Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2021

Earlier race starts may avoid repeat of Spa washout – Ricciardo

2021 Belgian Grand Prix

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Daniel Ricciardo says Formula 1 should consider starting races earlier to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s Belgian Grand Prix washout.

No racing laps were completed at Spa-Francorchamps due to the persistent rain which fell throughout the day.

Sunday’s grand prix was one of only three races which took place during the day, yet did not begin until 3pm local time. The other two events were a 40-minute Formula 3 race which began at 10:40 and a Porsche Supercup race which began at 12:05 and lasted half an hour.

While Ricciardo backed the organisers’ decision not to race in the very wet conditions, he suggested an earlier start would have given them a larger window of opportunity to hold the race.

“If we could predict weather like this, I would look at bringing a race start earlier,” said Ricciardo. “It’s like Japan 2014, we knew that the monsoon was coming, but today was maybe less obvious.

“But the problem with a three o’clock race start is you only give yourself three or four hours of light and then it’s done. If we have an 11am race start, you’ve got a much bigger window to get some opportunity.

“That’s not a criticism, it’s just maybe after the fact today, if I could have wished for something that’s what I would have wished for.”

Ricciardo stressed he did not believe anyone was to blame for the race’s failure to go ahead.

“I don’t want it to come across as an attack because it’s no one’s fault what happened today.

“For sure, I feel for the fans – they save up money to come and watch us and they didn’t get to see a race. But it’s not an attack to anyone because this is just mother nature.”

However Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said an earlier race start would not necessarily have guaranteed the race would have started.

“In these conditions it is like to throw the balls in the air,” he said. “It could have been pouring from 11 or whatever it is. So it’s really something that you cannot predict.”

The volume of rain which well was greater than forecast, according to Domenicali. “From the information that we had it was considered to be normal rain.”

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2021 Belgian Grand Prix

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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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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29 comments on “Earlier race starts may avoid repeat of Spa washout – Ricciardo”

  1. You mean like they did for most of the about 70 years where this never happened?

    1. There were at least 3 races with conditions this bad or worse and Bernie said” if you don’t want to race, stay in the pits”. Granted at least 1 was stopped after 17 or 18 laps.

      1. I seem to recall a race in Malaysia -prior to Suzuka 2014-, which prompted a call for an earlier race start, as torrential rains in that part of the world were more likely in the afternoons. That debate revived after the terrible weekend of Typhoon Phanfone.

  2. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    30th August 2021, 17:26

    Absolutely senseless decision to make it later. Senseless though seems to be the keyword for liberty.

  3. It does seem like some sort of contingency must be introduced given this sort of rain fall is getting more common with climate change. Obviously Spa has always had capricious weather and any race can be affected, but this seemed like a new level. It’s been a very wet summer in northern Europe.

    1. @frood19 Not necessarily more common, or at least not everywhere. BTW, Belgium isn’t in Northern Europe.
      Additionally, not where I live, which is in Northern Europe.

      1. Interesting perspective. I live slightly south of Belgium and it’s considered N. Europe.

        1. The Benelux countries are in the West of Europe while the scandinavian countries are north Europe.
          France Germany line is the middle and the line Portugal, Spain and Italy is south Europe.

          So you learned something.

          1. Some of these are just down to politics though. How much of “Eastern Europe” is in the actual geographic East of the European continent?

          2. That is why many countries that are considered “Eastern Europe” in North-West Europe consider themselves “middle europe” @macaque!

            It is pretty much all a bit of your perspective @macleod. I would consider the Benelux countries, Germany, and more or less everything to the north of France “northern” @jerejj. If you want we can specify Germany and the Benelux to be North-West (from the Netherlands myself, currently living in middle europe). That is why we often call more northern part of the north of Europe Scandinavia, although some people include the Baltics in that as well. I think Poland also considers itself to be part of middle Europe, but also probably Northern Europe, depending on the context.
            There are many ways to describe, but it all is only relevant in comparison to other parts.

          3. @bascb But what are you calling Denmark Norway Sweden and Finland then?
            What i said was not my perspective but the normal way countries were seen in offical notes….

