(GMM) Three team bosses have defended Formula 1’s latest under-fire race director Niels Wittich following the chaotic and controversial Australian GP.
The media and many drivers were scathing of the handling of Sunday’s Melbourne race and repeated questionable red flags and re-starts.
“The drivers are revolting against this chaotic Formula 1,” observed Italy’s Corriere della Sera.
“Niels Wittich abused the red flags, beyond all doubt. The German caused the most dangerous of situations, some of which are incomprehensible to the drivers and the spectators.”
However, Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur declined to join the pile-on against Wittich.
“You cannot blame the system for this,” he insisted.
“Of course, we have to know that if the race is restarted for the last two laps, it will be tough. We already had that in Baku.
“But you can’t blame the race management,” the Frenchman insisted. “Those are the rules and the race management followed them.”
His Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff, so furious after the 2021 finale in Abu Dhabi when the axed Michael Masi appeared to freestyle the race’s dramatic conclusion, agrees that Wittich at least followed the rules on Sunday.
“We looked it up – it was the rule book,” said the Austrian.
“It was a bit confusing, but it was like it’s written down. Going forward, we just need to understand when it is a red flag and when it is a VSC or a safety car.
“I think for these incidents, it could have been an of them. So as long as it’s clear how this is being interpreted, I’m fine with it.”
Finally, Mike Krack – in charge at Aston Martin – also didn’t want to slam F1’s sole race director Wittich.
“It’s easy to criticize from the outside,” he told DAZN, “but they are the ones with all the information.
“Was it safe for the cars to go through the debris? It’s not easy to judge, but the race director has to make a decision and, as far as safety is concerned, the decision must be respected even if we don’t like it.”
And former F1 driver Timo Glock thinks that, no matter which way Wittich’s race management decided, there would have been criticism from some.
“As Ralf (Schumacher) said, the race should have ended behind the safety car. But then there would have been boos from the fans in the stand because they wanted to see an exciting ending,” he told Sky Deutschland.
“No matter how you do it, you do it wrong.”
April 3, 2023
–by Mark Cipolloni–
The Ferrari team came away from Melbourne with zero points, while Charles Leclerc has still yet to reach double digits in the Drivers Championship standings.
Before reading what the Italian media has to say about the FIA and Carlos Sainz Jr. regarding his 5-second penalty as a result of punting Fernando Alonso on the next to last restart, let me tell you why I think the FIA ‘screwed the pooch‘ again.
After the restart the cars never reached the first timing line, hence the cars were lined back up in the order they were.
Alonso, despite being spun out, was moved back to third. And Nico Hulkenberg was moved from 4th back to 8th.
In essence, the Race Stewards and Race Director deemed the restart chaos to have not really happened because the first timing line was not reached. Well, if everyone was reverted back to their original positions, as if nothing had transpired, then why was Sainz penalized 5-seconds since in theory, nothing transpired to change the running order.
Alonso got his 3rd place back, but yet Sainz lost 4th and was demoted all the way down to 12th and out of the points.
If anything, they should have given Sainz a 5-second penalty to be served the next race, or a grid position penalty the next race where he could have a chance to recover.
The penalty did not fit the crime.
If Alonso was made whole – nothing gained, nothing lost – then moving Sainz down from 4th to 12th was downright cruel and unjust.
That’s how I saw it, now let’s read what the Italian media had to say
With just 26 points for the team it is one of the worst starts to a season since 2020 for Ferrari, and has prompted a fierce reaction from Italian media outlets.
Corriere della Sera believes FIA Race Director Niels Wittich was wrong to refer Sainz to the stewards: “Competition leader Niels Wittich gets a zero from us. He, like his predecessor Michael Masi, did everything wrong. He seems to want to cover himself on all fronts, so as not to be held liable.”
“The FIA also gets a zero because they show no flexibility at all when applying the rules. In fact, the rules are not properly applied at all. They must fire Wittich immediately.”
La Gazzetta dello Sport is slightly more supporting of the decision from Race Control to red flag the race: “They didn’t want to finish a race behind a safety car after the Monza ’22 debacle themselves.”
They also point the blame towards Sainz for missing out on his podium.
“Leclerc ended up in the gravel because he was too rushed, and Carlos Sainz unfortunately went ‘wrong’ at the restart. Before that, he drove forward handsomely and was on for a podium.”
The Corriere dello Sport is much more critical of Ferrari’s race management, believing the team made too many mistakes which resulted in zero points being scored.
“Ferrari is losing patience with the far too nervous drivers. Leclerc immediately went KO, while Sainz had a chance to win a podium, but ruined everything himself.”
“We have to write about mistakes, plural, because it doesn’t stop at one mistake. It is not for nothing that Ferrari has only 26 points. Leclerc was furious and needs to calm down. Of course, he can’t help Ferrari being too slow, but losing this way only makes everything worse.”
“The podium was deserved for Ferrari, but Sainz threw everything away by hitting Alonso.”