AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly says he was not surprised by F1’s decision to red flag the Azerbaijan GP in the interest of getting a green flag finish.
After Max Verstappen’s crash from the lead of the F1 Azerbaijan GP just a few laps from the end of the race, FIA race officials decided to red flag the Grand Prix – ostensibly in an effort to ensure a finish under green flags.
Gasly was not surprised by the choice to prioritise “entertainment” given that F1 is now owned by American-run Liberty Media. US racing series’ have long been using entertainment-friendly rules, one famously allowing for a race to be paused with a red flag, before resuming with one lap until the race’s end.
The Frenchman nonetheless said the decision to throw out red flags brought “excitement” into the race, and called the race’s final moments “intense”. “The Americans took over so I wasn’t really surprised that we go first with the entertainment,” said Gasly. “No, I was quite happy. It always brings a bit more excitement.
“I don’t know, it creates some sort of adrenalin inside you and yeah, I knew there would be some opportunities because you start only for two laps, everybody is a bit like lions out of the cage and everybody goes for everything and tries to make up as many positions as they can in a very short time.
“I think… I didn’t see the replay of the last two laps but I must say on my side it was very intense, I really enjoyed it. If anything, hopefully in the future they will do the same,” Gasly said. His rivals concurred, but wanted consistency, as Sebastian Vettel added that it also depends on who ends up gaining and losing in this process.
“As long as we keep the consistency [I am fine],” said Sergio Perez. “In Imola we didn’t do it, we didn’t have the standing start but I think it was a bit unfair with the rain there, the right hand side of the track was damp. As long as we keep it consistent, going forward, it certainly helps the fans to be sticking to the TV. I think they have the most enjoyable two laps of the race, you know? And they certainly made it very hard for me.”
And Vettel added: “I think, to be honest, it depends on which side you are, not on which side of the grid. I think if you have a positive outcome and you make up positions then you’re happy about it. If, obviously, the worst case was probably for Lewis, then you’re not happy about it. But it has become more and more like this in the past, more and more focused on creating a show, so I hope that in the future the races are more exciting.
“I think Baku was probably an exciting race for various things happening and so on, but yeah, I think we just need to watch out that it doesn’t become too artificial and we don’t lose the roots of the sport. I think in the end you fight very hard and safety cars obviously… Some things… sometimes you enjoy and sometimes it destroys your race but the main thing obviously is that the safety car comes when it’s really necessary and in those two cases we didn’t even need to argue.
“I was wondering a little bit why it took so long for the second time when Max had the shunt, for the safety car to come out because it was quite clear that he was standing in the middle of the track and it took a little bit long but we will see… we will find out why. Anyway, to answer the question, I think the fair point is that it depends on the day-by-day basis and how it goes for you.”
FIA race director Michael Masi, meanwhile, insisted this was a decision made on grounds of safety. Despite an earlier incident of similar fashion not prompting a red flag, he says Verstappen’s crash required one because of the car’s position and the nature of his retirement.
“Obviously in the middle of the race, there was more than enough time, space, on the right-hand side of the track when we were recovering it, and confident with the way that that could be cleared up in that fashion,” said Masi.
“As I said, when looking at everything, we weren’t confident that the recovery on the pit straight and the amount of debris that was everywhere could be cleared up in the appropriate time. So we thought it was in the best interests of the sport to suspend and then restart in that circumstance.”
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