The FIA plans to investigate why fans were able to access the track during the cool-down lap at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix on Sunday. fter Sebastian Vettel had crossed the line to claim his first victory in 28 Grands Prix, new owners Liberty Media and governing body the FIA must have been fairly content with how things had gone. Mercedes appeared to no longer be the sole dominant force, the combined efforts of Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso had proved that overtaking was not just possible but could also be spectacular, and the teams had all delivered with much quicker and better-looking cars.
Then came the cool-down lap following the checkered flag.
Around the end of the lap, trackside spectators flooded onto the track, with drivers still making their way to the pits for the post-race celebrations. As drivers neared the pit lane, several overly enthusiastic Ferrari fans took to the track to wave a flag as close to race winner Vettel as possible.
“Normally, spectators are only allowed on the track once the course car completes the lap behind the last driver in the field,” F1 race director Charlie Whiting told Auto Motor und Sport. “This time, for some reason, the gates were opened in turn 15 before this happened. Fortunately, no dangerous situation arose, but we will investigate what happened.”
Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, said they will also be conducting a thorough investigation, but he didn’t think fans caused the problem.
“I am concerned because we have very, very strict processes that for 21 races have worked beautifully, so something went amiss,” said Westacott. “We don’t know what yet, but we have got an investigation happening with our people, including (the Confederation of Australian Motorsport), who obviously look after the track from a race organization point of view and a race control point of view.
“All the logs and everything else is going to be investigated. We have to make sure that spectator safety, both from the track point of view and throughout the venue — and also the workers who will be loading up the freight tonight — is looked after.
“I don’t think there was any malicious intent on behalf of the public.”
Vettel appeared to be less concerned about the situation than anyone, but that’s always going to be the case when you’re the driver on the top step of the podium.
“It was quite mad, in a positive way, when I was coming back to the pits and the people were running on track going wild with Ferrari flags. It was unbelievable,” Vettel said on the podium.