(Motorsport-Total.com) – FIA race director Michael Masi had his hands full at the Formula 1 season opener in Spielberg. Failures, collisions and safety car phases challenged the regulators. A discussion in the race management even ensured that Bernd Mayländer had to stay on the track longer. At the center of the debate: Alexander Albon and Sergio Perez.
Kimi Raikkonen was just about to pick up speed for the restart when the wheel nut on his right front wheel said goodbye and the whole tire came loose. The Finn was able to safely park the tricycle on the track bike from start to finish – which led to the next yellow phase immediately after the race was released.
Just in those driving seconds between the end of the second and the beginning of the third safety car phase, Albon and Perez dueled for third place. The Red Bull driver tried to overtake the racing point in turn 3, just then the safety car symbol was shown again.
Albon then slowed to let him pass again and overtook Perez. Both teams then had a dialogue with the race management, which decided that the Thai’s attempt to overtake was allowed. He tried before the next yellow phase.
Before the restart, Albon overtook the Mexican again during the SC phase, Perez sparked a little surprised: “Albon has just overtaken me.” The instruction came from Red Bull, his racing engineer explained. “Should I overtake him again?” Perez asked confused. But he was told, “Negative. Don’t overtake Albon.”
The Red Bull pilot took back his rightful place. Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon found themselves in a similar situation. “We sent the safety car out again and there were two questions that the teams asked us,” Masi reveals after the race.
“Alexander overtook Sergio in turn 3, that was one situation. But then there was one with Carlos and Esteban that was brought up to us.” It is not uncommon for racing teams to ask the race management whether a pilot has to give up his position or not.
For Masi, the “top priority” was to clear up the incidents as quickly as possible and at the same time to keep an eye on the safety car phase. “We had to look at the onboard footage and all the information available to see if the order of the cars was correct.”
This process took a little time, which is why the safety car phase took a little longer – exactly five laps (lap 55 to lap 60). “It’s easier to do an extra lap, that’s what happened. It may have worked a little longer on TV.”
The discussions about the correct order have probably led to another round behind Bernd Mayländer’s Mercedes, Masi believes. After all, it was important to keep things tidy before restarting.
When asked why the safety car was used three times on Sunday, and the virtual safety car (VSC) never once, the race director replied: “The VSC is one of the tools that we have at our disposal Safety car as well. “