Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc will ask the FIA why a safety car was not deployed sooner following Max Verstappen’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix crash, having branded the decision “a joke” in-race.
Verstappen hit the wall heavily at high speed following a tyre failure late in the Baku race but racing continued for almost a full lap afterwards.
“That’s a joke, that’s a joke,” Leclerc responded over the radio when told after passing Verstappen’s crashed car that they were still racing.
“Put the fucking safety car out straight away, why are they waiting?”
It took just under 20 seconds for double-waved yellows to be issued and almost a minute and a half for the safety car to be deployed, just as new race leader Sergio Perez was approaching the start-finish straight again.
Leclerc said he was “surprised” the safety car had not been called sooner and wanted to raise his “concern” immediately.
“For me it was clear that I would stop pushing with a crash like this, it’s in the middle of the straight so it was quite dangerous,” he said.
“It just took longer than what I expected. That’s it. But I think all the drivers have been surprised the same way.”
He added: “The safety car thing I will definitely bring up [at the drivers’ briefing in France] just to understand why took a bit longer than normally. That will be a point I raise.”
Leclerc also told his team over the radio, just before the race was red-flagged, that he would “push to not restart” because of the risk of restarting on cold hard tyres.
His desire to have the safety car delay explained was shared by his team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr.
“Normally whenever there’s such a big accident first there’s a double yellow and then straight away there’s a safety car,” said Sainz.
“And [I want to know] why today it took more than 30 seconds, one minute for a safety car to be deployed and we had to go through a very heavy accident in only yellow flag conditions.”
Both Ferrari drivers also felt that swifter action with a safety car – either real or virtual – would have eliminated any concern over some drivers not slowing down enough.
FIA race director Michael Masi was broadcast during the race telling the McLaren team that every single driver had not observed the correct etiquette through double-waved yellows.
Leclerc and Sainz claim they almost got overtaken because of how much they backed off.
“We must have been the ones to slow down the most,” said Sainz.
“A virtual safety car or safety car would have helped more.”
Leclerc added: “Everyone could see the crash, everyone knew that the car was on the right of the barrier, but I believe that everyone should significantly slow down in those conditions.
“I’m pretty sure that it will be raised anyway. As Carlos mentioned the virtual safety car or a safety car would have just made the things a lot simpler.
“But we’ll talk about that with everyone.”