The Australian Grand Prix was marred by controversy as four red flags and three standing starts disrupted the race, ultimately finishing in a procession behind the safety car. Some drivers felt that the decision to restart on lap 56 with a standing start was a key factor in a spate of crashes into Turn 1, as drivers considered riskier late overtakes. Many also expressed frustration at the delayed end to the race while the FIA stewards determined an agreeable starting order for the safety car train.
McLaren‘s Lando Norris was among those who spoke out against the red flag and standing start format, saying, “It’s tough, I feel like you can just be so unlucky. I kind of hate it… I don’t like the restarts… I don’t feel like it’s fair for a lot of people who have done a good job and get taken out and it’s race over. I doubt they’re going to change anything.” He suggested that a rolling start would be better in these situations because it would enable drivers to try harder to overtake while reducing the risk of accidents.
Norris earned McLaren their first points of the season with a sixth-place finish in Australia thanks to the running order set by the safety car. However, he suggested that the Race Control might have been more inclined to opt for red flags and standing starts to boost the spectacle. He commented, “In the end, I know it is a show but we’re not here to just put on a good show. We want to race each other and to be fair, and I don’t think it’s a fair thing for everyone… The whole point of red flagging it, it feels like was just to put on a show. I just think that side of it, it needs a small rethink. I don’t think it needs a change; it just needs a small rethink.”
The Australian Grand Prix‘s controversial ending has sparked discussions within the Formula 1 community about the role of red flags and standing starts in the sport. Some argue that they add excitement and unpredictability to the racing, while others maintain that they create unnecessary risks and undermine the fairness of the competition. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how these debates influence the decisions made by Race Control and the FIA.