Formula 1 must launch urgent discussions to prevent a repeat of the scenario in which the Belgian Grand Prix was declared a race after just three laps behind the safety car in the pouring rain.
There were some scathing attacks after Sunday’s events, including from Lewis Hamilton, who described it as a farce, motivated by financial considerations, and demanded that fans be reimbursed. F1 has since insisted that financial opportunity was not behind the decision. Nonetheless, other sports figures have said F1 must consider alternative options when races are threatened by bad weather.
The race at Spa-Francorchamps was initially delayed by more than three hours because heavy rain made standing water and visibility too dangerous for the race. Then, although conditions did not improve, the governing body, the FIA, said the race could begin. The cars duly exited the pit lane and completed three laps behind the safety car.
They completed the two mandatory laps for the event to count as a race and for half points to be awarded. The order of arrival remained exactly as decided during qualifying. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was in first place, ahead of Williams’ George Russell and Hamilton’s Mercedes in third.
McLaren chief executive Zak Brown was of the opinion that F1 must act to prevent a repeat of events that had tarnished the image of the sport. “The rules say that after a few laps it can be called a race and it has to be reviewed,” he said. “I don’t think there is anyone who would argue that the weather was safe for running, but we need a better solution as a sport. When this type of situation occurs, the result should not be a race after three laps behind a safety car.
“This needs to be reviewed by all of us to learn from Sunday’s lessons and realize if we are faced with this type of situation, what we would do differently to make sure everyone is participating in their race, whether it is the next day or ‘she comes back. It’s complicated with the schedule, but I don’t think anyone would say it was good, calling it a race.
FIA race director Michael Masi said the governing body followed its safety rules and laps behind the safety car had to see what the conditions were, adding that they hoped there were would have a weather window.
However, Masi believes F1, FIA and the teams will meet shortly to discuss alternative options in the future. “After this weekend and at our next meeting for next year, we’ll be looking at a lot of things, to see what everyone wants,” he said. “We’re at one of those points where the FIA is working with the 10 teams and F1 to develop the regulations. So we’re going to go through all the different scenarios and see what everyone thinks about them. “
He also said that although other racing organizations such as Indycar and Nascar postponed and then held races on a Monday, F1 could not do so at Spa for various reasons. The rescheduling for Monday would require the agreement of F1, all teams, the FIA and the race promoter.
From a logistical point of view, this would have been extraordinarily complex; in particular from the point of view of safety by ensuring that all the marshals, who are volunteers, can return during a normal working day. There is also the matter of transport, flights and equipment and crew, all booked into a tight schedule to bring the teams to the next round, this weekend in Zaandvoort in the Netherlands. It would also be expensive to rearrange.
F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali, meanwhile, dismissed Hamilton’s claim that despite the minimum number of laps required to classify it as a race in progress, this was done to meet obligations to broadcasters. , sponsors and ticket holders who would otherwise be entitled to financial compensation.
“When I hear that there have been trade talks behind this, it is absolutely not true,” he said. “When we talk about racing, there is a responsibility, it’s a clear process. “
He insisted that F1 would have received its race fees without the required laps occurring and supported the FIA’s decision to stop and then restart the race, albeit briefly.
On Sunday, the race promoters had no plan or precedent for a scenario in which a race did not actually take place. It is understood that they may have now entered discussions with F1 to examine how to potentially reward fans.