David Coulthard believes extreme apprehension is leading F1’s race control and the FIA stewards to take “overcautious” decisions in the heat of the moment.
Last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix was marked by none less than three red flags, two of which were debatable according to many drivers.
In the first instance, the race was stopped in the wake of Alex Albon’s crash to allow for a proper clean-up after the Williams had scattered gravel onto the track.
George Russell, who was ordered to pit by his Mercedes crew as soon as the safety car was called out, simply couldn’t understand why the red flag decision had been made, if not simply for the need for Formula 1 to ‘put on a show’ to entertain the fans.
“I don’t really know what’s going on with some of the decisions at the moment,” he said. “We’re all trying to work together with the FIA to improve things, but it’s seemingly a bit of a challenge.”
In the second incident of the day, following Kevin Magnussen’s brush with the wall that led to debris on the track, race control also opted to halt proceedings with just four laps to go, a decision that baffled Max Verstappen.
“What the f**k! We don’t need a red flag,” quipped the Dutchman over the radio.
“I don’t think we needed that second red flag, I think that could have been done with a Virtual Safety Car or a Safety Car at worst,” Verstappen commented after the race.
“We’ll talk about it, I think it left a lot of drivers confused about why we needed a red flag.”
Read also: Wolff wants more clarity from F1 on use of red flags
Coulthard reckons that F1’s race director Niels Wittich and those officiating in the stewards’ room have become so fearful and jittery of their actions that they are taking an “overcautious” approach to their decisions.
“I think okay he hit the wall, he got a puncture, there’s a little bit of debris on the track, but I just don’t see the red flag in that,” the Scot told Channel 4, referring to Magnussen’s slip-up.
“And this is really what’s too confusing for me.
“It’s almost like… it’s a difficult job, let’s get it, the referee is always going to be in a difficult situation and in this case of course it’s the stewards and the race director.
“But it’s like they’re so nervous of making a wrong decision, they’re just taking the overcautious decision every time.
“A full Safety Car would have handled that in my opinion.”
Coulthard’s Channel 4 colleague Mark Webber also questioned the necessity to deploy the red flag for the incident involving Magnussen given that it occurred just a few laps from the checkered flag.
“I think that Magnussen’s crash was unfortunate timing,” said Webber. “You’re right on that bubble of having a ‘do we need a restart? Can we finish the race at that point?’
“So yeah, I don’t know. I don’t like rolling the jeopardy card too much because these are the best guys in the world, and I think for them to go down there, we saw the result on cold tyres.
“One lap, bang. They go down there and that’s on Soft tyres, you know, so it wasn’t a good result, and I think the drivers were probably a bit frustrated with how that was handled.”
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