The Safety Car period at the end of the Italian Grand Prix brought back memories of last year’s season-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton saw his shot at an eighth world title disappear on the final lap of the final race of last year when race director Michael Masi ignored parts of F1’s rule book to ensure the race did not end behind a safety car.
The controversial handling of the situation, which led to Max Verstappen overtaking Hamilton on the final lap to secure his first world title, remains a point of contention for many fans and resulted in Masi being replaced at the start of this season.
A safety car was deployed with five laps remaining at Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix when Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren stopped at the side of the track, but on this occasion there was not enough time for the race to restart and so it finished behind the safety car. Had the same process been followed in Abu Dhabi last year, Hamilton would be an eight-time world champion.
“It always brings memories back,” Hamilton, who finished fifth at Monza, told Sky Sports after the Italian Grand Prix. “That is the rule that it should be, right? So only one time, in the history of the sport that they haven’t done the rule.”
The handling of the Safety Car at Monza drew criticism from Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, who claimed the race could have been restarted safely had race control been better organised.
However, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he agreed with how the end of the race played out in Italy.
“It’s very clear,” Wolff said. “There are rules and they are written down, and from my perspective, whether I’m Abu Dhabi traumatized or not, these rules have been followed to the dot today.
“There was a car out on track, there was marshals, and a crane out there. That’s why they didn’t let anybody overtake. And then it was not enough time to restart the race once all cars crashed out.
“So if one is not happy with the regulations, and you want to have a big-bang show and two laps of racing and mayhem, I think I’m absolutely up for it. But then we need to change the regulations.
“So I don’t think we should complain about anything that happened because this is the rules.”