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Why were Red Bull offered a 'deal' over Verstappen's restart position?

FIA Race Director Michael Masi has explained why Red Bull appeared able to negotiate Max Verstappen's grid position for the final restart in Saudi Arabia.

The FIA's Race Director, Michael Masi, has explained why Red Bull appeared to be able to negotiate over where Max Verstappen would line up for the final restart of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. With the second restart of the race red-flagged after a crash at Turn 3 that took out Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Haas' Nikita Mazepin, as well as involving Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Williams' George Russell, the remaining drivers returned to the pits to allow the track to be cleaned up. Verstappen, who had taken the lead after diving up the inside of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at Turn 2, forced Hamilton to back off and was subsequently overtaken by Alpine's Esteban Ocon. This meant that the order at the red flag was Verstappen, Ocon, and Hamilton. However, Masi could be heard negotiating with Red Bull's Sporting Director, Jonathan Wheatley, over team radio, instructing Wheatley to restart Verstappen from second place on the grid. Red Bull accepted this offer before Masi corrected himself to say that Verstappen would start from third place on the grid, behind Ocon and Hamilton, or the matter would go before the stewards and likely trigger a penalty. Red Bull would accept the third-place start for Verstappen for the final restart and, after the race, Masi explained why he appeared to offer Red Bull a deal. "I wouldn't call it a deal as, from a Race Director's perspective, I have no authority to actually instruct the teams to do anything," Masi said. "In that situation, I can give them an offer, the ability to do that. But the choice is theirs."

"It's a normal discussion"

With radio communications between the teams and the Race Director being broadcast on the world feed TV footage for the first time this year, Masi explained that such negotiations have always occurred. He detailed that it is the stewards who have the power to hand out penalties and that, in his role as Race Director, he can only offer guidance to the teams rather than forcing them to do anything. However, if the teams ignore his advice and in this case, if Red Bull had resumed the race from first place, then Masi can refer the matter to the stewards for their attention. "The stewards are obviously empowered to impose penalties, but I can give them my perspective, that's why I offered them the ability to give that position up," he explained. "It was as a result of the red flag that came about with the incident at Turn 3. The priority in any red flag situation is to make sure the drivers are safe, then to activate the recovery, and the marshals can do so - cleaning the track and so forth. "When I saw it happen at Turn 2, I immediately suggested to the stewards that I'm going to give the team the ability to give that place back. "The red flag obviously ensued very quickly thereafter, and that was absolutely the priority before we got going again. Being under a suspension, it was the ability to effectively correct that before we went racing again. "That's very much a normal discussion that happens regularly on a number of occasions, and has all year and previously."

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