‘It was pretty scary’ – Drivers involved give their thoughts on the huge restart crash in Mugello
The safety of modern Formula 1 cars was underlined once more on Sunday afternoon, as numerous drivers walked away from big accidents at Mugello. None though was bigger than the massive crash that occurred on the start-finish straight as racing resumed on lap 7 following an early safety car period.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen were all eliminated on the spot as the rear of the field got up to racing speed before race leader Valtteri Bottas - controlling the pace after the Safety Car pulled off – had put his foot on the gas.
“It looks like someone in the midfield thought that the race had started or a couple of people thought that the race had started,” said Sainz, who had been running at the rear of the field after being tapped into a spin on Lap 1.
“I was stuck behind an Alfa [Giovinazzi] and we were both getting the slipstreams and racing really, already. As soon as everything opened in front, suddenly I found three or four cars completely crossed in the middle of the straight and I just took a couple of them with me.
“Very dangerous situation, it reminded me of very nasty things from the past, so I don’t want to say nothing but something that definitely needs to be analysed and find out what happened.
“I’m OK, and I think it looks like everyone is OK so that’s the main thing because the crash was pretty scary.”
Sainz ploughed into the back of Giovinazzi, who in turn hit Magnussen, the resulting impact lifting the Italian’s car into the air and then into Latifi’s Williams.
“I was already flat out,” said Giovinazzi, “the group behind was pushing already. Magnussen completely stopped in front of me. I tried to avoid but he was just there and I was already flat out. So a really dangerous manoeuvre.”
Magnussen said he had no choice but to slam on the brakes after those in front of him accelerated and then suddenly slowed.
“I think my feeling is that somebody maybe backed off to then try and go and gain like a momentum," he explained. "I don’t know for sure but certainly the guys in front of me, a couple of cars ahead, they went and we were full throttle for at least a couple of seconds. Then they stopped right before the line and then I had to stop, the guy behind me had to stop, and eventually somebody couldn’t react and there was a massive crash. It has to be looked at for sure and improved for the future, so we don’t have that again.”
Latifi said that the crash was somewhat inevitable, given the characteristics of the circuit.
“With this track and the finish line being so late it was quite clear that I think the leader was always going to try and go as late as possible, just to avoid the slipstream effect, “ he explained. “When you’re in the midfield or the back of the pack the concertina effect is always going make it a bit more difficult to judge.
“Already on the straight going into the last corner it seemed like, at least the cars around me, were pushing on the restart, so I went, obviously, but I almost hit the rear of Kevin on the apex of the last corner.
“A really close miss there, bunched up again, and then it seemed like everybody was going again so when you’re that far back you’re just reacting to the cars around.”
One man caught behind the crash who managed to avoid being caught up was GPDA chairman Romain Grosjean.
“It’s one of the first times in my career that I got that feeling that it’s very, very dangerous at that time, because we’re going at super high speed," said the Haas driver. "I really don’t know what happened. I guess we will talk about it and see if we can avoid that type of restart. But it was uncomfortable.”
One man not taking any responsibility for the accident was Valtteri Bottas, who said he was within his rights to keep the pace slow until the timing line, with race winner Lewis Hamilton and third-placed Alex Albon backing the Finn’s position.
The stewards, who summoned the drivers involved as they investigated the incident, agreed with Bottas' assessment, noting that "Car 77 [Bottas] had the right under the regulations to dictate the pace" and thus was not at fault.
The other drivers were issued with a warning after the race, but no further punishment out as the stewards said "no one driver was wholly or predominantly to blame".
Despite that ruling, the discussions on this incident may still run and run – not least at the next drivers’ briefing…