I would have insisted Belgian GP start went ahead – Ecclestone

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In the round-up: Former Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone says he would have insisted the Belgian Grand Prix went ahead.

In brief

F1 “lacked courage” over Spa – Ecclestone

F1 ran four laps behind the Safety Car on Sunday and declared a result based on a single lap of running. However Ecclestone told the Telegraph in an interview that he would have ordered the race begin within an hour of the original start time.

“I would have told the teams and the drivers at 3pm, ‘It is raining, we are prepared to put it off for an hour and hope the weather is going to change. But no matter what happens the race will start at 4pm and then it is up to you whether you take part or not’,” he told the newspaper.

The question of whether to start or not should have been left in the drivers’ hands, he insisted. “If they wanted to take a risk to get points then it was up to them. If you wanted to hang in there and do a lot more laps to make sure you won the race then that’s what you could have done.”

“If we were in the army and we were told we have to go to Afghanistan, we might have said, ‘bloody hell, that doesn’t sound safe, but we have to go, we don’t have a choice’,” he added.

Mercedes kart star moves to cars

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, the multiple karting champion backed by Mercedes, will make his car racing debut in the Italian Formula 4 championship at the Red Bull Ring on September 11th. Antonelli, who turned 15 on Wednesday, will drive for Prema in the triple-header meeting.

15 Covid cases at Spa

The FIA confirmed 6,449 Covid-19 tests were performed on drivers, team and personnel at the Belgian Grand Prix during a one-week period up to and including Sunday, of which 15 were found to be positive.

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Comment of the day

F1 needs to rethink its race start times after last weekend’s embarrassment, says @Ryanoceros:

Maybe F1 will learn not to have the F1 race at the end of the day at a venue when it is very likely to rain at the time of year. If they had scheduled the race for the morning there would have been a window for racing. Forget the television broadcast window integrity of the event is more important.

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On this day in motorsport

  • 35 years ago today Bobby Rahal won the CART Indycar round at Mid-Ohio while championship leader Mario Andretti retired after just 13 laps

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133 comments on “I would have insisted Belgian GP start went ahead – Ecclestone”

  1. Bernie is probably right, he would have done that. That is, after all, what he did in Indianapolis. Doubtless some drivers would have taken the chance at points, and presumably there would have been a major crash given what happened on every other occasion people tried to go flat-out in similar conditions.

    All-in-all, we’re probably better off he’s not in charge.

    1. “All-in-all, we’re probably better off he’s not in charge.”

      Agree, obviously he’s out of touch with todays car specs, budgets, rules and safety factors. On top of that he always said, drivers should have zero say and that they were just pawns in his game.

      Of course everyone wanted to see racing. But at what cost? Now a days it’s not just about a show of bravado.

      Lets not forget teams with limited car parts quota’s and budget caps that could cripple a team for the rest of the season; it’s just about one race anymore.

    2. Bernie is that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good

    3. Are we? Is anything any better now?

      1. We are at where we are at because of Bernie.
        But I’m happy the devious and capricious little troll is just comedic relief now.

    4. Yes. If you consider that if you take some sandwiches for lunch from home they cost a fraction of what you pay at a lunch bar. The lunch bar has to comply with legal obligations and has to pay staff, rent, and taxes. In the same way a decision I might make when I have free publicity for historical reasons, and don’t have the responsibility of millions of dollars and peoples lives and hundreds or possibly thousands of contracts, then, at least I sincerely hope that if Mr Ecclestone was still in charge of F1 … No! It just doesn’t seem possible. How would teams survive when the TV cameras spend most of their time focusing on the first 3 cars in the race and some strategically placed on track advertising?
      Yes, F1 would be different with Mr Ecclestone in charge. NO! It wouldn’t be better if he was in charge.

    5. Yeah, it is also what he did in Suzuka 2014 where we lost Jules Bianchi.

  2. Totally agree with Bernie. I wish he would still be in charge of F1.

    1. Totally agree. They should’ve raced. This series has become a farce and the safety excuse is always used. Bloody millionaire princesses instead of real man racing.

      1. Yeah, how dare those princess F1 drivers, they should just accept that they could die! We all want bloodsports back to show that people can be real men, at least the Romans knew how to do it!

        Your name is very apt, Toxic, and I’m very glad you’re not in charge of the sport.

      2. Hear, hear! They red flag or go to SC even if the car is on the opposite side of the racing line and in a completely impossible place to hit. In the 40 years of GPs I’ve watched (live ‘99 on, but watched everything from 1980 on), not a single driver died or suffered injury from a parked F1 car. Hell, they used to stay green with multiple cars stopped ON THE RACING LINE with marshals moving them, which I think is utter lunacy, but it just shows how badly the pendulum has swung the other way.

        I have been racing touring cars since 2003 and every driver knows a double yellow often means the possibility of a spun out car or worse directly in the middle of the track beyond that station. And, he was under VSC to boot.

        1. Nick T., if you have watched from 1980 onwards, then there would be the case of Clay Regazzoni being paralysed from the waist downwards after he crashed into Ricardo Zunino’s abandoned car during the 1980 US Grand Prix West, which had been left at the opening to a service road.

          1. But cars of today have crumble zones /s

          2. The same things happened during the 1989 Toronto CART race and the 1991 Detroit CART race; Mario Andretti hit a parked tow truck at Turn 3 in Detroit that was trying to get Michael Andretti’s car out of a dangerous position.

        2. Not sure a single driver has hit a recovery vehicle until someone did.

          1. Indeed @invisiblekid. That was a race where Bernie insisted on running the race just like he talks about Spa going ahead now. Jules was the victim of that.

    2. Right like Bernie and Whiting did with Japan 2014 and pinned the blame on Jules and they both got away with murder.

      1. What?!
        Bianchi ignored double-yellows and crashed as a result of his own driving decisions.

        It’s a terrible tragedy, but he could have prevented it himself.

