car stayed out on track until the chequered flag was shown at Monza as the rules were fastidiously followed.
The outcome resulted in Mercedes’ team boss Toto Wolff, as well as Lewis Hamilton, making pointed comments about how the rules were followed at Monza, but not in Abu Dhabi – the outcome of which resulted in Hamilton losing the 2021 title battle.
In Mercedes’ official debrief of the Italian GP, technical director Mike Elliott said the Italian Grand Prix was always likely to end under a Safety Car due to the length of time it took to get the race under control after Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren got stuck in gear.
“I think, first of all, the race director has got a really difficult decision to make,” he said when asked for his thoughts on how the race ended.
“First in their mind is safety and we’ve got a car stopped on the track in a difficult position and the only way to remove it is with a crane.
“In order to do that safely, you’ve either got to stop the race or you’ve got to get all the cars bunched up behind the Safety Car. And I think if you look at what happened, the Safety Car picked up George [Russell].
“It didn’t pick up Max [Verstappen, the race leader], which is probably what should have happened, and it took a while to get all the cars back together.
“It took a while to remove the stricken car and then to let the front cars behind the Safety Car get off into the distance so the race could restart. It was never going to restart in that situation.
Mercedes: Rules are there so everyone knows what’s going to happen
Elliott went on to explain that the choice between continuing to tick away the laps under the Safety Car, resulting in a damp squib of an ending at the chequered flag, or a red flag reset of the race for the final laps, isn’t the main concern for Mercedes – rather it’s that the rules, either way, are followed by Race Control.
“I think, from the team’s point of view, what we really want is consistency,” he said.
“We want to see the rules applied in the same way each time, so everybody knows what’s going to happen.
“I think once you say that you’ve got a choice – do you have a red flag and a restart of the race and three laps of racing, or do you want the driver that is probably winning on merit, who has been in that position over 50 laps of the race to go on and win the race? I think they are difficult calls.
“I think, from my personal view, it would have been nice to have seen George fight at the end of the race having potentially the chance to get another position or another couple of positions.
“But I also think in the way the race ended, the right driver won and the fact that that happened under the Safety Car is just what happens in a race and it’s something we just have to accept.