Sebastian Vettel says he has “zero tolerance” for the mistake the FIA made in starting Formula 1 qualifying in Turkey with a crane still on the track. The recovery vehicle had been sent out to retrieve the stricken Williams of Nicholas Latifi, who had spun off at the high-speed Turn 8 in the first section of qualifying in Turkey.
But the Q2 session began with the crane still in front of the barriers and it only being protected by local double waved yellow flags in the slippery conditions. F1 race director Michael Masi explained afterwards that the situation had been prompted because the clerk of the course had assured him that the crane would be clear by the times the cars got there.
However, a delay in getting the crane behind the barriers meant that did not happen.
Vettel, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, remains unimpressed by the explanation and thinks that there is no room in F1 for such errors.
“I think we are all humans, and mistakes happen,” said Vettel. “But this mistake has a zero tolerance. I think we’re all well aware and I’m very confident that it will not happen in the future again. But we will for sure talk about this and disclose the reasons why.”
Despite Vettel’s stance, Masi said he remained “fully comfortable” with the decision he took based on the information he was being given by track officials.
“It was quite close to the barrier opening, and the crane was on its way,” said Masi. “We were given assurances that it would be well and truly clear. And looking at everything, I was more than comfortable with the local assurances on that basis.
“With the benefit of hindsight, you would do something different. But based on it all, and the available information at the time, that was the call that we made.
Masi said that the FIA would review what happened, though, so similar mistakes were not made again in the future.
“From an FIA perspective, we review every incident that takes place,” he explained. “Be it minor, major, in between or otherwise, at any point in time during a session, outside of a session, and continually learn from everything that takes place.
“So from that handbook, we will continue to learn. It’s no different to a team learning about different elements over a weekend and in between.
“We are absolutely no different. And from our end, as I’ve said many times, safety is our number one priority and you learn from everything, every time a car rolls out of pit lane, every time you look at something different.”
Charles Leclerc backed up Vettel’s thoughts that the drivers would want to discuss the matter with Masi in the next meeting they have in Bahrain.
“For the crane, obviously, I think we have all been a bit shocked to see that,” he said. “And we’ll probably speak together at the next briefing to avoid these types of situations.
“There is no need to say what happened in the past with these sorts of situations. So yeah, I think it shouldn’t happen, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
F1 has been especially mindful about the presence of cranes on the circuit since Jules Bianchi died from injuries he sustained in a collision with such a recovery vehicle during the wet Japanese Grand Prix in 2014.