        1. I’m not sure but Bianchi might have accidently been shown a green flag which footage conveniently had ‘disappeared’. Besides that, with a crane on track there should have been a red flag.

          1. Not sure where that theory came from @melbourne-96 – this is the first I’ve ever heard of it.
            The official broadcast missed it, but there were yellows everywhere in the fan footage.

            Up until that point, F1 drivers had generally respected yellows and there wasn’t really a need for red flags in such circumstances.
            Go back only a few years prior to that and they wouldn’t even bother removing cars from the runoff areas – or even the track. They just kept on racing around them…

          2. Never heard the disappearing green flag story, and it seems very unlikely as it was not just Biancchi who drove too fast under double waved yellow.

            And even though now a red flag seems more appropriate; this is only because drivers did not do what they were supposed to do under double waved yellow (slow down and be prepared to stop).
            Furthermore, the most dangerous situation is not a recovery vehicle on track, but when there is a marshal on track. I hope we don’t red flag every race where a marshal needs to go on track.

          3. Jack (@jackisthestig)
            31st August 2021, 11:37

            No, I remember the picture but the green flag was being waved from the next post after (i.e. down the road from) Sutil’s crashed car.

          4. @jff The problem is that a double-waved yellow flag does not always mean what the International Sporting Code says it means. Since Malaysia 2014, a double-waved yellow had been operationalised into meaning “0.5 seconds below one’s fastest lap of the session” through a directive, and at that point three other F1-specific regulations further complicated how drivers were supposed to conduct themselves under yellow flags of any description. Conditions meant it was nearly impossible for drivers to have gone that fast if they’d tried, and in any case Jules was one of the slower cars at the point where everything went wrong according to the GPS data.

            The drivers were obeying the yellow flags… …it just didn’t help.

        2. The FIA also stand accused of breaking their own rules on the medical transport requirements so that the race could start in the first place.

          The medical helicopter could not take off, but the FIA took the circuit at their word that they could evacuate an injured driver to hospital by road in the same maximum timeframe. However, it seems that no test runs were done to check this was viable, and it took much longer – more than twice as long as it should have – for Bianchi to arrive at the hospital. That is part of the reason why his family launched a lawsuit against the FIA – the question arose of whether they should have aborted the race if there were questions over the medical transport service being able to function properly.

          1. Last weekend no helicopter could fly from the circuit in that weather and with people leaving the track early I am not sure a road emergency evacuation would have been possible in the required time.

            Just another factor in the decisions made and something the that daft old codger conveniently ignores.

          2. anon You may be interested to know the circuit figures already were outside the FIA’s requirements (the circuit said it was around 25 minutes, the FIA requirements are for strictly 20 minutes or less). While testing should have been done of the circuit’s claim, proving the circuit’s claim, even under the conditions of that day, would not have made it sensible to continue without a medical helicopter.

          3. Witan, I would point out that the case was for the Japanese GP in 2014, rather than the Belgian GP.

            @alianora-la-canta what the circuit owners are meant to prove is that, irrespective of the mode of transport used, they should be able to evacuate a driver to a hospital in less than 20 minutes. The argument put forward by Suzuka was that a road vehicle could still get to a hospital within 20 minutes and thus the race could proceed without the medical helicopter, which was what the FIA decided to do – but with questions remaining over whether the circuit ever provided proof for their claims, and with the actual evacuation taking about 45 minutes in practice.

            If it was predicted to take longer than 20 minutes, then it adds to the point that the FIA should not have been authorising that race to go ahead in the first place.

          4. @anon The medical helicopter availability bakes in the “20 minutes by air” rule. This is because in pre-planning, two hospitals are required to be designated in the appropriate range, one of which has ICU capacity and the other at least capable of handling e.g. broken limbs. Those hospitals are required to have pre-arrangements, which mean they can guarantee they won’t turn the patient away and some minimum standard of care is possible. If neither hospital is available due to landing conditions or having redirect instructions, then the medical helicopter is (supposed to be) treated as unavailable – just in the same way as it would be if (as on Sunday) conditions prevented the helicopter’s take-off.

            I’ve seen at least one document from Japan 2014 that stated the road transit time agreed was ~25 minutes, and that the FIA team on site decided that was OK, and they were confident enough to say so on the briefing the FIA ran the Friday after the accident (I believe Dieter was at the briefing). Even if the circuit had proven on that very day that it had been able to meet that target in “dress rehearsal” (and something had gone wrong in order for the extra time to be added when the ambulance was needed), 25 minutes still isn’t 20.

      2. Masi has done far worse, and drivers have died since 2014. he just has a lot fewer races under his belt.

      3. Jack (@jackisthestig)
        31st August 2021, 12:09

        Absolute nonsense. Any marshal will tell you that the most severe warning you can give the drivers that there is major danger ahead are double-waved yellow flags – “slow down and be prepared to stop”.

        I remember at the time there was a narrative that the recovery of Sutil’s car was “only” covered by double-waved yellows. Safety cars and red flags are essentially procedures to allow the medical car or other vehicles access to the circuit in order to get to the scene of an incident. They are most definitely not an indication of how much the drivers need to slow down through a specific zone.

        If Charlie was guilty of anything it was allowing this reckless culture of ignoring double-waved yellows to go unpunished prior to Suzuka 2014.

        1. Exactly. The drivers now are becoming like ordinary citizens expecting a safety body to tell them when it’s OK to go vroom vroom. If you’re too stupid to be able to modulate the throttle pedal to match conditions, don’t call yourself one of the world’s best. The race in Fuji was great, which the conditions were being compared to. I understand delaying to see if better conditions appear, but when they don’t, they need to race.

          1. If the safety body breaks the rules to send people out when it’s strictly forbidden to do so on safety grounds, and has the indirect threat of firing anyone who disagrees…

        2. @jackisthestig Any marshal who knows their flags will tell you that it is actually the red flag that is the strictest one for driver warnings. That is the only flag which means “race-stopping accident, prepare for absolutely everything”. All other indicators implicitly exclude certain possible causes of a flag, thus permitting a wider range of actions.

