Formula 1 drivers say they will question why there was a delay in deploying the Safety Car in the wake of race leader Max Verstappen suffering a high-speed tyre failure in Azerbaijan.
As he completed lap 45 of 51 Verstappen’s RB16B was struck by an instant left-rear failure, the cause of which remains under investigation, and he was pitched heavily into the wall.
Verstappen’s damaged car came to a halt on the track, with debris littering the circuit, but the Safety Car was not deployed for almost 90 seconds, as double waved yellow flags covered the crash site.
The rest of the field passed Verstappen, and his stricken Red Bull, before the race was neutralised.
Verstappen’s accident came 15 laps after Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll also suffered a left-rear tyre failure along the lengthy full-throttle third sector.
The race was eventually red-flagged after 48 laps and then restarted for a two-lap dash to the finish.
“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,” said Sebastian Vettel, who finished second.
“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.”
Charles Leclerc, who classified fourth, angrily labelled the situation “a joke” over the radio during the race and explained his feelings post-race.
“I was just surprised that there was not a Safety Car earlier,” he said. “That’s why I raised my concerns on the radio. Because for me it was clear that I would stop pushing with a crash like this.
“It’s [the accident] in the middle of a straight, so it was quite dangerous. It just took longer than what I expected, that’s it. But I think all the drivers have been surprised [in] the same way.”
Leclerc added that “I will definitely bring it up [in the next drivers’ briefing], just to understand why it took a bit longer than normal.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz concurred with his team-mate, explaining that “normally when there is such a big accident, first there is a double yellow, and then straightaway seconds after there is a Safety Car.
“Today, it took more than, I think it was 30 seconds, one minute, for the Safety Car to be deployed, and we had to go through a very heavy accident in only yellow flag conditions.”