Ralf Schumacher: ‘Race Control should be ashamed of itself’ for ‘bad joke’ restart

Michelle Foster
Smoke fills the air after an accident at the restart. Australian GP Melbourne April 2023.

Smoke fills the air after an accident at the restart. Australian GP Melbourne April 2023.

Ralf Schumacher has lambasted Race Control for what he called a “bad joke” of a restart at the Australian Grand Prix, one that ended in carnage with multiple cars crashing out.

The Australian Grand Prix went from a simple Sunday afternoon drive for race leader Max Verstappen to a “mess”, as the Dutchman put it, when Kevin Magnussen side-swiped the Turn 2 wall at high speed.

Shaving off not only his right rear tyre but also bits of carbon fibre, even a chuck of the metal from the wheel that went flying over the catch fence into the crowd, the Safety Car was deployed and a short while later the race red flagged.

With three laps remaining that set up a two-lap shoot-out, one lap to get to the grid and two for racing. That ended after just a few corners as Carlos Sainz spun Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly had a off-track excursion and collected his team-mate on the way back onto the track, and Logan Sargeant rear-ended Nyck de Vries.

The red flag was again waved, Race Control doing a countback to lap 56 to determine the starting order for what was basically the final few metres of lap 58, the last lap of the race, with the drivers lining up on the grid and crossing the finish line.

Schumacher has called it a “bad joke”, the former driver saying race director Niels Wittich should’ve foreseen the chaos that was going to play out with a two-lap shoot-out.

“Rules are one thing, foresight is another,” he said to Sport1.de.

“They could have used a Safety Car to prevent chaos.

“In Australia, chaos at the start is simply programmed so late in the grand prix. The first chicane is extremely fast, everyone wants to improve their position and goes into the dangerous first corner with over-motivation. I know what I’m talking about.

“Now the drivers are also being examined. The race management should be ashamed of themselves.

“You can’t ask the drivers to slow down if you give them another chance like that. I’m sorry, but that’s a bad joke.”

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Sport1 expert Peter Kohl agrees with the German.

“In the end, the race management is responsible for a million dollar bill, which is likely to tear huge holes in the limited budget,” he said.

“The level of anger and frustration is correspondingly high. Was the last red flag necessary?

“The race management has to put up with the criticism that part of the field was burned up because of the show. A rolling start would also have been possible, which certainly would not have left nearly such a mess.

“The Show Must Go On! – but because of the show you shouldn’t and shouldn’t throw any rational thought overboard.”