          The next-strictest is the Safety Car board. This allows the driver to assume that following the Safety Car is safe and that there must be a route possible around the circuit at whatever speed the Safety Car is doing.

          For series that have a purple/Code 60 flag or a Virtual Safety Car board, they’re then next-strictest (they’re equal in status to one another). This allows drivers to assume that provided they are going at whatever speed is agreed (60 km/h for Code 60, variable within previously-agreed parameters otherwise) and pay a heightened amount of attention to their surroundings, they’ll be fine.

          Double-waved yellow is the fourth or fifth most serious warning, depending on where one puts the red-and-yellow-striped oil/slippery surface flag on the scale. In other words, the third or fourth least serious in most series. (The scale then goes to single-waved yellow flag and single stationary flag – note that F1 does not use the latter flag any more because it proved impossible to effectively convey the difference between the single yellow modes on the dashboard lighting system).

          What exactly this means varies by series, much to the frustration of those who insisted on “slow down and be prepared to stop” to be put in the International Sporting Code and expected this to settle the matter. The problem is that it often gets overruled (in theory and in practical application) by series-specific regulations. At one point F1 somehow managed to have 6 regulations on the books affecting conduct under yellow flags, some of which contradicted each other and occasionally made compliance with the entire ruleset (as required in Article 2 of the F1 Sporting Regulations) impossible. While I believe efforts to improve this have happened since, they’re still on at least 3. More sensible series write their regulations to minimise or avoid such rule overlaps/clashes, realising that drivers have to make decisions in these situations quickly and instinctively.

          1. Jack (@jackisthestig)
            31st August 2021, 18:29

            @ alianora-la-canta None of those are available to use at the marshal’s discretion, they are directions that come from race control and take time to implement.

            Say an adverting hoarding collapsed onto the track on a blind corner. The most severe warning the marshals have immediately to hand to warn the drivers of what is around the corner is a double-waved yellow.

          2. @jackisthestig However, the drivers are instructed to take several other instructions as being stricter than double-waved yellow flags by the FIA and the regulations (even the International Sporting Code requires more response to red flags and other signals than a yellow flag). Simply because marshals aren’t allowed to use the likes of red flags unilaterally doesn’t change that the regulations treat them differently.

      4. Chaitanya Unless you are suggesting there was a deliberate plan to harm or kill anyone that day (of which no evidence has arisen despite a legal investigation), it couldn’t possibly be murder. Without intention, the highest theoretical charge would be corporate manslaughter, and due to a settlement in 2017, I don’t think any crimes at all will be charged.

    3. Yes, I think so too, this could’ve been a great race and before bianchi the last one who died because of wet track was probably gilles? 32 years before!

      1. Gilles crashed on a dry tack :-(

      2. @esploratore1 Usually, drivers who die or get injured on wet tracks do so because of multiple factors, not just because it rained, although rain can be – sometimes is – a factor. Although it’s possible that some people in the mid-1960s and earlier were racing on tracks where it rained hard enough that staying on track was physically impossible in itself (the most recent example of that, 1966 Spa, had no fatalities through sheer luck).

    4. If the teams then would have said: we will race as long as you pick up the bills of the repairs and rebuilds and get us out of the obligation of limited power unit components and gearbox replacements.

      Bernie would have NEVER let them race if he had to pay for the demolition GP of Spa Francorchamps.

      The cost cap and penalties for taking on extra power unit components is just too strict to take risks like that.

  3. COTD is ok in theory but F1 is trying to crack America, races that start at 5am Eastern and 2am Pacific are never going to happen, the reason races now start 2 hours later then they used to is because of this, races now start around 6am Pacific. Then throw in that broadcasters book satellite time weeks if not months in advance, if its raining at 10-11am local time and the race doesn’t go ahead till 3-4pm then a lot of broadcasters wont be able to show it and even if they can will they scrap what they had planned originally.

    1. +1
      i’m on the east coast of the US, so 9 am Sunday is a fine time for me – but i would never expect a race in another continent to cater to my time zone! race to appropriate local times, earlier in Spa as others have suggested. either i’ll get up earlier or catch the replay, no big deal

      1. @denn

        Not going to happen. Also, it seems a bit silly to change European starting times to the morning because of one freak weather incident that probably could not have been race ending at other race tracks. California is the world’s 5 biggest economy and along with the Northeast of the USA, one of the biggest untapped markets for F1 in the world. If anything, there is a better chance that race starts are pushed later than earlier.

    2. @f1-plossl Firstly, an hour, not two, and the 2018 change was for Europe AFAIA.
      Furthermore, East Asia races and AusGP occur in the night/ early morning hours across the US anyway.
      @denn Indeed. Trackside people should be a priority in timings before everyone else.

    3. @f1-plossl Channel 4 was barely able to show coverage as it was, and it was only trying to do a 90-minute highlights show… (Can’t do a highlights show if it starts 13 minutes after the second attempt to race was due to finish).

      1. also I would estimate it inconvenient if not unfeasible to mount a highlight show of an event that did not happen

        1. C4 moved their coverage back by a couple of hours, given that no race actually happened it was probably pretty easy to edit it.
          I expect if the weather had eased and a proper race ensued they would simply have moved the start time back by more to allow for the editing.

        2. @gosac Channel 4 somehow managed to eke out a 30-minute highlights show (though I walked out of the last 10 minutes of it because I objected so strongly to the powers-that-be pretending a race happened when it did not). It couldn’t have allowed more than 30 minutes in that time slot because it was prime time and it has other contracted commitments. Strictly speaking, Channel 4 would have been within its rights to tell F1, “You’ve broken the contract for this race, other providers are paying more for this primetime slot (6 pm – 11 pm, with 8 pm – 10 pm being the most expensive)/will cause more trouble if we don’t show their stuff, no broadcast for you/broadcast only in the late-night slots that charge less than primetime – and if you don’t like it, we’ll bill you for the costs caused by those other contracts being broken”.

