F1 drivers “don’t understand” confusing Safety Car unlapping decision

Several Formula 1 drivers have admitted they were confused by the controversial decision to only allow a number of cars to unlap themselves at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 leads behind the Aston Martin FIA Safety Car.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 leads behind the Aston Martin FIA…
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The Safety Car was deployed with a handful of laps to go after Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams in the final sector.

Initially, race control indicated that lapped cars wouldn’t be able to overtake, meaning Lewis Hamilton would have had a useful buffer to title rival Max Verstappen.

Just before the Safety Car period was about to end, the FIA announced that Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were all required to overtake - giving Verstappen a clear run at Hamilton.

The late call by race control allowed Verstappen to overtake Hamilton into Turn 5 - a move that handed him his maiden drivers’ championship.

The confusion under the Safety Car led to Mercedes lodging a protest, which was rejected by the stewards but it has since announced its intentions to appeal the FIA’s decision, potentially taking it to the International Court of Appeal.

Giving his thoughts on what happened under the Safety Car, Daniel Ricciardo said it was “weird”.

“At the end, it was kind of weird, they said cars can’t pass, lapped cars, then some of them did, but then I wasn’t allowed to, we did a one-lap restart, I’m sitting right behind Lewis and Max, like why am I here? I don’t know. It was very interesting,” he said.

McLaren teammate Norris questioned if it was the correct way to end the race.

“I’m not too sure what was said by the FIA, at first we weren’t allowed to overtake, so if that influenced decisions and if that’s the reason they [Mercedes] didn’t do the pit stop, but then the FIA suddenly changed their minds and were allowed to let us past… then that’s where I’m not sure. I’ll say congrats to both drivers,” Norris added.

“In terms of decision… yeah for it to end like that I’m not so sure.”

Lance Stroll was one of the drivers who wasn’t allowed to unlap himself, meaning he lost out any chance of fighting for a top 10 finish on the final lap.

“It was a tricky race today and we were not able to benefit from the late Safety Car because we were not waved through to overtake, which was frustrating and I did not understand,” Stroll explained

“It was a late chance to make up some places and potentially aim for points after we made the decision to pit again.”

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso has been very vocal in his support of Verstappen but conceded that the Safety Car procedure was “a little bit confusing”.

“When the Safety Car was out I thought we were able to overtake quickly, because normally it is what happens. You see the green light of the Safety Car, and then you are unlapping yourself until they remove the car,” Alonso commented.

“But we didn’t have that green signal, and then two laps after the engineer told me that you will not be able to unlap yourself, and the positions would stay like this.

“One corner later the green light came on and I said ‘but we have a green light?.’ And they said ‘yeah, you can do it now, follow Norris.’ And I followed Norris. So it was a little bit confusing, probably.”

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