            I have learned a long time ago that Germany and France were the middle of Europe due to their size AND central in Europe and from there is every ohter country defined. Don’t ask me for links because that was in 1958-59 orso.

          4. As I mentioned in my comment @macleod, I would call them Scandinavia @macleod. They are off course also part of northern Europe (and possibly also North-Western Europe), but Northern Europe is larger than just Scandinavia.

            The views on what we consider Western Europe, Eastern Europe etc are indeed based in the 1950s. But I do know that most Czech People would dislike you calling them Eastern Europeans and would point out they are rather central European. Much like Austria (which was deemed part of “western Europe” in the 1950s), which lies more to the east than Germany.

            Germany might consider itself central to Europe. And central to the EU. But I think it is mostly considered part of Northern Europe as well as part of Western Europe.

    2. @frood19 Even if indeed there have been serious floods in Belgium in the previous weeks, most probably linked to climate change, I can very much say that Sunday’s weather had nothing special for the place, being myself there quite often.
      There was even an F3 race earlier in the day, and a few years ago we had that very same weather on saturday and cars barely went out, then on sunday is was dry and the weather went unnoticed.

      1. @spoutnik ah interesting, it’s always good to hear the local perspective. I went to the GP many years ago and the rain was biblical but fortunately it stopped before the race began. Still, I think my point stands that heavy sumer rain is becoming more common in Europe so some contingency for events like this is needed. It’s ridiculous they don’t already have some extreme weather protocols.

  4. In this case, yes, but not if the same weather occurred earlier in the day. A case-by-case variation.

    1. You can always reschedule the race until later but going back in time is still proving difficult

      1. The solution is to race on the moon. The weather is a constant.

  5. Jonathan Parkin
    30th August 2021, 18:25

    I’m also of the opinion they should have started earlier. If you have to crunch the schedule down a bit then do it. If it’s a problem for broadcasters they can time delay it if they need to. It won’t be live but at least it will happen

  6. Keith Crossley
    30th August 2021, 18:36

    European races used to start at 7 or 8 AM here in the US, not 9:00 which we’ve seen lately. Understood Liberty want to grow the US audience, but stuff like Sunday won’t help at all.

    1. Liberty will have to weigh up what will damage the growth the least, sunrise races or the odd farce

  7. won’t it still be bound to stay inside 4 hours from the start anyway? so where’s the “much bigger window to get some opportunity” coming from?

    1. They’ll probably scrap the reg, or just pretend it doesn’t exist like this time.

    2. I think he means that if it’s forecast to be terrible weather, to bring the start time earlier and allow a much larger window for the race to happen.

      Of course, this is terrible for the TV stations—but I know I personally would’ve much preferred an early start and a 6-7 hour window which resulted in some sort of race.

      Taking it further, for fan engagement, the F1 app should send notifications when the 10 minute warning is announced so we can get on with our day and come back without having to sit through hours of commentators just trying to fill the time.

    3. Air pressure and thus chance of rain are typically at their lowest later in the afternoon.

  8. I Posted this on another article but I think it makes more sense here.

    NASCAR has a rule like this. If 24 hours before the race, conditions for the race don’t look favourable because of rain, they are allowed to move the start up by up to one hour. They can’t go anymore than that because of the TV contracts. The day of the race they can move up the start time a maximum of 15 minutes if it looks like it might help.

  9. I wonder if starting earlier – in the year – would help. Before 1988 Belgian GPs used to be in May, including 1985 when the track surface broke up in the heat and they all came back a few months later. But it seems to chuck it down all year round in that part of the world anyway…

  10. Perhaps they could look at the overall schedule and avoid back to back races in regions with rainy seasons. If there hadn’t been a race scheduled for the following week couldn’t they have run the race on Monday?

  11. “Sure, you could have a theoretical window of a whole month to run a race in, but what if it rains the entire month without a break? See, I don’t get probabilities.”
    — Stefano Domenicali, Formula 1 CEO

    I mean, I get that he wants the 3pm race start because Umer’ca. But at least he could say it and not present is with such a flawed argument.

Comments are closed.