    4. This is a good point but somewhere in the world people are waking up at 2 AM to watch any given race. I live in California myself. What’s the difference between waking up for a race at 0500 or staying up and watching at midnight? I’d prefer the latter, but people somewhere in the world will be affected regardless. At least I could pour some drinks without blowing the whole day.

  4. someone or something
    31st August 2021, 0:53

    CotD really ticks all the boxes for the typical “Oh no, something went wrong under extreme circumstances, we should now turn absolutely everything on its head to prevent that one freak event from repeating itself” rant. If I had to single out my greatest frustration with F1 fans, it’d be that.

    1. The problem where the fans screaming and shouting that q3 should have been delayed and red flagged. Race should have started earlier or at race start, it was clear the weather was not going to let up, they had the forecast.

  5. The problem with Bernie’s stance is the F1 drivers are not war hardened soldiers going into battle. They’re sports people providing entertainment. Given the incidents we’ve seen over the last few days and years, I can’t help but feel they would have been unnecessarily risking their lives by racing in those conditions.

    1. Though it would have been their own choice….

      1. kind of choice the drivers have — given that there are only 20 seats available, pressure is high; and even outside F1, opportunity to find a fix, secure, paid seat is anything but easy to find — imagine there were people who invested in your career … hard to show a sovereignty like Lauda did in Fuji 1976.

        How about asking the 3 most experienced drivers — who already made their fortunes ?
        Or you provide a track with proper drainage system, perforated tarmac and you allow for full wet set-up.
        I did not understand the argument with poor visibility due to spray because it always was like that; must have been a bonus point they granted themselves to reinforce their case.

        1. @gosac
          The drivers choose to strap themselves into F1 cars every day – they accept those risks every time the opportunity to go racing is presented to them. They are much more likely to die or be seriously injured in the dry than in the wet, anyway.

          As for the visibility – yes it’s always a problem in the wet, but as the aero becomes ever more complex and effective, it draws ever more moisture up from the track. That’s the fundamental basis of producing aero downforce by using airflow under the car.
          At any given equal speed and equal wet track condition, these current cars produce far more spray than F1 cars of any previous era – and the next set of cars (2022+) will be even worse.
          Wet F1 races may become a thing of the past.

    2. Years ago I read an article by a former F1 driver lamenting the fact that wet races start behind the safety car. He referenced a race at Mosport that was run in extremely heavy rain as an example of what took place in his day and how the races were put on heavy rain or not. In the article he also made an interesting point. He said that the drivers are in complete control of the cars and if they have to drive at 5mph to stay on track then that’s what they should do and if someone can go 6mph then that driver will win. I’m not sure how I feel about that, as it sounds like it makes sense but I think it still may not be safe to do so in all cases.

      1. It’s exactly what I was saying above. They’re like little children now. “We don’t know how to change the throttle for prevailing conditions!”

      2. @velocityboy Driving a F1 car in the rain at 5 mph is a recipe for aquaplaning off. It’s one thing to slow down when conditions dictate a maximum speed. It’s quite another to slow down when they’re dictating both a minimum and a maximum speed, and the minimum speed may be above the maximum…

        1. @alianora-la-canta yes, but they were able to drive behind the safety car without aquaplaning off the track, so one could argue that they could be released and drive at least that speed and maybe more. The thing is they are in complete control of the cars and can drive at whatever speed they feel is safe, so if they can go around the track behind the safety car they can be released to race.

          1. @velocityboy The Safety Car nearly fell off at one point. Hard to imagine the F1 cars would have done better without the Safety Car enforcing a low speed.

        2. As @alianora-la-canta mentions, driving a modern F1 car slow doesn’t work very well @velocityboy.

          They were struggling behind the safetycar with the speeds and the water, and since Downforce – which more or less keeps them on track – is generated at higher speeds. Also, their brakes were stone cold, which means carbon brakes don’t work well. And the tyres were cold too, although full wets are made to work in those conditions, I doubt it helps their grip.

          To avoid the floor floating on the water, they would have to crank the cars up, technically possible, but again, it changes the behaviour and ruins generating downforce.

          These are not regular cars, they are not made to work in those conditions.

      3. Such a scenario is only save when no driver has to proof / earn something.
        There will always be some young hotshoes who have to proof their capability / find a paid contract (perhaps their first) or are in contention of the Championship — maybe for the first and last time in their life.
        And apart from the drivers, there are track marshals who will face much larger risks when there is a

    3. Coventry Climax
      31st August 2021, 14:55

      @TommyC: “They’re sports people providing entertainment.” That’s the problem indeed, it’s become entertainment like those fake wrestling matches with fake wrestlers. Oh, they train alright and there’s some sports’man’ship involved, but the wrestling is fake anyhow.

      1. Athletes aren’t army soldiers either…

  6. Aha I knew he was gonna comment

  7. I agree with Bernie and with Martin Brundle who said he started and raced in far worse.

    1. @jblank

      He did, so what? Many of your ancestors died of dysentery for doing things we wouldn’t not do today.

      1. Well there is the dumbest reply of the day, but I’ll consider the source. Yeah, comparing Brundle racing in relatively recent history versus people from centuries ago makes perfect sense. :rolleyes to infinity:

  8. As much of a fiasco this GP has been, I’m glad Ecclestone isn’t in charge. I’ll take points for a race that only ran 1 lap behind a SC over putting drivers on a track with no visibility beyond their noses.

  9. Of course Bernie would say that. He’s also have said he wouldn’t have let it start if the race had gone ahead on Sunday just to have a completely opposite view to the current FOM management.
    Why news sites continue to pursue him for comment astounds me.

