The presence of Michael Masi in the Formula 1 Paddock was arguably a portent of what was to transpire in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last weekend. Although this time, he was only in charge of supporting Supercars Championship.
His public bro-mantic embrace with Red Bull’s Sporting Director, Jonathan Wheatley, the man it was suggested he colluded with in Abu Dhabi back in 2021, was the kind of poor judgement that sallied his reputation in the first place; also, one of the reasons he had to be removed from Formula 1.
Unfortunately, his pitiable adjudication appears to have remained, as evidenced by the litany of suspect decisions that were handed down in the main event.
Much has been made by the pundits about the number of unnecessary Red Flags (three in total). However, I believe this is a little short-sighted. The debris on the track was widespread, and if the Safety Car remained in play, it was likely that one or more of the cars could have picked up a puncture. Something neither the team nor the driver would have been happy about, especially if a tyre then let go at high speed. The Red Flags were not the problem per se.
To Flag or not to flag, that is the question
What was ridiculous was the decision to implement a Safety Car, then a Red Flag. The necessity for a Red Flag was obvious from the get-go. Debris was strewn across the track, together with the presence of recovery vehicles to clear up the mess.
The consequences of this approach resulted in the race leader at the time, George Russell, being relegated down the order, not by being beaten by his competitors but by indecisive officials. A good call saw him pit and grab what was expected to be his final set of tyres for the race under the presumption that the Safety Car would remain deployed until the mess had been cleared.
A fairly logical assumption in the scheme of things, but unfortunately, his team had not accounted for the ASS factor – Amateur School of Stewarding.
To err is human…
Ok, people make mistakes, no problem. However, compounding it with the unnecessary decision to have a standing re-start could have ended in a disaster.
It didn’t the first time around, and we can attribute this to the fact that we were barely eleven laps into the race. At this point, the drivers were still fresh, and there was still a long way to go before the end. Then with only three laps left in the race, Kevin Magnussen hit the wall.
This left a tyre and lots of lovely sharp stuff all over the track. A Red Flag was again the logical choice, and this time was deployed sans faffing. Finally.
At this point in the race, the ‘race’ was over. Everyone was in “Bring It Home Mode”. No one of consequence was fighting for position; the finishing order was decided. A chequered flag under the Safety Car was the logical conclusion for all parties.
However, this is when I presume, the third Official (Director of Netflix entertainment) entered the room and said: “Hey boys, the boss says we need to dramatize the end of the race for the cameras; let’s do another standing start.”
And the ASS wholly agreed!
Lights, Cameras, Action!
It’s a fact that a standing start carries the greatest risk of an accident, self-inflicted or otherwise. The only suppressing factor is the old adage: “To finish first, you first have to finish.”
The drivers all know it’s a long way to the end, but despite that knowledge, it still goes wrong – Ask Charles Leclerc. A two-lap sprint to the finish then removed any possible safety valve, and combining it with tired Formula 1 drivers who had lost their rhythm, was only going to result in one thing: Carnage!
The re-start of the re-start
And carnage it was, to the delight of the Formula One Management Entertainment company, no doubt. For many of the teams, though, it was a financial disaster. With costs incurred through damage and loss of points towards the Constructors’ Championship. A double whammy in these days of Formula 1 budget caps!
For the drivers, it was also about lost points, except for Carlos Sainz, who both lost and gained them. Unfortunately for him, the ones he acquired were not the type, as a driver, that you want. Penalized by ASS with a five-second penalty for putting off Fernando Alonso at the first corner of the re-start; this would effectively consign him to finish the restart of the restart in twelfth instead of fourth.
Out of the points, at the back of the grid and with an endorsed license; tired and on cold tyres, it was a cruel judgement on a driver that normally acts correctly with his competitors.
The re-start of the re-start of the re-start…
Meanwhile, I’d like to know what the rationale was for a standing re-start with only two laps of the race to go. This as opposed to the Safety Car re-start of the re-start with only one lap to go. I suspect that’s something we’ll never be privy to.
However, to avoid further speculation, someone needs to get their shit together if they want F1 to be taken seriously.
While “they” are at it, they also need to look in their backyard. Crowds swarming on the track like it was the 1990s, and around a “live” Magnussen Haas. One of the Netflix noobs could easily have gone up in smoke if they’d touched it!