Safety Car endings back on the agenda at Monday’s F1 meeting

Michelle Foster
Aston Martin Safety Car on the Monza kerbs. Italy September 2022

Finding an alternative solution to ending races behind a Safety Car is just one topic on the agenda for Monday’s F1 meeting convened by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

It was announced at Monza that after speaking with a “number of Formula 1 drivers”, Ben Sulayem would host a meeting to discuss various sporting matters.

“FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem is convening a meeting with race officials and Formula 1 team managers on the Monday following the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix to discuss a range of sporting matters,” read the note from motorsport’s governing body.

It added the meeting would “form part of a series of consultations that will continue to shape the future direction of the sport under the guidance of the FIA President”.

With Sunday’s anti-climactic ending to the Italian Grand Prix, there is yet another subject on the FIA president’s list.

The Monza race ended behind the Safety Car, the race neutralised following Daniel Ricciardo’s breakdown with Max Verstappen in the lead ahead of Charles Leclerc.

Ricciardo’s McLaren ground to a halt on the side of the track on lap 47 with race director Niels Wittich running out of laps to get the 53-lap grand prix restarted in proper order.

But while he did nothing wrong, in fact followed the letter of the law, there have been calls from fans and pundits alike to change the rules, with one suggestion being that if the Safety Car is needed in the last 10 laps of a grand prix the race is red-flagged.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff weighed in on that, saying he would support the idea.

“You red-flag the race if someone is in the wall, if the track is blocked,” said the Austrian. “You red-flag a race because you can’t pass anymore, something has happened.

“Why do you red-flag a race just because you want to have a show of one lap or two?

“Discuss it with the FIA, [say] ‘let’s change the regulations, we want to have some really top last lap of racing’ – I’m lifting my hand for that.

“But it’s not what’s in the regulations today.

“Do we want to have a race finishing under green? And then we reverse engineer it from there?

“So you can say it’s five or 10 laps to the end, we have a Safety Car, let’s red-flag it and make sure we are racing at the end. If that’s in the regs, good!”

However, this has all been discussed, the team bosses hammering it out with the FIA after last year’s controversial Abu Dhabi season finale.

McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl says they were unable to find consensus back then, leading to Sunday’s unfortunate situation.

“After what happened last year in Abu Dhabi, there were a lot of discussions between the FIA, Formula 1 and all the teams involved in order to see how the rules could be modified to make sure races never end under a Safety Car,” he said, quoted by The Race.

“But despite the FIA and Formula 1 really pushing us all to find solutions it was down to the teams, and pretty much all the teams couldn’t agree on any better solution which is then also still a fair solution in terms of the sporting outcome.

“That’s why I guess we simply have to accept that unfortunately, situations like this can happen.”

The red flag suggestion was put to him, Seidl saying that while that may seem a simple solution it is not that easy.

“In the end we voted that the regulations should stay as they have been – as far as I remember every single team voted like that,” he said.

“And even if it might sound easy to create something like ‘throw out always a red flag’ and so on, it’s actually not that straightforward.

“We discussed it at length. We didn’t come up with any better solution.”

Read more: Lewis Hamilton makes Abu Dhabi jibe after Monza Safety Car controversy
Read more: Toto Wolff: ‘This time, they followed the rules’ after latest Safety Car controversy
Read more: Conclusions from the Italian GP; a win for Max Verstappen and Nyck de Vries