Formula One was accused of putting entertainment before sport in Sunday’s crash-strewn and triple-stopped Australian Grand Prix but whether all those red flags needed to be thrown is a difficult debate.
In defence of race director Niels Wittich, safety always comes first.
Aston Martin principal Mike Krack, whose driver Fernando Alonso finished third after the final red flag reset the field to grid positions at the last re-start, said it was easy to criticise from the outside.
“Was it safe for the cars to go through the debris? It’s not easy to judge. But the race director has to make a decision and as far as safety is concerned the decision must be respected even if we don’t like it,” he said.
The race was halted early on when Alex Albon’s Williams was stuck on a kerb, with gravel strewn across the track.
The second stoppage came with four laps to go when Kevin Magnussen’s Haas hit the wall.
The third red flag came with two laps of racing to go with positions reverting to the previous grid order because the first sector had not been completed.
The field completed the last lap behind the safety car.
“I don’t feel like the second to last red flag was needed,” said McLaren’s Lando Norris. Red Bull’s double world champion Max Verstappen also criticised the last stoppage.
Former F1 racer and Sky Sports commentator Martin Brundle offered a different perspective.
“It’s very easy for us to sit on the sidelines going ‘should have done this, should have done that’. But back in 2009 Felipe Massa nearly died with a piece of somebody else’s car coming through his cockpit.
“If there are pieces of debris on the track you can’t have them flying through the air.”