Was Bottas to blame for the huge crash which took out four cars on lap seven? We look at all sides of the argument
Huge crash at Tuscan Grand Prix – Was Bottas to blame?
Welcome to Mugello F1 fans! The first and possibly only F1 race at this historic circuit produced one of the most chaotic races in history which saw Hamilton claim his 90th career victory. Now just one behind the great Michael Schumacher. The race also saw Thai driver Alex Albon claim his first podium in F1.
Huge crash at Mugello – what happened?
The most memorable moment of the action-packed race was the massive shunt following the safety car restart on lap seven. This is one of the scariest pile-up crashes in recent F1 history and it’s a testament to the safety of the sport that all drivers escaped unharmed.
The safety car had been out from the first lap after another huge crash in turn two took out Verstappen and Gasly. Bottas was leading the race having got past Pole-sitter Hamilton off the line. Not wanting to allow Hamilton to take advantage of the slipstream for the entire 1.1 km straight, Bottas waited till the final moment to accelerate. In doing so he bunched up the pack.
However, in attempting to dummy Hamilton repeatedly he gave the drivers further back the impression he was restarting the race. This caused some of the pack to jump the gun whilst others ahead were breaking again to not overtake illegally.
This is nothing new in F1, the leader is in control of when to start racing again once the safety car pulls in. Therefore, once the leader has started to accelerate and pull away that’s the sign to other drivers that racing has re-commenced. However, over the years leaders have attempted to gain the upper hand at the restart by faking/dummying. That is to accelerate then break again to throw off the driver behind and catch him off guard.
It was Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi at his home race who was the first to accelerate believing they were racing again. This caused the huge crash as Sainz, behind Giovinazzi, instinctively accelerated only for both drivers to shunt into the back of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas. All three drivers, along with Latifi, were forced to retire after the incident which also involved Grosjean and Vettel.
Many drivers involved in the huge crash were quick to blame Bottas. Grosjean immediately jumped on the radio saying it was “stupid from whoever was at the front, they want to kill us or what”. He also claims Bottas “should be banned”. Latifi is also heard on team radio saying “what is the leader doing”. Many drivers felt at the time that Bottas was stopping and starting too much giving the false impression of racing.
Bottas was, however, well within his rights to slow the pack down for as long as he did. Legally the race must be restarted once the leader crosses the start/finish line. Once this happens the lights will go green no matter what.
Bottas backed up by previous incidents
A prime example of this rule coming into play was at the 1999 Australian Grand Prix. Race leader Mika Hakkinen was seemingly slowing up the pack right to the line. As Hakkinen crossed the line, second placed Eddie Irvine in his Ferrari darted past with those behind doing the same. Hakkinen hadn’t accelerated due to a mechanical problem which meant he was stuck in gear. The wily Irishman Irvine was smart enough to hover alongside but slightly behind Hakkinen until they crossed the line.
This supports Bottas’ actions of going right up to the line. He knew the rule and went right up to, but remained within the limit to give himself the best advantage. However, was he stop-starting excessively? There is no rule against dummying and it’s understandable that Bottas would want to try any trick in the book. He was trying to escape from arguably the greatest racing driver ever, who himself is a master of safety car restarts. Nevertheless, even the great man himself has caused some controversy whilst leading behind the safety car.
It was only three years ago in Baku at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix that Hamilton was himself criticised. Whilst trying to back up the pack, Hamilton accelerated round a blind corner and then suddenly braked on the exit. This caused title rival Vettel to rear end Hamilton causing damage to his front wing. Vettel reacted angrily by driving alongside Hamilton and turning into him to show his disgust. Vettel claimed Hamilton “break-tested” him. This shows even the best racers use this risky tactic to gain an advantage whilst also testing their brakes.
Even the great Michael Schumacher, who was no stranger to using underhand tactics, was not immune. He was involved in a similar incident with Juan-Pablo Montoya at the 2004 Monaco GP. Michael locked up his brakes going through the tunnel as he attempted to catch out Montoya. However, the Colombian had already accelerated thinking Schumacher had gone for it. He tried to avoid the Ferrari but the German closed the gap on Montoya causing a huge crash.
Who/What was to blame?
I believe Bottas did what any other racing driver would’ve done in his position. With the immense pressure of keeping Hamilton behind he looked for any advantage available. Nevertheless, he did start off the stop/start motion which led to the huge crash. Undoubtedly there was no intention or malice behind the Fins’ actions. He remained within the rules and did what many great racing drivers had done before him.
The drivers behind must also take some responsibility. Russell and Giovinazzi, in particular, both tried to create a gap in front of them to get the jump over the car ahead. But both men went too early, with Russell managing to brake again in time to avoid a collision. Giovinazzi was not so lucky as he didn’t see Magnussen’s car until it was too late.
The nature of the Mugello circuit was a big factor in the crash. The long straight was the reason Bottas left it so late, as normally leaders would accelerate before the final corner. Furthermore, Bottas, nor any other driver on the grid, had any previous experience of safety car restarts on this track. The dangers of this type of situation were unknown.
How to stop it happening again
To prevent this happening again F1 may have to revise the rules on ‘faking’ safety car restarts. Perhaps dummying should be completely banned and the grid obliged to maintain a consistent pace to increase safety. There are others that may argue that these tactical mind-games are part of the sport and provide greater entertainment. This huge crash at Mugello will force the FIA to review the balance between safety and entertainment. A balance which has consumed F1 throughout its 70-year history.
We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Huge crash at Tuscan Grand Prix – Was Bottas to blame?’ Who do you think was to blame for the incident? Let us know!
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