Former Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle has criticised the extensive delay of the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday, and indicated that some “heated arguments” took place in the stewards’ room.
Rain began to fall just before the race was set to get underway on Sunday, and there was an initial delay of 16 minutes before the Safety Car led the drivers round for two laps.
The red flag was brought out when the drivers reported that there was too much water on the track, and they eventually got going after more than an hour of waiting.
The reason for the initial delay was because race director Eduardo Freitas and his team spotted that there was torrential rain coming in, so waited until the clear patch that followed shortly thereafter.
But Brundle reiterates that pre-emptively halting a race to avoid rain is not how F1 should be.
“Holding up a race in anticipation of incoming weather is not necessary,” he wrote in his Sky Sports column.
“We have virtual and real safety cars, red flags, pit stop crews who can change tyres in two seconds, and two types of wet weather tyres to cover those challenges. That’s what Formula 1 racing is all about.”
The Briton says that he has been told of some arguments between Freitas, deputy Herbie Blash and others in the control room, and that would explain why there were no notifications during the delay, and why Bernd Maylander was not sent out to inspect the circuit in the Safety Car.
“A couple of reliable sources tell me that there were heated arguments in race control during the impasse as we all looked on unsure of what was happening,” added Brundle.
“This presumably explains the periods of inaction and lack of information, and the reason why the safety car was not out exploring track conditions as usual.”
FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem recently suggested that a “recruitment drive,” asserting that he would like to see three race directors in F1.
The FIA’s report into the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year spoke of “confusion” as to the regulations, as well as a high volume of staff “turnover” that made for inconsistent stewarding.
It was clear that simply removing Michael Masi as race director was not going to eliminate the fundamental issues at the FIA, and Brundle affirms that alterations need to be made.
“The FIA, for the well-being of F1, urgently needs a root-and-branch change,” he explained.
“[There needs to be] a fully dedicated and empowered race director with at least one understudy, a dedicated circuit and systems inspector, plus an empowered and effective communications department.
“I consider this a highest priority issue.”
The 63-year-old, who celebrates his birthday today, affirms that the FIA did not do enough to support Masi after the passing of Charlie Whiting, with the Australian juggling multiple onerous tasks at once during his time as race director.
“What happened in the championship defining circumstances in Abu Dhabi last year had been brewing up for months, perhaps even years, since the death of Charlie Whiting,” Brundle added.
“It was inevitable given that we had 39 races, including many hurriedly assembled ‘pop-up’ events taking place during the pandemic without due resource and structure at the FIA.
“And what happened to Michael Masi in the aftermath has made the job a poisoned chalice and that’ll take some fixing, if indeed that’s possible.
“He was the right man for the job, Charlie’s understudy, but frankly F1 and the FIA were winging it at times and the whole thing skidded off track with regard to dominant race control and refereeing, which is essential.”
Sergio Perez took victory last weekend in Monaco, beating Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen to victory.