WTF happened there?

That was exactly what I said as I watched Nico Rosberg narrowly miss a sprinting marshal at the restart of the Singapore Grand Prix, after an early safety car period instigated by Nico Hulkenberg’s start line crash and subsequent clean-up.

WTF happened there? This question still rings in my mind as images of that horrible accident on 5 March 1977 during the South African Grand Prix, where marshal Jansen van Vuuren was struck by Tom Pryce’s Shadow as he ran across the track to deal with a stricken car. Both Pryce and Van Vuuren died that day. I was there…

Some will say that this piece is over dramatic and I am over-reacting, but what if the marshal was carrying a chunk of wing or debris and he was slowed a few seconds? Or he tripped? Or he was simply a slower runner? A couple of unthinkable scenarios emerge:

  1. Rosberg would have struck the marshal and turned him into mincemeat;
  2. Rosberg would have avoided him by swerving or slamming brakes with unimaginable results.

My gripe is that someone pulled the trigger on the night to release the field and nearly killed someone. Someone in a very important role, a very senior person in F1 gave the go ahead to race when it was clearly not safe to do so.

This person must go. They must be fired with immediate effect. This was a zero tolerance error which merits the exit door and a ban on being involved in race officiating for a long period of time.

FIA will investigate they have said. Sure, like they investigated Jules Bianchi’s death. FIA buddies investigating FIA buddies? Who is policing the police? How will the truth come out and how will the guilty party be found, let alone fired?

Pessimist that I am, I expect a FIA cover-up or smokescreen of sorts because the error of judgement was made at the highest level, by people who have been in their positions for far too long. Complacency has been common this year in the cucumber sandwich scoffing rooms of F1 race direction.

It would be no surprise to me if they themselves do not end up investigating and exonerating themselves or worse pointing their fingers to someone else.

I have a sneaky suspicion that the marshal will be the fall guy because, that night at Marina Bay, he was among the lowest on the officiating food chain. Maybe they say he was drunk maybe? He disobeyed orders? He was showboating?

Whatever the case, the race should not have been restarted while he was still on the track. Whoever gave the order is the chief culprit. Watch this space for the ‘official’ verdict and action!

Shame on the FIA and Jean Todt if he again allows his people to fudge this very important investigation and protect the culprits.

A new wind of optimism is blowing through the F1 paddock with the advent of the Liberty Media deal. Some dinosaurs are set to be made extinct at last, maybe Todt will see this as an opportunity to blow the winds of change through the ancient race direction structures too. If not then he too is a dinosaur who should be made extinct.

In closing I must say I am quite dismayed (but not surprised) that media and even F1 teams have given this incident so little air time – more ‘column inches’ were generated by a giant lizard crossing paths with Max Verstappen at Marina Bay! The apathy is baffling.

We were lucky this time that blood was not spilled on the race track. What about the next time? I hate to say this, but there will be a next time if things remain the same.

From my side I hope I am not alone in asking again: WTF happened there?

Inside Line by Paul Velasco