    Interesting point though – would a driver these days actually have the ability to decide whether or not to start? I very much doubt it.

    1. I agree, most F1 drivers would risk loosing their job if they refused to drive. That’s a cheap shot by Mr Ecclestone: it costs him nothing to say a driver has a choice, whereas a driver has their whole career at stake.

      1. Coventry Climax
        31st August 2021, 15:00

        I do remember a certain driver declining to drive due to weather conditions and consequently lose the championship. And he was a around for a long time after that. OK, probably his courage had taken a big dent due to huge accident not very long before that.

        1. Coventry Climax That was before the superlicence system came into force.

      2. @dbradock @drycrust I’d like to think teams have more respect for their drivers than that, but it’s interesting you both think they don’t. I’m pretty sure if a driver refused to drive it would be because he felt it would be that dangerous, at which point they can hardly manhandle him into the car and force him, let alone expect a good result from that and a healthy future relationship going forward. As well it would be pretty awful of a team to do that to a driver, and I don’t think teams are that awful to their drivers, but again, interesting, and sad, that your take on F1 is that that is how it works. I’m pretty sure teams and their personnel are way more like family members than you like to imagine.

        1. @robbie Teams aren’t allowed to “have more respect for their drivers than that” – contractually they have to provide two drivers for every race unless the FIA grants permission otherwise. The FIA is allowed to throw teams out for failing to provide two drivers for every race. Since that’s not a punishment that can be passed onto the drivers, the UK-based teams at least would contractually have to treat refusing to do a race that was being run for reasons that were not force majuere (such as the driver’s current health) to be a matter for summary dismissal. A team that then hired that driver would have to consider that the FIA may regard this as not taking all necessary steps to ensure they were providing two drivers per race if that driver walked out again. Substitutions can’t be made after qualifying unless the substitute drove during a previous session, so in most cases teams can’t meaningfully protect themselves from such situations except by the power of firing drivers.

          Teams can’t manhandle drivers into cars, but they can and in many cases would be obliged to end their F1 careers over it.

          1. @alianora-la-canta Not sure what you’re basing all that conjecture on. Got any precedents for that? In the case of Spa, what I could imagine happening is that all the teams provided two drivers for the race, Mother Nature intervened, visibility was nil other than for Max, and if F1 forced a race anyway, and some drivers refused under the grounds of safety, teams would likely have their drivers’ backs, and worst case scenario pay a fine if that upset FIA or F1, whose behaviour could be questioned for trying to force a highly dangerous race, dangerous enough that some drivers refused to do it. Perhaps even whole teams refusing. F1 or FIA would not have a lot of legs to stand on by forcing drivers to race too dangerously, nor by having teams fire their drivers for refusing under the grounds of safety. They’re the ones risking their lives after all. But hey, you think it just comes down to contracts and not human lives, and that there’s no room for common sense here. I think otherwise.

          2. @robbie You might want to learn how the Contracts Recognitions Board works before you assume what I say is conjecture.

          3. Drivers refusing under the grounds of safety when the FIA said it was safe to race would be at risk of being charged under Article 151c (precedent: Monza 2006 barriers – even though the proposed action was far short of a race boycott), even if their teams agreed with them. The FIA’s position is that ultimately, only the FIA is qualified to decide whether a race is safe, and that although drivers and teams can say otherwise, they’re forbidden from acting on it.

            Furthermore, the FIA issued a warning to Andrea Moda for not providing two drivers for every race back in 1992. Having established that the FIA would not regard a safety boycott as valid motive for a driver skipping a race, you won’t be surprised to hear it wouldn’t consider that valid for a team failing to furnish two drivers either. This contributed to Andrea Moda ceasing to be on the grid (though in that case there were several other issues at play, three of which could also have ended the team’s existence by themselves). Nonetheless, precedent was established that the FIA can throw a team out for failing to furnish drivers even once. The only exceptions are if there is a financial problem preventing entry or if there is previous agreement with the FIA, either of which allows three races’ grace provided the team can furnish proof. A safety boycott is clearly neither pre-agreed with the FIA, nor spurred by a team running out of money, thus not compatible with the exemptions.

            In law (in the UK certainly, and probably also in Italy and Switzerland), companies are required to demonstrate they took all reasonable precautions against a breach of contract in order to be protected from it (precedent: too many to list). Hiring a driver known to quit races in ways the FIA considers induced a breach of team-FIA contract would be incompatible with demonstrating the team took all reasonable precautions to furnish two drivers (if a subsequent occasion means it cannot be done – for any reason, not just safety boycotts).

            Thus, UK-based teams at least would be required to treat boycotting a race on grounds the FIA does not accept as valid to be summary dismissal cases and incompatible with re-hire, in order to stay on the grid. Even if the team thinks the driver is right.

            As it happens, I believe that the only correct thing to do was for the FIA to announce total cancellation on the grounds of medical evacuation unavailability – something that entails more respect of human lives than depending on a boycott that may have been partial due to different interpretations of risk. But I’m not sure you want to hear that.

          4. @alianora-la-canta The Contracts Recognition Board is not UK law, but is rather an entity formed by and for the FIA to sort disputes in drivers contracts through lawyers hired for that purpose and to make it much more quick and expedient than were it to go through official National law and the country’s court system.

            What started this was the suggestion above that if BE had been in charge and forced a race at Spa, drivers refusing to race (presumably for safety reasons) would be booted out of F1. I suggest that this talk between you and I and the above posters is way more heavy handed than needs be, and the odds that a BE (now Liberty) would deem an obviously dangerous race safe to run, with some drivers refusing to do so under the obvious safety concern, and them getting sued by FIA and booted out for that, would be very slim. You can quote what you think the FIA can theoretically do all you want, but as I say I think common sense would prevail and there’s what they can allegedly theoretically do, and then there’s what would make common sense to do, especially if it was several drivers concerned about zero visibility. FIA has to make safety the first priority, and if it is pointed out to them they aren’t doing that via several drivers refusing to race, exactly how hard would they press the point before they had to cede that if drivers find it too dangerous then maybe they have to take a second look? They sure seemed dependent quite a bit on the drivers’ input as they trundled along behind the safety car at Spa last weekend.

