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F1 teams failed to agree on plan to stop races ending under safety car

Formula 1 teams failed to agree on plans to stop races ending under the safety car amid discussions after last year’s Abu Dhabi controversy, according to Andreas Seidl.

The Safety Car Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, 1st position, across the line for victory

Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The debate surrounding F1’s safety car rules was reopened at last Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix after the race was not restarted following Daniel Ricciardo’s stoppage five laps from the end, finishing behind the safety car.

Although race control followed the rules to the letter this time - unlike in Abu Dhabi last year, where the final-lap restart settled the championship - fans were left with a sour taste after being denied a racing finish.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he thought the race should have been red flagged to ensure it finished with at least one lap of racing and avoid finishing under the safety car. 

But McLaren F1 chief Seidl revealed that plans to try and stop safety car finishes had been discussed in the wake of Abu Dhabi last year, only for teams to fail to agree on a solution.

“After what happened last year in Abu Dhabi, there were a lot of discussions between FIA, Formula 1 and all the teams involved in order to see how the rules could be modified in order to make sure that races never end under a safety car,” explained Seidl after the race.

“But despite FIA and Formula 1 really pushing us all to find solutions, it was down to us as the teams, and pretty much to all teams not agreeing to any change because we couldn't agree on any better solution, which is then also still a fair solution in terms of the sporting outcome.

“That's why, I guess, we simply have to accept that, unfortunately, situations like today can happen.”

The Safety Car Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22

The Safety Car Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Seidl said the FIA and Formula 1 “tried really hard” to find a way to change the rules to ensure races always ended under a green flag, but there were too many concerns from teams the spectacle was being prioritised over the sporting side.

“We only want a solution that's also fair on the sporting side and not suddenly ending up in jeopardy,” said Seidl.

“And that's why we couldn't agree on anything better than what we have in place.

“In the end, we voted that the regulations should stay as they have been. As far as I remember every single team voted like that. And therefore, I think let's close the subject.”

PLUS: The late-race safety car issues F1 still needs to fix to move on from Abu Dhabi

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem held a summit with race officials and F1 team managers on Monday after the race at Monza to discuss a range of sporting matters, with the safety car rules likely to have come up for debate.

One possible option to ensure races always end with a green flag would be to write into the rules that an automatic red flag is shown if the safety car is required within a certain distance of the end.

Autosport put the suggestion to Alpine sporting chief Alan Permane, who thought it “sounds great” but there would inevitably be some “unintended consequences.”

"But it’s happened before, we did it in Baku last year, and it was good,” said Permane.

“I guess you can write that into the regs. It doesn’t sound crazy. I’m sure there’ll be something that we don’t like about it, but after all, we’re here to put a show on. And [the Monza finish] clearly wasn’t acceptable.

“It’s not an ideal finish at all, no-one wants to finish under the safety car. It’s miserable, really miserable for the fans. We didn’t show our best, that’s for sure.

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“But maybe we don’t need to knee jerk to say every time it’s a safety car within 50km of the end or something, you throw a red flag. Maybe we just need to make sure we get those safety car procedures right, and we have been working to try and make them quicker.

“The problem is with safety cars later in the race, you’ve got these lapped cars. We’ve had endless discussions about how to improve that situation, and there are definitely many unintended consequences of changing that procedure.”

Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble 

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