Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Spa-Francorchamps, 2021

Vettel: F1 “got lucky” with huge Q3 crash for Norris

2021 Belgian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel says it was clear from the beginning of Q3 that it was too wet to start the session, and F1 was lucky Lando Norris’s subsequent crash wasn’t much worse.

The McLaren driver crashed heavily at the beginning of Q3 as rain fell heavily at the track. Vettel had already said on his radio that the session should be red-flagged after seeing how much water was on the track at Eau Rouge and the Kemmel Straight. Norris lost control of his car as he climbed from Eau Rouge to Raidillon.

A furious Vettel was heard criticising the decision not to stop the session on his radio. He said it was a “massive” relief when he pulled over by Norris’s crashed car and saw he was not seriously hurt.

“There was all bits and I didn’t know if he’s okay. So I didn’t think – I just stopped because I wanted to see if he gives me a thumbs-up, to see whether he’s conscious.”

Although his warning was not acted on, Vettel said he does believe race control pays attention to what drivers say about conditions during sessions.

“We are feeding it back as a team to the race control. But there’s a lot of drivers, and lot of teams so there’s a lot of radio and you cannot be listening to everybody every time,” Nonetheless he stressed, “it’s clear that they should not have gone green.”

“It’s always easy afterwards,” Vettel added, “but the main thing is that we learn from what happened. It could have been a different outcome with the crash. So we got lucky that nothing happened.”

Sergio Perez also believes the conditions at the start of Q3 were so poor the session should have been red-flagged, but said it was not an easy decision for race director Michael Masi to make.

“It was very hard, I have to say, for Michael to judge the conditions given that going into Q3, it’s raining on the main straight but it’s not raining at the back.

“When I left the garage going into Q3 for the first time it was clear that it was too wet, that it was already probably a bit too late. But I have no problems with them.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
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30 comments on “Vettel: F1 “got lucky” with huge Q3 crash for Norris”

  1. It’s a real testament to modern F1 safety that we’re hoping Norris’ car is rebuilt in time for the race, and nothing more.
    Could’ve ended much, much worse.
    Vettel obviously has a good cool head, and with his experience, he called it before it even happened.

    1. I always look at what could’ve been in a crash like this, since safety is insane now, such a shame to lose norris when he could’ve been on pole.

  2. It’s a tough spot for the race director as I don’t think all the feedback he was getting was calling for a red flag. Vettel did but Norris only said there was some aquaplaning but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need a red flag as if it’s aquaplaning because of a puddle maybe you can avoid it with a different line or something & Toto Wolff seemed to suggest on Sky that both his drivers felt conditions were just about drivable.

    We see the same sort of dilemma when we have safety cars in wet races with some drivers calling for the race to go green while others are saying it’s still too wet & visibility too poor.

    When some are saying it’s too wet, Others are saying it’s marginal & others it’s fine who’s opinion do you put more weight behind? You could say those with the most experience or most success but even then you had Vettel & Hamilton who are 2 of the most experienced & successful drivers seemingly giving different feedback so it’s not that simple.

    1. When two of the wheels at either end of the car are aquaplaning then the car will start to rotate because of the Coriolis effect (that’s the rotating of things caused by the earth rotating), just like water in bath or basin or sink starts to rotate when you pull the plug. The situation isn’t as dangerous if the two wheels on the left or right are aquaplaning, because the wheels on the other side of the car are preventing the car from spinning. Nevertheless, if the two wheels on one side of the car are aquaplaning and a third wheel were to loose traction, then the car will start to rotate.

      1. The cars will spin due to any local sideways imbalance of forces acting on the car, not the coriolis effect. Cars don’t appear to aquaplane clockwise at the northern hemisphere races and anticlockwise in the southern hemisphere ones. As amusing as that would be.

        1. No! this is my New headcanon! i refuse to believe anything else!

    2. @roger-ayles somebody has pulled the radio transmissions to the pit wall from most of the drivers in that session, and it does show that others were reporting issues in the run up to that crash. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcEUzxQHbZc

      Asides from Norris, you also had Bottas, Gasly, Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Russell all reporting that they were suffering from aquaplaning on their laps, and those complaints were coming in from different parts of the circuit. Whilst the two Mercedes drivers might have thought that the conditions were just about OK at the start of the session, Bottas did complain that the conditions were “undriveable” as he was returning to the pits after Norris’s crash.

      Equally, in addition to Vettel, Ocon was also saying that a red flag should be shown, with Ocon predicting mere moments before Norris lost control that it was only a matter of time before somebody crashed.

      When Ricciardo was told that there was a red flag, he originally thought that it was because of the conditions and said it was the right call (it was only afterwards that they told him it was because of a crash). Meanwhile, Verstappen, at around the same time, was questioning over the radio how the drivers could be expected to complete a lap in those conditions, even if not explicitly calling for a red flag.

