Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2021

Little for F1 to learn from “freak day” at Spa – Wolff

2021 Belgian Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff sees few lessons for the sport from Sunday’s controversial Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.

With heavy rain falling at the track for much of the day, Formula 1 completed just four laps behind the Safety Car. It declared a result, and awarded half championship points, on the basis of just one complete lap.

The decision prompted criticism from many drivers, including Mercedes racer Lewis Hamilton, who called the race a “farce” and said spectators should be given refunds.

Wolff believes the circumstances of the race were so extraordinary there may be little Formula 1 can learn from it to improve the handling of future events.

“I think this has never happened before, so you need to take it as a freak day where we would have all hoped to have a spectacular race [but] that didn’t happen.

“[Are] there any learnings? I’m not sure because we are dependent on the weather. Everybody tried hard to get a race underway and because of the rain it didn’t happen.”

As no green flags laps were completed, Hamilton had no opportunity to prevent Max Verstappen cutting his championship lead from eight points to three. Wolff did not take issue with the widely criticised decision to award points for a single lap behind the Safety Car.

“I think we have all reasons to be upset,” he said. “Half points have been awarded when probably when it was expected that the weather wouldn’t get any better. But it is what it is. I guess you need to take this one on the chin and close the chapter for this race and move on in a certain way.”

Wolff added F1 “must really applaud the fans that have been there for three days in the 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...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “Little for F1 to learn from “freak day” at Spa – Wolff”

  1. Sensible words from Toto there – it is really very unfortunate for everyone who wasted their time on this race, especially those who attended Spa but other than reimburse attendees (which I think would be a very positive gesture by Liberty, or F1 teams, or even the drivers – they probably have the most spare cash of any group) I don’t think there’s much that can be done about this.

    Adding reams of rules would lead to unforeseen consequences just to prevent something that happens once in a generation. It’s hard to accept but sometimes there is nothing that can be done, this is one of those times.

  2. At least they could learn not to award points for a 2 lap “race”? That should be at least 25% and perhaps even higher. I would say also with a provision that some actual racing occurred (ie not just circling around behind the SC)

    1. @f1osaurus The quickest and simplest rule change would be to change the rule requiring 3 laps to say 3 green laps. At least it would mean there was SOME racing, without changing anything structural about the way points are awarded.

  3. Mr Tom E Lloyd
    31st August 2021, 9:54

    Simple solution. Many of the races for the second half of the season may be pulled due to Covid. Schedule in another Race at Spa later in the season (many tracks have hosted two races due to Covid) and admit all the original ticket holders free of charge, or at a reduced rate. Everybody wins & we get a proper race at Spa.

    Reply moderated
  4. All in all Mercedes was the big winner of the frace in Spa.
    Verstappen only gained 5pts over Hamilton.
    Perez annulled himself.
    And Bottas probably gained about 11 (opportunity) points for Mercedes. Had there be no race in Spa then Bottas would have to serve his 5 place grid penalty in Zandvoort. This most likely meant starting 8th instead of 3rd. And with the challenging overtaking for both this circuit and this driver it probably would have stayed that way until the end.

    1. @jff Bottas’ grid penalty wouldn’t have moved even if the race didn’t officially occur since he had already served it.

      1. The guys at F1TV Pitlane Channel claimed something different on Sunday.
        According to them (had the race not started) Bottas’ and Stroll’s penalty would be delayed to Zandvoort, whereas Norris would be Okay (forgot the exact reason).

      2. Sure about that?
        Is there something in the rules about a penalty when a race is cancelled?

        1. Rules talk about events and not races so it could be that Bottas and Lance are ok for Zandvoort.

    2. Verstappen would have crashed into Russell, trying to prevent him from overtaking. And Bottas would have catched up to P6 at least, while Perez already was out before the start.

      So huge luck for RB here…

  5. It wasn’t a freak day, it was raining.

    SMH

    Reply moderated
  6. I have read in numerous posts that Lewis Hamilton has been arguing loudly that the spectators (enthusiasts) at Spa should receive a refund on their race tickets.

    How about this for a scenario. How many millionaires and billionaires were present in the race venue? How many of them bothered to call their banks to deposit generous donations to the race organisers to cover refunds?

