Nico Hülkenberg in Melbourne achieved the best result for Haas in the 2023 Formula 1 season with seventh place. If the race stewards had interpreted a rule a little differently, the German could even have been on the podium in Albert Park.
When the race in Australia was stopped for the third time with the third flag, Hülkenberg was fourth. The time penalty for Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz would have put him in third place and thus on the podium.
But the race stewards then put the order back to the original order from the restart, and the last lap finally ended behind the safety car, so that Hülkenberg could not improve any further.
Is GPS accurate enough or not?
“They wanted to take the order of a timing line,” explains Günther Steiner on ‘Sky’. However, the Haas team boss emphasizes: “With the technology that we have today, GPS is accurate enough. We use GPS for the blue flag, for example.”
Haas protested the result after the race, but the race stewards rejected the protest on the grounds, among other things, that the GPS had deliberately not been used to determine the order because it was too imprecise.
A reason for which Steiner has little understanding. “They say (the GPS) isn’t accurate enough for a final position, but it’s accurate enough for a blue flag. We have to decide what it is and what it isn’t,” demands the team boss.
“I really think we have to think a lot. We could have frozen everything, with the camera and with GPS, exactly at the moment when the red flag came up,” said Steiner, who is sure that another way could have been found to determine the order.
According to Steiner, the red flag was not even necessary
The Haas team boss emphasizes that the topic will certainly come up at the next meeting of the Formula 1 Commission. He also explains that in such cases you also have to think of the fans. They were also the victims in Melbourne.
The biggest problem after the third red flag was “making people wait half an hour for a race result, knowing that it won’t change anymore. We only had to drive one and a half laps,” remembers Steiner.
“The third red flag was completely unnecessary and only delayed the end of the race by half an hour,” he shrugs. The same applies here: If the race had not been interrupted but instead ended behind the safety car, Hülkenberg would also have finished third.
Steiner therefore calls for “discussions” to improve the situation in the future. McLaren team boss Andrea Stella sees it differently, emphasizing: “Everything made sense for us.” The race stewards made the decision as expected.
Should one have waited with the red flag?
He supports the view that in the event of a race being abandoned one should take the order at a timing point and recalls that the red flag was shown before all cars had completed the first sector.
“So there was no other position that they could have chosen, so it made sense to us,” says Stella. But couldn’t you have just waited a few more seconds with the red flag until all the cars had crossed the line?
“When you stop the race with a red flag, you don’t think about whether you can determine the order, you stop the race because there is an immediate danger,” said the McLaren team boss.
“We think the red flag should come as soon as possible,” he insists, explaining that determining the order should only be a “low priority” because “safety always comes first.”