The result of Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix remains unchanged following an unsuccessful protest from Haas.
Haas challenged the way the starting order was decided for the final, non-racing restart of the Melbourne race, which ended under a safety car.
After a late standing restart with two laps remaining descended into chaos, the race was quickly red flagged again with not enough laps remaining to feature more racing, so this order determined the race classification.
The FIA based the order for the non-racing restart on the starting grid for the previous standing restart, minus the cars that had been wiped out in the various accidents.
This was on the basis that the starting order was the most legitimate reference to use.
Initially, this appeared at odds with a decision at last year’s British Grand Prix, which determined the Safety Car 2 line should be used if all cars have passed it.
In Melbourne, the SC2 line is just before Turn 1. All drivers passed it and therefore Haas argued it should have been used as the order, having acknowledged the GPS data was unreliable.
Haas did so because its driver Nico Hulkenberg eked fractionally ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris by the SC2 line, which meant he should have taken the final restart one position higher and been classified higher too.
Other drivers would also have gained in this scenario – Sergio Perez appeared to pass Lance Stroll before the SC2 line for example, while Yuki Tsunoda got ahead of both Oscar Piastri and Zhou Guanyu.
While the SC2 line is the first opportunity to determine such an order, the race director may at their discretion decide to revert to the previous starting order if deemed necessary.
The specific sporting regulation says “in all cases the order will be taken at the last point at which it was possible to determine the position of all cars”.
In this case, it was felt that the SC2 line was not a reliable reference because it is located before a braking zone, and therefore cars can move ahead of others by carrying in too much speed and then going off – Perez did just this, skating through the gravel.
In their report, the stewards said, having summoned race director Niels Wittich, that he had determined for the continuation of the race “the most reliable point was the last grid, given the data available to him at the time”.
The stewards have therefore supported the original decision from race control.
And even if the stewards felt the SC2 line should have been used, it is considered highly unlikely they would have overturned a final classification based on a hypothetical scenario, which is what an alternative starting order would be.