      In this case, we had at least 7 different drivers complaining about aquaplaning and 2 explicitly calling for a red flag, with messages from two other drivers giving implicit support for a red flag, in the run up to Norris’s crash. I agree that it can be tricky and that it it’s not an easy decision, but in this case it does seem that there were several drivers warning about the conditions in the run up to that accident.

  3. I think this is a big of an F1 2021 exaggeration. Norris spun because he overcorrected. It’s a driver error caused in part by wet conditions. But it wasn’t aquaplaning. This new F1 trend of seeing standing water as the worst possible state for an F1 track is very exasperating. In the wet, drivers will make mistakes. This crash was pretty bad – it’s still Eau Rouge. But calling red flags for tracks which we happily raced on a few years ago is silly.
    Vettel is a good guy. He’s important on safety and other issues. But he’s wrong here.

    1. Why there´s always someone implying that knows F1 safety standards better than drivers in this site?

      1. @becken-lima I’m not implying that, I’m flat out stating that the safety standards in the rain have moved beyond what’s necessary

        1. I agree with that, I’m surprised about the norris crash and russell barely keeping it on the straight.

        2. I would agree, but the issue isn’t standing water or the weather, it’s Pirelli’s intermediates and wet weather fires are poor. If we had better tires, they wouldn’t be so much of an issue and they would start to ease the regulations like other series and pre-Pirelli F1. They seriously need to replace Pirelli with a more competent tire manufacturer and we’d see better racing, less farcical results and more wet weather racing. There’s a reason why there’s such a small window for racing with wet tires since if they need them, they’re close to needing to red flag the session due to how useless those tires are.

          Reply moderated
          1. Why is there always this rush to blame the tyres even for driver errors? Was there no aquaplaning and were there no driver errors and crashes in the wet during the Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear eras?

  4. We often hear about how Pirellis wet tyres are generally pretty poor, but I’m wondering if anyone knows exactly how or why? As in, compared to the Michelins or Bridgestones, are they unable to clear water as effectively, or is it temperature related?

    1. I think it’s more temperature related and warm up related. The fact that at Turkey last year, a car that overheats the tyres was needed to extract laptime in the wet qualifying goes to show that they either have a low temperature window of operation, or that they require specific procedures to properly warm them up. But Norris spun because he carried too much speed at the corner.

    2. Jonathan Parkin
      28th August 2021, 18:50

      Or even the Goodyears which raced through Eau Rouge/Radillion 44 times in the pouring rain in 1998 without incident. There were numerous crashes during the race but not in that corner

      1. Not necessarily sure if that argument is entirely in their favour if you are saying that they might have suffered from aquaplaning in other areas of the track…

  5. That’s another one for Masi. With Spa’s recent deadly accident and even the W series qualifying mayhem, caution should have been the order of the day, but once again he pushes the safety envelope over the line.

    1. Fun thing is the italian commentators saying: the first mistake for masi this season – that felt odd!

    2. I hadn’t seen the W Series crash until just now. Wow…. I’m amazed they all came out of that without any injuries!

    3. Boom! That’s what I call a take on very dangerous incidents that Masi is responsible for.

    4. Problem number 1, as soon as it is too wet for inters these cars start aquaplaning and problem number 2 a run off extension is 10 years overdue

  6. I have to admit I called vettel a coward when he said about the red flag (before norris’ accident), I remember him doing that even in brazil 2016 while vers and hamilton had no fear, but this time he proved right, also stopping next to norris was senna-like (erik comas).

    1. Davethechicken
      28th August 2021, 22:55

      Make no mistake, Seb is no coward. He simply is wise to unnecessary risk. Big difference, as you seem to have recognised.

    2. @esploratore
      I assumed he was calling for a red flag because he was in second after Q2 and knew he wasn’t likely to stay there. I still think that’s the case.

    3. Seb is no coward. He’s seen a few on track incidents in his time and is well qualifies to opine on such matters. If he is, then so was Nicki Lauda when he walked away from a certain championship. Some guys have a strong gut feeling in addition to data.

      Reply moderated
  7. It wasn’t huge. When you look at the onboard it is just a normal eau rouge crash. The problem is that the run off should be gravel and much larger.

  8. Lots of sympathy for Lando – nice to see. Thought experiment – what if it were one of the championship contenders that had crashed? What would the comments here look like?

    1. If it was max I can imagine the fall out.
      If it wad Lewis I can imagine the playing it down movement.
      But Norris had a lot of goodwill, so realistic comments. Driving on the edge sometimes results in the wrong side of the edge.

  9. True. Lando escaped with a scare and some bruising perhaps (don’t know the latest). Sad that teams can’t bring along a spare car like in the past. This car is a write off, and I heard gearbox for sure, but engine too?

    Reply moderated

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