            Since you seem intimate with this type of topic, is there nothing in driver’s contracts that says they can’t be forced to race under certain extreme conditions without some leeway of consideration for the circumstance? They were there to race i.e. the team furnished two drivers for the weekend, they happily qualified the day before, they happily showed up and expected to race that day, and then Mother Nature made it unsafe. Do drivers have no protection from an overzealous BE type person who would only have money in mind and could theoretically literally force someone to risk their lives above and beyond what they normally do, or be gone? Would that actually stand up in official court if a fired driver then went to official UK law and plead his case? I’d be surprised if in reality FIA has that much power that they can willfully endanger a person’s life who is in fear, let alone would wield such power and take draconian measures to end said drivers career. All over a question of safety. When the driver would likely be the sentimental favourite in the debate, for he is the one risking it all.

            Aside from the awfulness of attempting to boot a driver or a team out of F1 when he was very concerned about safety, there is the optics, the image and appearance that would create of F1 and the likely damage that could potentially cause to reputation and viewership. I know I would be quite turned off if F1 exercised all the options you seem so confident they would wield in order to boot out a driver or drivers because he/they didn’t want to risk his life or that of others more than necessary.

        2. @robbie yes I’d like to think that a team might listen to its driver but did we hear any encouraging drivers to return to pits if it’s unsafe during qualy?

          I agree that a team may decide that it’s unsafe to run but once they put the car out there on the grid, they expect their driver to participate if the lights go out.

          Even Ferrari were mortified when Lauda pulled in at the Japan race & I suspect had it been any other driver than him, he’d have never driven F1 again.

          It’s business, and right down the chain these days decisions are being made on the basis of business. The concept of teams being more like family really died out years ago, probably at the exit of Minardi and other extreme back markers.

          1. @dbradock Qualifying was very different to Sunday for a couple of reasons, those being that the weather wasn’t as bad, and as well drivers seek to space themselves out and in clean air and therefore would not have had to subject themselves to being in a leading car’s mist.

            I disagree completely with your last paragraph and am not even sure what Minardi and backmarkers have to do with it. My point is that teams have their driver’s backs like they are family, and one only needs look at the concern on the faces over the whole paddock when RG had his fiery crash to know that ultimately, deep down, this circus of teams all know each other quite well, and have worked together throughout the years as they have moved teams etc etc, and are indeed a family.

          2. @dbradock I don’t know if Alpha Tauri gave such encouragement (I only got highlights), but Pierre Gasly pitted at the end of his out lap, so I could believe that might have happened – either over the radio or in the pre-Q3 briefing.

            I did not see anything from any other team that hinted at possible encouragement to pit if feeling conditions weren’t suitable.

        3. @robbie Warning! Long response alert!

          The Contracts Recognitions Board is the arbitration power that was appointed by the FIA. It uses the law in which the contract was written. Since 7 of the 10 teams are themselves UK-based and issue their contracts under UK law. UK courts take arbitration results seriously and only in exceptional circumstances reverse them.

          Thus, everything I said still stands regarding the CRB.

          What started this discussion was a hypothesis that couldn’t have happened for most of Bernie Ecclestone (BE)’s reign because either Sid Watkins or Gary Hartstein would have vetoed him – most likely before the drivers or teams found out his opinion. The only times it was possible were pre-1980s (before Sid had the regulatory power to back up his recommendations about whether a race ran or not) and post-2012 (when Gary was fired by the FIA). Of course BE always gave his opinion back in the day after he’d been thwarted – usually a few days after the race so that F1 could continue to be in the news. (In his view, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, except that time campaigns started to get F1 banned).

          Pre-1980s, FISA (predecesor to the FIA) was powerful enough that it felt it could do as it liked, which is part of the reason it was defeated by Bernie and those teams allied with him (because said teams were fed up of FISA’s presumption). It didn’t care about the drivers’ contracts, seeing them as purely between driver and team. Back then, robbie’s take on the situation would likely have happened (subject to any differences 40-50 years of contract law, and the wider variation in how team bosses approached).

          However, the FIA had a very different attitude to driver contracts. It instituted superlicences in 1982 – far less detailed than now, but one of the main reasons was to require drivers to drive those races they had committed to drive, for the teams they had committed to drive them. (Another major reason was to introduce a clause requiring all drivers to avoid harming F1’s perceived interests). It was highly controversial at the time, but the FIA if anything made the rules stricter over the years. A driver who didn’t race would definitely get into trouble unless they could demonstrate they were prevented – and I’m sure the FIA would care more about drivers missing a race than about missing a practice session (which was the Monza 2006 threat), as skipping a race would be a bigger indictment of the FIA’s position.

          The FIA has shares in Liberty, which has to please shareholders by making as much money as possible. The FIA is required to run races unless it can demonstrate force majeure… …but on multiple occasions, it has proven desperate enough to run races to break its own regulations in the process, even when safety has been a relevant element. USA 2005 (races aren’t supposed to run if fewer than 12 cars are available for it, and insurance requirements meant the Michelin-shod drivers weren’t even supposed to be available to do the formation lap they were forced to do), Japan 2014 (where, among other issues, the race ran without the helicopter/ambulance protections required by the regulations. Note on that occasion, rather like last weekend, the FIA claimed the regulations said one thing when they actually said something else) and China 2017 (where the receiving hospital was moved outside of established procedures, at considerable legal risk rather than a mere regulatory breach, due to smog preventing the usual one from being used).

