What image of yourself did F1 give during the Baku weekend? Probably the adjectives that could be used would be “spectacular, unpredictable, exciting” and so on. Certainly there was no lack of uncertainty, both in qualifying and especially in the race, which ended with the second victory of Perez. A “life as a median” (to paraphrase Ligabue) that of the Mexican driver, who after years at the center of the group is carving out the role of luxury wingman. Just what in Red Bull they had been looking for since the time of the departure, surprisingly, of Daniel Ricciardo to seek better fortunes in Renault yesterday and McLaren today. Beautiful stories of men and a grandiose show that of F1 2021. What more could you want? A tasty dish full of spicy and savory spices that satisfy many palates. But perhaps the spices have become a little too much, so much so that we can no longer even recognize the flavor of what is underneath. And underneath these strong flavors, there is a risk of not being perceived two issues that were clearly posed in Baku, and on which the Federation should reflect.
The first issue that the FIA should consider is that of tires and their failures. Regularly in each season there are one or two races in which sudden failures occur on some of the cars and equally regularly the cause of the failure in debris on the track or use of tires beyond the recommended lap limits is identified.
Not questioning the good faith and competence of Pirelli when it indicates in the debris on the track the cause of the tire bursts of Stroll e Verstappen, however, the issue must be taken into serious consideration given the evident impact on safety. Both failures occurred at more than 300 km / h in a straight closed by walls, that is with the certainty of staying on the track with a seriously damaged car and with the driver on board. Obviously there are the yellow and red flags that immediately go off in the event of an accident, but if such an accident had occurred with the cars grouped together and fighting, the consequences could have been very serious. A 90-degree impact between two cars is still an eventuality in which the risk of fatal injuries is real. Just think of Hubert’s fatal accident in F2 at spa in 2019.
From this point of view it is to be hoped, but it is not known, that the FIA is working with Pirelli for arrive at tire constructions that give better guarantees of resistance to accidental damage, although obviously the tire itself has physical limitations. The constant and correct continuous tension towards safety in motorsport that the FIA has been pursuing for years in all areas of the car and of the tracks, cannot fail to take into consideration such an important issue. And if in everyday cars it has been possible to overcome punctures safely thanks to “runflat” tires, in F1 one should aim for an equally modern and improved solution, albeit with the enormous limits imposed by the stresses of an F1 car. . Moreover, in 2021 with the transition to 18-inch rims, the structure of the tire will be even more stressed than today and the issue of failure due to the passage of two debris could recur more frequently.
How many cars with damaged tires were there on the track? Difficult to say, but even on the tires removed from Hamilton’s Mercedes after the red flag, Pirelli found cuts of several centimeters that could have caused yet another tire explosion. In short, the risk of seeing other accidents was there.
The second issue on which the Federation should reflect is, once again, nthe mixture of sports decisions and technical decisions, which have been indistinguishable for too many years now to try to create a show on the track that is at least an artifact. After Stroll’s accident, which unwittingly spread carbon debris all over the straight, the race was neutralized for several laps behind the safety car. An absolutely predictable decision, which however probably did not give the necessary time and space to arrive at a thorough cleaning of the track. Which in a stretch like that would have been desirable given the foreseeable consequences of another puncture at high speed, such as the one punctually occurred at Verstappen a few laps later. And after all, the tire failures on the straight in Baku were also seen in 2019, ask Bottas. Much less predictable than the entry of the first safety car was Michael Masi’s decision to restart and finish the race two laps from the end after a sacrosanct red flag. And also his explanations on the reasons for this choice “..To give the race a real ending”, leave quite perplexing.
Red flag for Verstappen and not for Stroll: the reason
Of course, these are absolutely legitimate decisions, but nevertheless evidently devoted to squeezing every drop of spectacle left over from the race. There is, but once again the implicit risks of these decisions were at least evident, and perhaps they were not to be taken. If we wanted to display the red flag in order to be able to thoroughly clean the track after the Verstappen accident, then it is not clear why it was not given a red flag even after the Stroll accident for the same reason. Sure, it’s classic hindsight, but the risks of setting off again on a track mined by debris had been made concrete by the previous Aston Martin accident.
If it was a puncture in Verstappen’s case, then it is retrospectively admitting that such an accident could have been avoided by taking the time to thoroughly clean the track after the Canadian driver’s bang. An accident that of the Dutchman who, however you put it, altered the result of the race and, in some ways, that of the championship. In the event of a Red Bull brace, the gap for Hamilton from the top of the standings would be much greater today.
Having completed more than 75% of the distance, the referee could have considered the race to be over, giving full points to the top ten. Instead, we opted for the unprecedented choice of having the large group of drivers still on the track run two laps in the “go or break”. Decision that altered the final result again, given Hamilton’s error at the start, and in this perspective the result of the maximum show was achieved. But it was a decision that had the flavor of a “Roman circus”, not even wanting too implicitly to goad the drivers into fighting it all out in two laps with fresh tires and a standing start, unleashing a “trap” that could have serious consequences.
It will be objected that it is their job, that pilots are professionals and so on. True, but the direction of the race should not be the direction of a show to be moved at all times with typical decisions Truman Show, but have an arbitration role, and as consistent as possible between events.
However, it is difficult to see consistency when at the beginning of the championship they are penalized in the drivers’ standings who exceed the famous track limits even for one lap, and in Baku they dared with the unusual and unnecessary in order to get the most out of a race which, in itself, had already issued definitive verdicts.