The 2014 German Grand Prix isn't the first time the non-deployment of a safety car has helped a German driver at their home race.
When Adrian Sutil spun his Sauber on the last corner at Hockenheim, leaving it beached on the pit straight, sending out the safety car was the obvious call. Instead, the marshals cleared it under waved yellows, risking their lives to run onto the track, get it moving, and then wheel it away.
“There should have been a safety car,” Lewis Hamilton told Sky Sports after the race. “How on earth a car can be sitting in the middle of the road for a couple of laps and [the safety car] not come out… but I think you know why.”
The implication is clear – if the safety car had been deployed, it would have closed up the field and given Hamilton a shot at snatching victory from his Mercedes team-mate and championship rival Nico Rosberg. The thinking follows that, to ensure Rosberg picked up a home victory, the decision was made to keep Bernd Maylander in the pits.
Although the idea that race director Charlie Whiting wouldn't overrule the corner marshals and deploy the safety car if he thought it necessary doesn't stand up to much scrutiny, the theory that safety is compromised to help a home driver isn't that fanciful. 20 years ago at the 1994 German Grand Prix, this is exactly what happened.
At the 1994 race, there were three huge crashes over the course of the first few corners which took out 11 cars. You'd think that with so many beached cars, including a few on the home straight, a red flag would be appropriate to help clean up the mess. But no, instead the marshals cleared the whole shebang up under waved yellows.
Coincidentally, Michael Schumacher had escaped the carnage and was in second place.
Red flagging the race would have led to a restart, with the felled drivers – which included many of his rivals at the front of the grid – able to jump into spare cars, nullifying any advantage Schumacher had from their retirement. Like the decision to not deploy the safety car for Sutil's stranded Sauber, the decision not to stop the race for the slew of crashed cars back in 1994 massively helped the home driver.
In the end it things went much better for Rosberg than they did Schumacher, as the then-Benetton driver eventually retired with an engine failure while today's Mercedes man did achieve victory.
To use an American sporting parlance, the decision not to throw out a safety car to recover Sutil's Sauber was a massive “non-call.” Anyone with a set of eyes could see that the drivers were having to navigate a very narrow piece of real estate just to avoid the car, and adding some human bodies into that equation was madness.
Still, the officials made the non-call and didn't neutralise the race, robbing Hamilton of the chance to have the gap to Rosberg closed. Ultimately, Hamilton's tyres probably would have stopped him from going after his team-mate, but with the safety car not being called upon when it was badly needed, he didn't even get the chance.
Hamilton's assertion that the safety car wasn't deployed to aid Rosberg may not stand up to much scrutiny, but it would not be the first time that a German driver has picked up a big helping hand from their home marshals.