          On all of these occasions, the FIA was told beforehand to take a different approach. On each occasion, it continued to take the regulation-breaching course, while putting out a statement that it put safety first. We were lucky in the USA and China… They got radio from many drivers, and then appeared to ignore most of it (had they actually listened, there wouldn’t have been a second attempt – not to mention that it appears the first attempt should have been vetoed without giving the drivers a “vote” due to the helicopter situation).

          The superlicence system means that if the FIA says it’s OK to race, the drivers have to abide by their contracts to the extent they (and their team) are able. Likewise the teams (who have contracts with the FIA too). If the FIA decides they’re not extreme enough to preclude racing, all the drivers can do is radio in their appeals and hope. If the FIA does decide the conditions are extreme, they red-flag and the decision isn’t in the drivers’ hands. So no, robbie, there is “nothing in driver’s contracts that says they can’t be forced to race under certain extreme conditions”, because there’s an assumption the FIA is the most qualified entity to determine if conditions are indeed “extreme”. This is backed by an EU Settlement in 2001 (the one that made the FIA a de facto monopoly in Europe, primarily because of its safety expertise).

          BE types’ power in this context would begin and end where the FIA said they did. This means the FIA is the protection against the “BE types”. So Stefano Domenicalli (who’s in the nearest analogous job to BE’s) would have total power to enforce the FIA’s belief conditions were safe enough to race, and total power to enforce the FIA’s belief they were too extreme to attempt one, and no power to oppose the FIA’s opinion. This is why for most of BE’s reign, he wouldn’t have got the race started – because Sid and Gary were the FIA’s heads of medical matters during the relevant three-and-a-bit decades and were empowered (indeed required!) to overrule him when the defined criteria for doing so were met.

          The CRB’s eventual court of appeal isn’t in the UK, so if a driver or team objected with a CRB-based contract termination, there would be no appeal to a UK court (as there would be if a team fired a driver because it actually wanted to do so). The appeal would have to be lodged to the Swiss Court of Arbitration. It’s such a slow process that no cases from F1 have ever been heard by a CRB court. Cases for various F1 matters have been abandoned after multiple years, such is the backlog that court has. (Remember, I’m operating under the assumption that the team did not agree with the FIA’s position; ironically, the driver’s situation would be easier if the team agreed with the FIA and decided to fire the driver before the FIA indicated a contract breach had occurred).

          The FIA does not have the legal power to put anyone in danger, something it knows well. However, a legal right that cannot be enforced makes it difficult to make absolutely sure endangering actions never occur. Especially when the powers I’ve said the FIA would use on the drivers endangered their careers and not their lives (that is to say, they could walk, but could not then guarantee racing again when it was safer).

          You can probably guess why no F1 driver has run the risk to their careers in the Superlicence era.

  10. Once again Bernie demonstrates just how out of touch with reality he is. Would he have done what he says he would have done? Yes. And most teams would be forced to go out to try to get points in such a tightly contested year. And then there would have been a massive crash at Eau Rouge/Raidillion that would have resulted in massive damage to cars in a budget cap era and potentially driver injuries or death. That was the worst part of the track for the rain and mist and it is the most dangerous as well.

    I don’t agree with a lot of decisions made by the FIA on Sunday but not racing is something I whole heartedly agreed with.

  11. I think we should Ecclestone to Afghanistan now and see how he likes it.

    1. Impossible – who’d be Bernie’s commanding officer, given the armies in Afghanistan were withdrawn?

  12. Thank god Bernie is not in charge anymore.

  13. Bernie is a bit out there, but he does pose a legitimate question: Is there any way they could have made the race happen in spite of the rain? Seems to me the main problem is the cars’ speed through Eau Rouge/Raidillon/Blanchimonte. Take those away, and there probably would have been some crashes, but nothing too dangerous. So could they just have waved yellow (or double yellow) flags in those sections for the whole race?

    Also, probably not immediately implementable, but can they force everyone to drastically turn down their engines? As in, limit the fuel flow rate to a third of what it normally is, or something like that? Maybe a possible solution for future washouts, if it is technically feasible and the FIA finds a way to make it happen in a reasonably fair way.

    Neither solution is ideal, but perhaps better than no race at all.

    1. Coventry Climax
      31st August 2021, 15:05

      But it’s not ‘the cars speed’. It’s the right foot of the driver behind the wheel that determines the speed of the car. And that speed should match the conditions. You make it sound like the drivers have no say in it anymore. And, to a certain extent, that is indeed the case, unfortunately, with all the things that are dealt with from the pitwall.

    2. @aesto Due to no medical helicopter and no method of getting a road ambulance to a hospital within 20 minutes… …not only was there no way to have a race, there was no way to have what actually happened either.

      1. Dang, forgot about the helicopter. Fair point.

        1. still a sensible, good point
          Ideally the cars would be conceived to be run in lower / higher downforce configs — like we saw in 1980;
          and in in smaller / wider fashion
          => adaptable to low-speed circuits (Monaco) and for treacherous conditions when you rather want to cross Raidillon with 200 instead of 280 km/h

  14. “If we were in the army and we were told we have to go to Afghanistan, we might have said, ‘bloody hell, that doesn’t sound safe, but we have to go, we don’t have a choice’,” he added.

    Uhh but Bernie, they’re not in the army, and they’re not going to Afghanistan; and indeed they do have a choice. Bernie’s analogy implies that he is far more concerned with “the show” than the safety of the people with which he made billions off the back of. Typical.

    1. Bernie is from the war generation, they have lived with people dying, and have accepted that people will die when they take risks.
      Motorsport is always going to be risky, perfect safety doesn’t, can’t and won’t exist, and striving for it is delusional.

    2. @justrhysism Good point. Jean Todt may be the leader of the FIA, and Stefano Domenicalli may be the leader of Liberty, but neither is the commanding officer of any competitor in F1…

  15. So Illot’s tweet is not so subtly hinting at the fact that he will be announced as Bottas’ team mate at Alfa Romeo for 2022, probably at Monza…

    1. Hope so.

      The drivers in Ferrari customers’ teams are probably the most wasted on the grid right now – Antonio, Kimi, Nikita. 2 or even all 3 of them need to get boot. Valtteri and one (or two) Ferrari academy drivers would be a welcome addition.

