Masi explains Verstappen position swap offer

Max Verstappen during the red flag period

FIA race director Michael Masi has explained the process involved in offering Red Bull the opportunity to reposition Max Verstappen during the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver dropped back to third behind Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton for the second restart after his team took up an offer from Masi during a red flag period.

That stoppage was for an incident which involved three cars at Turn 3 on the first lap after an earlier red flag stoppage.

However, just prior to that, Verstappen was seen to pass Hamilton by leaving the track at Turn 2.

As he rejoined, the Mercedes driver was pushed wide, allowing Ocon through into second.

“I wouldn’t call it a deal as, from a race director’s perspective, I have no authority to actually instruct the teams to do anything,” Masi explained of the radio exchange that followed.

Global television audiences had an exchange between the Australian and Red Bull’s Jonathan Wheatley played out, where the former (initially) suggested Verstappen be positioned second.

That was clarified soon after to be third, behind Hamilton, with Ocon at the head of the race for the restart.

It was Masi’s way of suggesting Verstappen effectively hand the position back to Hamilton – the complication being the Alpine which had found its way between the pair.

“In that situation, I can give them an offer, the ability to do that, but the choice is theirs,” the race director explained.

“The stewards are obviously empowered to impose penalties, but I can give them my perspective.

“That’s why I offered them the ability to give that position up.”

Masi concedes that the red flag saw that offer come somewhat later than had the race remained green, as his attentions were initially focused elsewhere.

“It was as a result of the red flag that came about with the incident at Turn 3,” he explained.

“The priority in any red flag situation is to make sure the drivers are safe, then to activate the recovery, and the marshals can do so, clean the track and so forth.

“So probably seemed a bit elongated compared to normal, however, it’s very much normal discussion that takes place.”

Masi revealed that his immediate reaction was the position needed to be handed back after Verstappen ran wide at Turn 2.

“When I saw it happen at Turn 2, I immediately suggested to the stewards that I’m going to give the team the ability to give that place back.

“The red flag obviously was issued very quickly thereafter and that was absolutely the priority before we got going again.

“Being under a suspension, it was the ability to effectively correct that before we went racing again.

“That’s very much a normal discussion that happens regularly on a number of occasions and has had all year and previously,” he concluded.

Hamilton went on to win the race, and set the fastest lap, to draw level with Verstappen on championship points entering the season-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this coming weekend.

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