Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting says no reports were made of debris on track before race leader Valtteri Bottas suffered a puncture to cruelly force him out.

The Mercedes driver looked a sure bet for victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after seeing off Sebastian Vettel at the safety car restart in the sprint the finish but on his charge down the main straight with three laps to go he appeared to hit a large chunk of debris which instantly punctured his right-rear tyre.

The puncture saw Bottas retire from the race, handing victory to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, while the incident enraged Mercedes bosses Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda who questioned why a "fist-sized" piece of debris was on track immediately after a safety car period to allow marshals to clear the Baku City Circuit.

Television replays after the race appeared to show debris falling on the circuit after Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly’s clash at the safety car restart and Bottas became the unlucky driver to be first on the scene and hit the loose bodywork.

FIA race director Whiting says his team weren’t shown the replays of the Magnussen-Gasly incident until after Bottas suffered his puncture and therefore he was given no indication of debris on track.

“We didn’t get any reports of debris,” Whiting said. “The marshals have been remarkable. They were very good on reporting debris.

“I don’t know for sure if that’s what caused the tyre failure. I’ve not heard officially if it was debris but I expect it was, it’s highly likely.

“It probably happened between Magnussen and Gasly, in their incident on the penultimate lap. I haven’t had the benefit of seeing that.”

Whiting has also defended the lengthy safety car period after the multiple on-track clashes during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to clean the track of debris but accepts the current procedure can’t guarantee the track being completely clear.

“We try to always keep the track clear of debris but it’s difficult to clear up debris if you don’t know about it,” he said. “We had continual reports of debris though the whole race and we were dealing with it.

“I felt we had dealt with every bit of debris on the track. We didn’t have any reports of debris after that, after the incident between Magnussen and Gasly, I assume that is what was shown on TV.”



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