F1 drivers puzzled by the call for the “made for TV” safety car
Formula 1 drivers have admitted to being confused by the “bizarre” and “made for television” passing procedure in the final Abu Dhabi Grand Prix safety car.
Race management initially said overtaken cars would not be allowed to overtake, but then announced that those between leaders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen would eventually be forced to overtake the Mercedes driver before the race resumed.
Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel – who ran from 7th to 11th – all had to pass.
This brought Verstappen closer to Hamilton for the restart, which happened at the end of that round. The Dutchman then passed Hamilton in the final one-lap sprint to the flag, helped by his fresh soft tires, to secure the victory and the title.
The unusual procedure, which was the subject of a protest after the Mercedes race, surprised the drivers.
“I didn’t really know it was like the first three or four [actually five] up to Max, ”Norris said. “So it was obviously meant to be a fight, it was for TV of course, it was for the result. Whether it was fair or not is not for me to decide.
“Sometimes they let you go, sometimes they don’t. It’s just 50/50 half the time. But they said they wouldn’t let us through. So I guess that was a message to say, they were just isn’t going to let us pass at all. But suddenly doing it just for the last round, and for a one-round shootout, so I’m a little surprised. “
“When the safety car was out I thought we could overtake quickly because that’s normally what happens,” said Alonso. “You see the green light from the safety car, then you shy away until they pull the car out.
“But we didn’t have that green signal, and then two laps after the engineer told me you couldn’t unbuckle, and the positions would stay like that.”
“A corner later the green light went on and I said, ‘But do we have a green light? And they said ‘Yeah, yeah, you can do it now, follow Norris.’ And I followed Norris. So it was a little confusing, probably.
“For me, it was a little weird because I was kind of in the middle of nowhere,” said Leclerc. “I think we could get past the leaders for just one lap before we started again, and we were in the middle of nowhere.
“I was just fighting for ninth place with Esteban, I think, just ahead. But first I was told that I couldn’t unbuckle, at the end at the last moment we actually had the opportunity to unbuckle. So yeah, that was a bit strange.
Lewis Hamilton Safety Car, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M
Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
Vettel said he got the message late: “Very late, but I think too late they should let us go right away like the other times,” said the German.
“And obviously you’ve got the guys fighting up front. So you just have to clear the path. I don’t know what it was. For us it was a shame because we didn’t have a race at that time as everything was laid out.
After the aforementioned cars were cleared to pass, the next overtaken car – Daniel Ricciardo’s – was forced to wait behind Hamilton and Verstappen, with Lance Stroll and then Carlos Sainz third behind him.
“I was confused because I got this message that they will not overtake,” said the McLaren driver.
“In my head I thought, ‘Sounds good’, like I guess, just, because Lewis had such a lead and Max has newer tires, that way he has to cut a few cars if they want to restart. race.
“Then I saw cars overtaking so I asked, ‘What am I doing, should I overtake? », And then I think Tom [Stallard] said ‘No you have to stay here.’
“So I literally have front row seats for the last lap. And I’m also on a new app, or a newer app, so I was like, “Am I playing both? ” No just kidding. Honestly, I’m a little speechless, I don’t know what to think. I really don’t. I need to see how it all happened.
“It was definitely a very strange situation for me,” Sainz said. “Because I was obviously fighting for a podium with Valtteri [Bottas] and a few AlphaTauris behind with a medium tire, while I was on a very worn hard.
“At first I was told that they weren’t going to be allowed to take their shoes off, the people in front of me. Then it was decided to unbuckle, and some people unbuckled, but there was still, I think it was an Aston Martin and a McLaren from [Daniel] Ricciardo, between the two leaders and myself.
“And that, I’ve never had before, of having to start the race all over again with these two guys in front of me, and fighting for a P3. So I think it was weird, and maybe something to watch because it was very weird to see, and it almost cost me my podium, to be honest.