The stewards botched the controversial end to the 2022 Italian Grand Prix according to Jacques Villeneuve, as the race ended under a safety car to the anger of a sold-old Monza crowd.
The finish denied home darling Charles Leclerc a chance to attack Max Verstappen in the closing stages, meaning the Dutchman had an armchair ride to his 11th win of the 2022 F1 season.
“I thought the Italian Grand Prix was a terrible race,” Villeneuve wrote in his column for Formule1.nl.
“A race should never, ever end behind the safety car. There was so much else that could have been done: a red flag, sending the stragglers through earlier… There was enough time, we could have raced another two laps.”
“It made me realise that last year [Abu Dhabi GP 2021] was not so bad. Mistakes were made, but there was always the intention to race again as soon as possible. Yesterday it seemed as if this was not important, it’s unbelievable to see.”
Many fans pointed out the contrast to last season’s title decider, where the rules were overridden in order to give Verstappen a chance to attack Lewis Hamilton and take the championship on much better tyres.
At Monza it was Daniel Ricciardo who pulled up with eight laps to go, but despite the track appearing clear with a few laps to go, the race directors decided on a processional finish.
Despite the title seeming in the balance just a few rounds before the summer break, Max Verstappen can now claim the championship in Singapore if he wins and Leclerc retires.
Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 World Champion, also criticised Ferrari’s strategy decisions for Leclerc.
“I could understand Leclerc‘s first stop during the VSC, otherwise Verstappen would have gone in,” Villeneuve said.
“The second stop, when he was in the lead, I did not understand. There is always a chance of a red flag or a safety car and his tyres seemed reasonable at that moment.
“If you stop then, you know you are going to be second. Ferrari didn’t have the speed to catch up, Red Bull has been better with the tyres all year.
“So why don’t you keep driving? You might end up second, but at least you tried.”
De Vries catches the eye
Nyck De Vries had a mightily impressive debut, standing in for Alex Albon for Williams after the Thai driver contracted appendicitis.
The Dutchman finish ninth, meaning he jumps above Nicholas Latifi in the championship after just one race.
Latifi‘s contract is up this season and De Vries is thought to be one of the frontrunners to take his seat.
“I found Nyck de Vries positive, impressive even,” Villeneuve added. “He was thrown in at the deep end, and had to perform under a lot of pressure.
“And that is the best way to judge a driver: it is not only the performance that counts, how he dealt with these circumstances says a lot. He handled that extremely well.
“It also confirms what we have known all year about Nicholas Latifi: he was blown away.
“If I were the Williams team principal, I would give Nyck the chance. He deserves it. Or maybe at Alpine? He is fast and good in difficult situations, why not?”