Masi explains why Sainz and others avoided DRS penalties

Formula 1 race director Michael Masi has clarified why Carlos Sainz and several other drivers in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix were not penalised for using DRS under local double waved yellow flags.

Sainz finished the race in fourth place, but a penalty for Lewis Hamilton subsequently elevated him to third – his maiden podium, and the first for McLaren in over five and a half years.

But that success was initially in doubt after it emerged that Sainz had utilised the drag reduction system just before the first of the two safety car periods late in the race.

An earlier drivers briefing had agreed that use of DRS constituted evidence that the driver had failed to slow sufficiently under waved yellow flags, which would make him subject to a five second penalty.

“I think if you look at it, having DRS open is against the philosophy of slowing,” said Masi, who then explained why this hadn’t been the case in Brazil.

“The stewards looked at that and determined that no investigation was necessary,” he reported. “The overriding factor of slowing for double yellows was absolutely complied with.

“We looked at it, and the overriding factor with double yellow flags is the requirement to slow and significantly slow. That’s what we looked at.”

The incident took place on lap 53 of the race before the safety car was then scrambled while marshalls removed Valtteri Bottas’ stricken Mercedes from the tide of the track.

©McLaren

Masi revealed that Sainz had been far from alone in being investigated by the stewards for a possible breach of the rules.

“I think it was eight, all in that area,” he told Motorsport.com. “All of them complied with [the requirement to slow down].

“Yes, a couple of them did activate DRS for a relatively short period of time, but I’ll call it muscle memory.

“It’s one of those things you can’t make a rule to suit every situation,” Masi added. “[It] is the reason why we have stewards to make a determination on things, and the overriding factor is that they slow which they all did.”

Masi admitted that it was weakness of the current technical system that while DRS could be disabled for all cars everywhere on the track in the event of a full safety car for a serious accident, or for inclement weather.

“There isn’t the ability of isolating single DRS zones to turn them off,” he acknowledged. “It’s either they all get turned off or not.

“The technical reasons for it? If it was easy to have been done, it would have been done.”

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Renault wants more leniency for tech breaches but FIA disagrees

Renault F1 boss Cyrill Abiteboul believes minor tech breaches in F1 should be treated with more leniency, but FIA race director Michael Masi says such a change would put the sport in a “dangerous territory”.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was excluded from qualifying in Singapore last weekend when the stewards found that the Aussie’s MGU-K had delivered a temporary power surge that exceed the legal limit.

It was later revealed that the sudden energy spike had occurred just once in Q1 and delivered a microsecond advantage on a lap on which Ricciardo did not improve on his best time.

Given those circumstances, many believed the stewards should have simply deleted the specific lap rather than enforce the exclusion sanction.

Abiteboul sees a contradiction between the FIA’s more indulgent approach to driver penalties and its merciless rulings involving technical breaches.

“It’s a bit sad because we all know the fans want less penalties, that’s obvious,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.

“It’s strange because on the one side you can see that on the race track Michael Masi is coming with a new doctrine, the black and white flag, a sort of yellow card, so we’re trying to be sensible about the regulations and the impact on the sport and the show.

“And on the other side we have this, and for me there is disconnect between the two that we can only regret because we were on the receiving end, and obviously you can’t expect anything else from me.

“In my opinion in the future there has to be a discussion with the FIA on whether we want to follow more that system that is going on on the race track, or that strict application based on machines, not based on people.”

However, Masi sees building in margins when it comes to technical infringement as a can of worms the FIA official is very reluctant to open.

“When it comes to technical infringements, Martin Brundle put it best: you’re either pregnant or you’re not!” he said.

“I think everyone knows when it comes to technical infringements of that nature what the outcome is. You either are or you aren’t.

“I can feel for Daniel, it was an error, and sadly it is what it is.

“Personally, I think we’re treading on dangerous territory when we’re starting with technical infringements in particular building margins in upon margins.”

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Gasly suggests 'spotters' to counter cockpit visibility issues

Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly has suggested that Formula 1 could use a system of ‘spotters’ to help cut down on racing incidents, such as Sebastian Vettel’s collision with Lance Stroll at Monza.

Vettel clipped the back of the Racing Point as he returned to the track seeking to recover from a spin at Ascari early in the Italian Grand Prix last Sunday.

