There was no dearth of drama during the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday as Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo pulled off a stunning victory, while championship bigwigs like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel finished outside the podium places in the third race of the campaign.
Vettel secured pole position, his second this season, yet failed to capitalise on the track, ending the race in eighth after incidents that did not favour him as well as his team.
The German ace is of the opinion that the deployment of the safety car at the Shanghai International Circuit was carried out too late, which had significant impact, especially to the ones leading the race.
FIA race director Charlie Whiting, however, defended his stance and action of calling for a safety car neutralisation following a collision between Toro Rosso drivers Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly which left debris on the track.
The safety car was called out on lap 35, moments after both Valtteri Bottas and Vettel had passed the pit entry.
Meanwhile, the timing left both Red Bull cars of Ricciardo and Verstappen being able to pit for fresh tyres, ultimately aiding their progress in the remainder of the race.
Questioning the timing of the safety car’s entry, the 30-year-old said: “Obviously the timing of the safety car was bad for Valtteri and myself, because we had no chance to react.
“The safety car was caught almost straight away, so basically we were taken out of the race there, and didn't have the choice to jump on fresh tyres or stay out.
“I understand if something happens and you have to react straight away, then you can't always respect where cars are relative to each other," he continued.
“But we had two laps of the debris on the track, so why not call the safety car half a minute sooner and then everybody has the chance to decide whether they pit or not? In my point of view, it's not right to send it when you actively change the race.”
The claims were outright denied by Whiting as he responded by stating the decision to deploy the safety car does not have any bearing on the drivers’ positions out on the circuit.
“I don’t look to see who is going to be advantaged or disadvantaged. It’s a little bit of a mystery to me why this has all come into sharp focus, because we’ve had the VSC since 2015, we’ve had the safety car for 20 years, and we know that in every intervention there will be winners and losers.
“If we have to sit there and work out who is going to be advantaged and work it so everyone has exactly the same chance... We don’t have time for that. It’s not our job to do that,” he added.
“I think we wanted to make sure it was necessary. We didn’t want to do it just on the basis that three or four teams called us to say we need a safety car, which happens nearly every time.
“I asked the clerk of the course if they could get it in a gap in the traffic, and he said: ‘No, it’s too much.’ We had to make sure it was justified.”
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