Michael Masi says “there was no reason not to” restart the Azerbaijan Grand Prix following the red-flag period caused by Max Verstappen’s crash.
Verstappen’s tyre blowout, which caused his Red Bull to smash into the barrier at high speed, was the second such incident to occur on the long pits straight in Baku after the same had happened to Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin.
A Safety Car period was inevitable due to the car retrieval and clean-up operation, but it was soon decided the remaining runners would follow Bernd Maylander back into the pits and await further instructions while the race was red-flagged.
FIA race director Masi said finishing the grand prix at that point had been “an option”, but that with tyres allowed to be changed during the stoppage it was perfectly practical to complete the full distance once the track had been cleared of debris.
“Thankfully, for a number of years now we’ve had the race suspension regulations,” explained Masi, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“Going back many, many years, when a race was red-flagged after a certain distance it would go back two laps and so forth [to declare the result].
“Obviously with the race suspension element, yes there is an option to not restart. But within the timeframe and within the format of the regulations, we can restart. There was no reason not to.”
Of the race being paused, Masi said that had already been in his thoughts before Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley had contacted him to state there had been no prior warning of Verstappen’s blowout and suggesting a suspension to allow tyres to be changed.
“It was actually already on my mind,” said Masi. “From the perspective of what we communicate, we communicate to everyone equally.
“Looking with the number of laps we had to go, the recovery that was being undertaken and the fact there was so much debris on the pits straight, at that point it was in my opinion the best option to suspend the race, clean everything up and then have a race finish.
“We thought it was in the best interests of the sport to suspend and then restart in that circumstance.”
Verstappen’s crash occurred when he appeared to be coasting to victory and his exit from the race allowed his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez to gain his second F1 win, ahead of fellow podium finishers Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly.