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Formula 1 Australian GP

F1 stewards want standing restart procedures review after Australian GP near-miss

The FIA's race stewards believe Formula 1 should consider changes to regulations regarding the procedure for standing restarts, after a near-miss behind the safety car at the Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

While there is a separate debate raging about whether or not standing restarts are a good idea at all after the late-race chaos in Melbourne, another problem emerged earlier in the event.

With the first red flag having been triggered by Alex Albon's crash on lap seven, the go-ahead for a standing restart was given by race control.

The rules require the safety car to lead the cars around in formation for the restart, before peeling into the pits.

Read more: The critical calls preceding Verstappen's Melbourne march and F1's red flag saga

But this time the situation nearly triggered a big accident as race leader Lewis Hamilton had slowed the formation lap pace at the front while cars catching up from the back closed in on the pack at high speed.

This had been caused by George Russell being slow away in leaving the pitlane, so was running quickly to close down the deficit.

When he slowed after joining the back of the train, others behind him were caught out, with several having to brake suddenly to avoid an accident.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez was nearly hit by Alfa Romeo's Guanyu Zhou, while Williams' Logan Sargeant had to take evasive action to avoid striking Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo.

Kevin Magnussen, who approached the slowing cars at high speed, had to take avoiding action in his Haas and run through the gravel to avoid an accident.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23 leaves the track as he follows Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23 leaves the track as he follows Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Mark Horsburgh / Motorsport Images

The incident was reviewed by the race stewards after the grand prix, and they felt that no driver was particularly to blame for what happened.

The stewards said in a statement: "When Russell and the cars behind caught up with the cars in front, they were met with a significant speed delta between the two groups resulting in a situation where a number of cars had to take evasive action.

"This was not at all an ideal situation from a safety point of view. Although Russell's start was slow, given that he had to maintain the pit lane speed till he got out of the pits and that he immediately sped up to make up the gap, we did not consider that it would be necessary or appropriate to penalise Russell for a slow start from the pit lane. We, therefore, took no further action."

However, the stewards feel that the regulations regarding the formation lap procedure can be improved, especially when it comes to the leader dictating the pace.

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Article 58.8 of the Sporting Regulations states that the leading car has to stay within 10 car lengths of the safety car ahead of the restart when its lights are on.

However, once the message has been given to teams that there will be a standing restart, then the safety car lights go out and the leader can drop back – which is exactly what happened on this occasion early in the lap.

Article 58.11 of the sporting regulations states: "At this point the first car in line behind the safety car may dictate the pace and, if necessary, fall more than ten (10) car lengths behind it."

The stewards feel that this freedom for the lead car to dictate the pace so early in the lap could be addressed with better rules.

It said: "We do consider that part of the problem is the regulation that permits the lead car to set the pace even when the restart is for a standing start from the pit lane (as opposed to a rolling start).

"This should perhaps be looked at in the future to see if this is appropriate for a restart of this nature."

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