With just three laps to go in the Australian Grand Prix, Kevin Magnussen right-reared the wall exiting Turn 2. Magnussen’s tire lay on the exit of the corner, prompting FIA Race Control to throw a safety car and then a red flag to ensure the race did not finish under the safety car.
The final two laps would not result in an exciting finish, but a confusing one that left a lot of racecars destroyed, I’m here to argue that throwing the red flag was the correct decision.
Before the red flag, Max Verstappen lead the race by almost seven and a half seconds and had led for the last 30 laps, which was 10 seconds before he locked up in the penultimate corner on lap 47. While there was a slightly intriguing battle for second place during the time, it never quite materialized on track.
Aside from a fantastic overtake by Lando Norris on the outside of Nico Hulkenberg, the race had dried from its intriguing start and was looking to settle in as another event that showed promise, only to be dominated by the Red Bull team. I mean, sorry, but a 10-second advantage for the lead just doesn’t make for very interesting racing for me.
But then the racing gods blessed us with a chance to transform into a fantastic grand prix, and Race Control took the opportunity throwing the red flag at Magnussen’s collision.
Not only was this a refreshing consistency from Race Control, seeing as gravel on the track warranted a red flag all on its own ruining any strategy earlier in the race, but it brought drama into the picture.
As a viewer, I had pretty much checked out of the race with 28 laps to go because there was no battle for the lead or battles that I much cared for. Watching Checo Perez knife through the field was fun, but to be expected at least he brought us the Norris overtake.
But as soon as the stewards threw the red flag, I knew chaos was around the corner and not only for the lead but for every position. Could the Alpine battle for a surprise podium? Or could Hulkenberg get more points?
As they lined up for the re-start my heart raced, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. My mind raced with all the fun possibilities and the chaos that was to transpire. It was the first moment I felt invested in an F1 race, instead of watching as an outsider still trying to learn the sport.
Just as the racing gods giveth, they also taketh away as the restart did not turn the race into a fascinating finish. The Alpine’s crashed each other out and multiple cars spun ruining good days for those teams.
What followed was 20 minutes of confusing racing rules where Race Control had to determine if the lap that just occurred counted or not. The answer they came up with was underwhelming and confusing, as the FIA often is, and the cars finished on track behind the safety car without any racing.
People might be quick to judge the decision, but I ask not to judge the decision to throw the second red flag off results alone. There is a scenario where Lewis Hamilton battles wheel to wheel with Verstappen with no DRS in sight for two laps and the two rivals mix it up once again. In that case, the red flag would have been applauded as bringing us the best finish to a race in who knows how long.
For that reason I believe Race Control made the correct decision and facilitated a race that I’ll remember for a long time because it brought out the best and worst of F1. Call it what you want but it was a great watch.