    Very likely, not one of them. I do believe that such gestures would elevate their status and prove that they are of a generous and completely understanding nature. It would also help to exonerate their greed for even more to bolster their financial pile. How about Lewis and a few others making a good start?

    I have been an enthusiast for Formula One since late 1950 and, should I have attended the race at my favorite Formula One circuit this year, I would have just shrugged my shoulders and thought, ‘So that was it’ and looked forward to the next race on the calendar. But, there were many spectators present at the ‘race’ who were there on a very tight budget and, like me, full of enthusiasm the entire day. They deserve a break!

    For the first time in many years, I forgot to take in the ‘highlights’ on Melbourne’s Channel Ten network – sad.

    I would venture to suggest that one Denis Sargent Jenkinson has, on Sunday evening, executed a perfect triple backwards somersault somewhere in the depths of Hampshire after the ‘race’ at Spa! You are still with me Jenks.

    1. “I have been an enthusiast for Formula One since late 1950 and, should I have attended the race at my favorite Formula One circuit this year, I would have just shrugged my shoulders and thought, ‘So that was it’ and looked forward to the next race on the calendar”

      I was there and these are exacly my thoughts as well. This was the 17th time I visited the Belgian gp and I always buy the cheapest weekend tickets (Bronze €120). I feel I got my money’s worth with all the other races (GP3, W Series and Porsche supercup) at the venue during the weekend so I don’t really feel the need to ask for my money back.

    2. I was waiting for the first person to ask why Hamilton hasn’t given everyone their money back, LOL.

      Congrats.

  7. One thing which is clear to me is that there needs to be a more extreme wet weather tyre which is 30%-40% narrower than the current wets. This will reduce aquaplaning and will also reduce spray. The cons of this will be that there is less grip when the tyre is not overwhelmed, so a drop in ultimate grip, but what grip remains will be more consistent and drivable.

    Crazy that is hasn’t been thought of yet.

    1. I doubt it would be as easy as “make a narrower tyre”. For such a large reduction, you would also need different, narrower rims. I suspect this would change a lot of other things, probably requiring different brakes, suspension, etc…, and making it so all of these would have to change if they decided to change back to “normal” width tyres later in the race.

      Added to which, that wasn’t the biggest problem with Spa, it was visibility. You couldn’t even see the light on the back of the car in front when you got within 100m from the camera, let alone down in the cockpit, and that was at safety car speeds. At racing speeds, it would be complete guesswork as to where the car in front was. If someone had a crash or a spin, or even braked earlier than expected, the car behind would not see it and would plough straight into them. That’s a problem which would not be fixed by narrower tyres, as a large proportion of it is the aerodynamics throwing the water into the air. (Funnily enough, I have a suspicion that next year’s regs may improve this…)

  8. F1 can absolutely learn from this event even though it may be an outlier. Plane crashes are “freak events” when it comes to air travel but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn from them. “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” F1 and the FIA made plenty of mistakes on Sunday. They need to learn from them.

    1. here’s the thing though. there’s a lot more flights than there are F1 races. if this happens once per 15 years, i am OK with it. i’m not OK with a plane crashing every 5 months.

      i’ve been watching F1 for 15 years and I’ve never seen it before.

      1. As F1 continues to expand both the number of races lengthening the season further into winter and the localities of the places they race and, yes, with climate change strengthing the intensity of storms we will inevitably see another incident like this. We have seen sessions wiped out by rain in the past and races held under safety cars for extended amounts of time due to heavy rain (Fuji 2007, Korea 2010). Thankfully those tracks were pretty benign but there will be a time when a storm like this hits a track that has high speeds and lots of loading. Suzuka certainly comes to mind as a potential future candidate for a mess like this. Austin also comes to mind as the US Grand Prix dates are typically during hurricane season and even though Austin is inland from the coast, a powerful hurricane can continue to drop a massive amount of rain for some time after it hits land. This weekend with Ida proved that once again.

        But to your point of a lot more flights than F1 races, that would make the number of plane crashes even more of a freak accident than rain-soaked F1 events. And yet we still learn from them. In 2018, the NTSB calculated the accident rate for general aviation in the US as 1.029 per 100,000 hours of flight. If we look at rain-soaked races over the past 20 years (Fuji, Korea, Spa), if each race is approximately 2 hours long that equates to 364 rain-soaked events per 100,000 hours of races.

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