Race director criticised for handling of 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Race director Niels Wittich enabled DRS on lap 34 of the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Race director Niels Wittich has come under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after he enabled DRS on lap 34 of the race.

The drivers had been running on intermediates tyres for just under 30 laps when Daniel Ricciardo became the first to take the gamble on lap 17, and David Croft and Paul di Resta opined that the ability to utilise the flap on the rear wing might have been granted four laps prior to that when everyone was still on intermediates.

Sir Lewis Hamilton spent just over 40 laps of the race stuck behind Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly, and was asking his Mercedes team on lap 30 why DRS had not ben enabled.

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It was eventually enabled on lap 34, and the consensus is that Wittich had on his mind last year’s incident when Valtteri Bottas and George Russell came together.

Russell was trying to pass Bottas on the way down to Tamburello in 2021 and, with DRS open on the Williams, he lost control of the car on the grass and smashed into the side of the Finn, sending them both out of the race in a nasty collision that also saw Bottas taken to the medical centre for some checks.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was taken out of the race on the first lap by Ricciardo, and he believes the memories of the scary incident last year is what led to the circumspect approach from race control.

“I think after what happened last year with George [and Bottas] in this main straight, they had a pretty big accident,” he told Sky Sports.

“I think it’s normal that the FIA is taking it easy with the DRS because it was a huge accident and the line is still wet so, it’s a risk/reward for the FIA and it’s normal that they are taking it easy.

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“Obviously, I don’t care that much if I am not involved.”

Charles Leclerc was within a second of eventual second-placed finisher Sergio Perez after the Mexican made a mistake at Variante Alta, but he could not capitalise due to DRS not being active.

He then span later in the race while going for the fastest lap, and he does not believe the inability to use DRS to attack Perez played a factor in his sixth-placed finish, as he affirms he only had the pace for third.

“Whatever happened before the spin, these are details and it’s part of racing,” he added.

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“I believe that the spin shouldn’t have happened today, I mean P3 was the best I could do.

“We didn’t have the pace for much more and I was too greedy and I paid the price for it and lost seven potential points compared to my third place I was before so it is a shame.

“It’s seven points that are valuable at the end of the championship for sure and this shouldn’t happen again.”

Yuki Tsunoda was able to use DRS to great effect later on in the race, passing Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnussen to claim an impressive P7 at AlphaTauri’s home race.