Formula 1 Race Director Michael Masi hit back at drivers, including Valtteri Bottas, who suggested organisers have been trying to make race restarts more exciting.
A large accident occurred at the rolling restart at the Tuscan Grand Prix when the pack bunched together along Mugello’s pit straight, catching backmarkers by surprise, and triggering a pile-up.
Nicholas Latifi, Kevin Magnussen, Antonio Giovinazzi and Carlos Sainz were all eliminated in the accident, after which 12 drivers were cautioned for their conduct.
Bottas, who was leading at the time, had slowed the pack – as is his right under the regulations – in order to deny his rivals a slipstream for as long as possible.
In explaining the situation, Bottas said: “The difference this year has been the Safety Car, they are putting the lights off quite late, so you can only build the gap pretty late on.
“Of course when you’re in the lead you try to maximise your chances and I’m not at all to blame for that. Everyone can look at everything they want for it. I was doing consistent speed until I went.
“Yes, I went late but we start racing from the control line, not before that. So the guys behind who crashed because of that, they can look in the mirror. There’s no point whining about it.
“It’s just… the FIA or FOM, I don’t know who’s deciding what’s happening with the Safety Cars but they’re trying to make the show better by turning the lights later, so we can’t build a gap early and then go like the corner before the race start.
“I think our team opened up the discussion again before the race, saying that it’s a bit of a concern here, but they said basically they’re going to keep doing it because it’s better for the show. I think that was the reply.”
Eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton concurred with his team-mate, saying that “it’s absolutely not Valtteri’s fault at all. It’s the decision-makers. I don’t know who.
“They’re obviously trying to make it more exciting but ultimately you’ve seen they’ve put people at risk. So, perhaps they need to rethink that.
“They have been moving switching off the Safety Car lights later and later and later and we’re out there fighting for a position.”
However Masi countered that viewpoint as when asked if organisers were spicing up the show at the expense of safety he replied: “Absolutely not. From an FIA perspective, safety is paramount full stop. End of story.
“In my capacity as race director and safety delegate that’s point blank where my role is: as sporting integrity and safety. And anyone who says otherwise is quite offensive personally.”
Masi also denied that the lights were extinguished relatively late on the Safety Car and pointed to the outcome of the preceding Formula 3 race.
“They can criticise all they want, if we have a look at a distance perspective from where the lights were extinguished to the control line, it’s probably not dissimilar, if not longer, than a number of other venues,” he said.
“The Safety Car lights go out where they do, the Safety Car [goes into] the pit lane.
“We have the 20 best drivers in the world, and as we saw earlier in the Formula 3 race those drivers in the junior category had a very, very similar restart to what was occurring in the F1 race and navigated it quite well, without incident.”