Max Verstappen took another win in 2022, thus extending his dominant run of wins to 5. Verstappen won from P14 at Spa and from P7 in Monza this past weekend. The triple header post the summer break sent some ominous signs for the things to come from Red Bull and Verstappen combo in 2023. Max romped home to his 11th win of the season as well just 2 shy of the record for most number of wins in a season – 13, jointly held by Sebastian Vettel (2013) and Michael Schumacher (2004).
But the whole talking point post race was the way in which the race got ended, UNDER A SAFETY CAR. The F1 community went through a rough ride for about 3 months post the finale race at Abu Dhabi which decided the 2021 championship. The circumstances at the 2022 Italian Gp were similar.
Crash of Daniel Riccardo in Mclaren
On lap 46 of 53, the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo came to a halt after the first lesmo (turn 4). His car was a bit on the track, though away from the natural racing line. A full SC was deployed on lap 47 as the marshals needed to roll the car towards an opening in the barrier.
All the front runners used the opportunity to take on a fresh set of soft tyres for the final dash to the finish. At that moment, everyone were positive about a 3 laps race to the finish. But the McLaren got stuck in gear and the marshals were not able to roll it and needed the crane to recover the car.
Not through yet, as now the Safety Car has actually picked up George Russell (who was able to pit a lap earlier at the end of lap 47) than Max & Charles in P1 & P2 crossed the pit entry by the time the SC was announced (who pitted at the end of lap 48). This needed another 2 laps to sort out and the SC to pick the actual race leader which was Max Verstappen on lap 51. Still few lapped cars were running behind him, and as per the revised regulations post the 2021 ABU DHABI GP fiasco, all (changed from “any”) the lapped cars have to un-lap themselves and the SC to come in to the pits on the following lap. The un-lapping process could not get completed and SC came into the pits on the final lap with Max leading the way to the finish line.
So all the changes and resurrections put in place post the events in 2021 Abu Dhabi Gp made that the race ended behind the SC and not in normal GREEN flag conditions. Lots of opinions poured from the experts on whether the race should have been RED Flagged ?. Full SC was called when Max was just about to start lap 48. On lap 49, it became clear that a crane would be needed to remove the stricken McLaren off the track. So, the race could have been RED flagged then at the end of Lap 49. All the drivers would have come into the pit lane, jolted some fresh softs and made out on lap 50 for a rolling start. This would have given 3 laps of GREEN flag conditions (on lap 51,52 & 53) with drivers giving it everything.
But as per the FIA race control, the situation did not recommend a red flag as it is a normal recovery via the crane and should have been cleared under the full SC. But the speed with which the decisions taken by the track marshals in recovering the car and then the picking of the wrong car by the SC meant the period lasted that extra bit and eventually leading to the situation that came out. The race control further added that there are no provisions in the regulations to treat the SC / VSC conditions separately if they occur in the final laps of the race. Those special provisions were actually put forth by the FIA and F1 to the teams post 2021 Abu Dhabi. But none of the teams felt the provisions gave any viable solution covering a whole set of events that might be faced in such situations.
Max was leading by almost 18 secs when the full SC came on, and would have won the race easily. Similar to how Lewis Hamilton had some 13 secs lead over Verstappen in 2021 Abu Dhabi when the full SC for deployed on lap 50 of the 58 lap race. But in that case, Lewis & Mercedes chose to protect their track position while Red Bull & Max went for new softs. Here in Italy, Max & Charles got on to fresh tyres. Though the Ferrari could have challenged, but as admitted by them the Red Bull was having pace advantage to still take the win. There might not have been much change in the eventual results, but the fans would have got the chance to witness a spectacle all through to the finish line.