FIA halts Verstappen F1 safety car restart tactics

In Bahrain and Jeddah, Verstappen joined Leclerc heading into the final corners before the restart once the safety car moved forward to return to the pits.

Those moves were repeats of the equally potent tactic the Red Bull driver used against Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton just before the final lap of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

There Verstappen briefly edged out the race leader as they accelerated and braked through the final corners of the Yas Marina track, something Mercedes highlighted in their bid to get the ending of the controversial race changed.

In Bahrain 2022, the tactic backfired on Verstappen as he was pinched on the inside line for the final two corners, which meant Leclerc could run clean and follow-up Carlos Sainz Jr was able to close in on the Dutchman before the top speed of his car. meant that he had moved away from danger.

In Jeddah, Verstappen closed in on the outside line, with race leader Leclerc once again setting the pace and the line once the safety car began its return to the pits, overtaking his rival by a wide margin in a successful attempt to maintain its advantage.

Ahead of qualifying for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, this race director on that occasion, Niels Wittich, has released updated event notes highlighting article 55.14 of the F1 sporting rules. , to reinforce its meaning for drivers and teams and therefore suppress such movements.

The update states: “In order to avoid the likelihood of accidents before the safety car returns to the pits, from the moment the car’s lights are switched off, drivers should proceed at a pace that does not involves no erratic acceleration or braking or any maneuver likely to endanger other drivers or hinder restarting.

Sources at Motorsport.com say the crackdown is also linked to various maneuvers the drivers employed when restarting the safety car as well as what Verstappen has done in the last three F1 races, but that his tactic is simply a high-profile example of what the FIA ​​no longer wants to happen.

FIA takes action to avoid repeat of dramatic 2020 Tuscan GP restart

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The governing body is keen for the drivers to maintain a steady speed when racing behind the leader once the safety car is removed – until the leader returns to race speed for good – to avoid a repeat of the huge accident that marred the 2020 Tuscan GP at Mugello.

There cars accelerating and braking erratically further down the field meant that large gaps formed between the cars, even though race leader Valtteri Bottas remained at a constant speed at the front, with the end result being that the drivers were accelerating into space behind the slow leaders and then sudden braking caught up with the following rivals and sparked a pile-up of several cars on the start/finish straight.

It has been suggested that the new guidelines on restarts mean that cars will have to take the return to the grid flag race in single file, but it is understood that they will still be allowed to move side-by-side and briefly alongside other cars before the safety car is withdrawn, in order to warm up their tires before racing resumes.

Even when restarting, drivers can still race on a line either side of a rival in front, but all parts of their car must be completely behind at all times until racing is fully resumed.

Verstappen’s tactic against Ferrari hadn’t gone unnoticed at the Scuderia, with Sainz revealing in Melbourne that his team had been looking at what Verstappen and others were doing on restarts in a bid to take a possible advantage – as nearly happened. produce in Bahrain.

Asked about Verstappen’s restart moves by Motorsport, Sainz explained that such tactics were “a bit different”, although he stressed that he personally thought they were “not a problem”.

“It is of course a very driver-specific preparation that we go through every race and we start to understand what the other drivers are doing during the restarts,” added Sainz. “We have studied and we see that there is an opportunity.

“We look at everyone – not just Max, let’s say. Obviously Max and Checo [Sergio Perez]we are watching them more closely this year because we see that we are more in the fight.

“We have all sorts of stats and all sorts of things in place to be as prepared as possible.”

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