As well as pitting for a new front wing, he was handed a steep penalty by the race stewards for his actions which meant that the Ferrari finished far outside the points in its home Grand Prix.

But Gasly defended Vettel, explaining that the high-sided design of the modern F1 cockpit to protect the driver’s head meant that the four-time world champion would not have been aware of Stroll being so close.

“Unfortunately in the place he was, he could not see anything,” Gasly told Motorsport.com this week. “I think with the shape of the F1 car, and also your HANS, you can’t really rotate [your head].”

Gasly himself was almost caught up in the aftermath when he had to go off track to similarly avoid Stroll recovering from his own spin.

“I saw he was stopped, and because it’s a really high-speed place I thought he would just wait and stay there,” recalled Gasly. “When I saw him moving, I was already planning to go around the outside of him.

“I had to go in the gravel, but it was quite close to the wall,” he added.

As for how the incident could have been avoided, Gasly’s advice was simple: “For this kind of thing I think just not spinning there!” he offered.

But he did have some thoughts on using a US-style ‘spotter’ system whereby team personnel and former drivers are recruited to watch the race from a high vantage point and relay information directly over the team radio.

While that’s relatively simple to do at American-style ovals that can be viewed in their entirety from one location, Gasly felt that a more localised approach with the help of real-time precision GPS data could still benefit drivers in F1.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF90 rejoins the circuit after spinning in the race, hitting Lance Stroll (CDN) Racing Point F1 Team RP19.

“Yeah, exactly,” he said. “I don’t have like a solution in mind right now, but for sure it wasn’t ideal and wasn’t the safest way.

“Maybe the engineers in this case need to say ‘okay, stay there’,” he added. “For sure you’re in your race, you want to go as fast as possible.

“n the end I think it could have been a lot worse for him. Luckily nothing happened.”

However ‘spotters’ don’t appear to be on the mind of Formula 1 racing director Michael Masi. He said that in this case, both Vettel and Stroll should simply have been more careful in how they recovered from their initial spins if they couldn’t be sure about oncoming traffic.

“When in doubt be a bit cautious,” he said, although he quickly admitted: “But everything happened so quickly.

“It wasn’t as if it was a huge time lag,” Masi added. “It was literally bang, bang, bang. It was the concertina effect.”

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F1 bosses seeking solutions to qualifying congestion

Formula 1 bosses are to meet next week to discuss ways of avoiding the events that led to an embarrassing finish to qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix last Saturday.

The situation was variously described by participants and the press as ‘messy’, ‘a shambles’ and ‘farcical’ after all but two drivers failed to start their final flying laps in time, after being held up on their out laps seeking a tow from cars ahead.

Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll were all given reprimands for driving unnecessarily slowly. The Renault driver was also investigated by the race stewards for cutting the first chicane.

Now F1 race director Michael Masi is due to meet with team principals in Singapore next week before the next Grand Prix on the calendar, to see what can be done to stop a recurrence in future.

However Masi warned that it would not be easy to find a solution for the situation.

“I think everyone in the room, sporting directors and drivers, acknowledged that there is not a simple regulatory fix for it,” he told Motorsport.com. “I don’t know if frustration is the right word but it’s something we need to look at in more detail.”

Masi added that he didn’t blame the drivers, since it was the nature of the sport for everyone to seek the most competitive advantage that they could find.

“At the end of the day they are all elite sportsmen trying to get the maximum out of it.

“We can all talk about gentleman’s agreements and the rest of it, but the facts are, we can all acknowledge once the visor comes down they are all out there to do their best.”

He revealed that the potential for problems at Monza had already been foreseen by teams, who discussed the scenario the previous week at Spa.

“We will have a more in-depth discussion in Singapore,” he continued. “A few of the teams have already come up with simulations and ideas of how that could possibly be rectified.

“It is in everyone’s best interests,” he added.

Masi said that the advance in technology over the last decade might help the sport develop a new approach to the issue.

“Technology has evolved. We are very fortunate at a Formula 1 Grand Prix in that we have a whole lot of different angles of cameras, telemetry, data, radio: every pretty much imaginable input.

“Things have really moved on and attitudes have changed,” he explained. “Looking at it even three years ago, there was a standard penalty: it was a drive through effectively for everything.

“We have evolved as a sport as a whole,” he added.

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