F1 team chiefs and FIA hold summit over Italian GP safety car controversy

Senior Formula One team managers with the FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem on Monday for a summit meeting, with the controversial finish to Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix the agenda. Many team principals were angry at how the race ended behind the safety car and are insistent the FIA must change its regulations to avoid a repeat of the events.

The race at Monza was won by Max Verstappen, who dominated but took the flag behind the safety car. It was deployed five laps from the end after Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren came to a halt on the track. There were not enough laps remaining to remove it and complete the closing up of the cars and then for the safety car to complete its two mandatory laps, all required by regulations, for racing to resume.

The Formula One World Championship sporting summit had already been convened for Monza on Monday by the FIA but now events on Sunday will be brought to the fore. The FIA was not at fault, having followed its own rules. This in itself was a sore point for many after the controversial ending to last year’s Abu Dhabi GP which cost Lewis Hamilton a potential eighth title, when then FIA race director Michael Masi improvised on the rules to ensure a final lap of racing took place after a late safety car.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, however, was insistent the sport should avoid finishing races behind the safety car and that it must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the FIA.

“There are lessons to learn, it goes against the principles of all we have discussed,” he said. “It is not good to finish races under safety cars, if they had known they couldn’t get it going they should have red-flagged it and restarted. They are all sitting down on Monday, all the team managers. The president is getting involved in that as well and I am sure this will be top of the agenda.”

Ferrari’s team principal, Mattia Binotto, also criticised the FIA’s decision but Toto Wolff, Hamilton’s principal at Mercedes, pointedly noted that this time the FIA had at least followed its own rules. “I’m really satisfied to see that there is a race director and colleagues that apply the regs against the pressure of the media, and the pressure of the fans and everybody to just be in breach of the regulations,” he said. “So at least Abu Dhabi, in that sense, gave the FIA more robust confidence to apply regulations.”

He also, however, agreed that F1 needed to find a more satisfactory way to ensure races concluded in racing conditions as long as how it was done was strictly defined in the rules, which will doubtless be addressed at the summit. “I think we should all sit down and say is there something we can do better but what happened on Sunday is in the regulations book, and that’s why it was applied,” he said. “Would I have wanted to have a last lap with a pile of cars on top of each other at the chicane? Hell yes, good TV.”