Red Bull were reportedly left questioning whether the Race Director’s decision not to restart qualifying despite there being 1:38 on the clock was “legit”.
That’s according to Sky Sports pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz.
Championship leader Max Verstappen will start Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix from ninth place on the grid after the Red Bull driver was denied the opportunity to set a time on his second attempt due to Charles Leclerc’s crash, which brought out the red flags.
Initially it was a yellow flag when the Ferrari driver binned it at Turn 7, the clock left ticking, but that was then upgraded to a red flag.
The yellow flag was waved with 1m58 remaining in the session, that changed to a red flag with 1m36 left.
With the faster drivers lapping in the 1m27s that meant theoretically there was still time for an out-lap and for at least some of the drivers to cross the line to begin a flying lap. However, Race Director Niels Wittich opted not to restart the session.
“Why couldn’t we get it going again?” Kravitz said in his post-qualifying notebook.
“Time was ticking down. Once he saw Leclerc’s crash, arguably had he pressed the red flag right then, possibly that would have been enough for an out-lap for a 1m28 lap. Ten seconds for an out-lap. Arguably not, but possible.
“But that’s not what happened. Wittich had to go through his procedures, which he did, check that the situation merited a red flag, which it did, and by that time there was only [1m36] left.
“It wasn’t possible to do the out-lap. That’s why he said the session will not resume.
“Difficult call because that meant Verstappen wasn’t able to do another lap.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was spotted having a conversation with the team’s sporting director Jonathan Wheatley where he reportedly questioned whether Wittich had the right to call the session.
“After qualifying,” Kravitz continued, “Christian Horner and Adrian Newey were on the pitwall asking Jonathan Wheatley – the rules man at Red Bull – whether that was legit, basically whether the Race Director could say under what circumstances the session would not resume.
“Obviously they were happy that Perez was on pole.
“If you were cynical you could say they wanted Verstappen on pole instead, but I don’t think that they think that way. In fact, I know they don’t think that way.
“They are very even-handed between their two drivers. What they did want, clearly, was for both drivers to be 1-2. For that to happen, you needed the session to resume.
“Horner and Wheatley wanted to understand if it was in the race director’s gift to say that the session would not resume – which, in fact, it was.
“Once they sorted that out, it was the definition of bittersweet for Red Bull.”
Perez will line up on pole position with Verstappen P9 on the grid.