    2. @geemac Unless Shwartzman underperforms or doesn’t win the F2 championship.

  16. Yeah and how do you change the schedule of every broadcaster in the world? Not to mention ticket holders. Sponsors might complain too as a different starting time would affect ratings.

    Rescheduling the race for a morning start with very little time in hand is absolutely impractical.

    1. It can still be broadcast at the usual time….

      1. Not and comply with the contracts for live broadcasters. (If everyone watched through highlights packages only, that would work).

  17. Schedule known “problem” races around noon in the future, Belgium, Japan, (Malaysia), Brazil. Creates a bigger “window”. Besides that, contract a real tyre producer, Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone, etc. So much solutions can be thought of….

  18. “Half points were awarded. It’s not ideal but if you can’t reward someone for the race, reward them for the bravery in qualifying”

    Idk how this logic came about mr Brawn..?

    1. Really?
      If they are unable to hold a race strictly due to bad weather, everyone should get nothing at all and render the entire event a complete waste of time and money?
      Ignore completely that qualifying was also a competitive session? And that it almost always has a strong, direct influence on the race results anyway?

      Brawn’s comment is indeed pretty logical, all things considered…
      Unlike many other things I’ve read regarding the event in the last couple of days.

      1. Qualifying is the part before the race. You try to take as good starting position as you can and that is the reward and if there is no race then there shouldn’t be any points given. The reward for the race are the points. If they start giving points in qualifying why didn’t Charles get any points by putting it on pole at Monaco? If they can’t qualify then there are practice sessions to determine starting grid. Of course this was on of a kind situation and has many sides but in my mind by this logic they should give points for qualifying in every race weekend.

        1. @qeki Why didn’t Leclerc get any points for qualifying in Monaco? Because they don’t award points for normal qualifying. They held a ‘race’ there – just as they did at Spa, officially speaking.
          And that’s exactly what they awarded points for. The race.

          Brawn’s turn of phrase is simply acknowledging that there was no green flag racing and that drivers were mostly still in qualifying order – but it was still considered a race within the Sporting Regulations.

          1. Because the race was run. A pretty vacuous comparison.

          2. The only problem with that theory, Nick T. is that according to the FIA Sporting Regulations (as they are in the document, as opposed to the misquote that was put at the bottom of the classification), what happened does not meet the definition of a race. It met the FIA’s definition of a parade. Thus no points can be awarded for it.

      2. Well, in extra ordinary situations, I would expect everybody to accept such solutions; I have no issue with the points

  19. Their reward for their bravery on Saturday is the positions they start a race in…

  20. I don’t agree with Bernie Ecclestone. The track was so wet that there was zero visibility so if a car had spun (very likely in the wet conditions) it would have a very high chance of being collected by another car. At some tracks it might have been just about acceptable, but not at Spa, given the number of fatalities there in the past and the high speeds through Eau Rouge and Raidillon which are particularly difficult corners in the wet. Racing on Sunday would just have been too dangerous. Saying that it would have been their own choice to race is not really fair, as many drivers would have felt the need to race so not to let-down their team. Moments like Niki Lauda’s decision to withdraw from Fuji 1976 are rare over the history of the sport. And we all know that F1 drivers are incredibly competitive and would desperately want to race anyway. In a sense, starting the race and saying it is up to the drivers to decide if they want to come in is like removing all safety regulations on the cars and making them optional, saying ‘it’s up to the drivers how safe to demand their car is at the expense of performance.’ Masi does have a responsibility to keep them as safe as possible, and there would be far more shouts against him if the race had started and there had been a serious accident, which is incredibly likely. Comparing the situation to the army going to Afghanistan is ridiculous; this is just a means of entertainment for people who get to see 21 other races a year if at home, or get to go next year instead if at the track (refunds should be handed out). It is a real shame we didn’t get a race at the weekend, but it was the right thing to do.

    1. +1000

      Even from the camera position at very slow safety car speeds, visibility was non-existant. It would have been insane to let the drivers go out, would almost certainly have led to multi-car accidents and probably to injuries.

      As for running the race and leaving it to drivers to decide not to take part, most would have run anyway and taken the risk unless they came together and all refused to run. That doesn’t mean it would be right to put them in that position. Give a man whose family are dying of starvation the chance to feed them all by sacrificing his own life and he will probably take it, but that doesn’t make it right.

  21. You can see the expert manipulator in Bernie.
    First talk proudly about free will and letting people make their own choices. This is clearly the honourable thing to do,
    Then compare the current choice to a situation where there is no free choice at all. The people in this situation clearly do the honourable thing.

    Now, my dear minion, what is your free and honourable choice?

    A dangerous man.

    1. Seconded.

  22. Three laps, but BE has some validity in his points.

    Ilott tweet: I don’t take his wording as anything concrete for now. Shwartzman is, after all, in a better position because he does more racing this year and racing that’s directly useful for F1, so unless he underperforms or fails to win F2, I can’t see Ilott jumping him.

    COTD: I’ve pointed this before, but while starting earlier may have helped in this case, not necessarily the same always as individual cases can vary.

  23. Re Ecclestone: Well, I don’t know if drivers would be ultra-safe on the start if he let it go ahead…
    Re Merc kart star: Named after Kimi!
    Re COTD: Bring back 2pm times.

  24. Bernie has a point in that they’ve raced fine in similar conditions before, and also that the new cars will lift the water off the track better than ever before, but his soldier analogy was poor.

    Of course there are some drivers that like to play tough and consitently oppose safety measures to keep the element of deadly risk, it didn’t take more than a wet race to prove it was all talk.

  25. Bernie is no longer relevant. Which is good because he’s done little other than spout this sort of self-contradictory guff for years. The sooner his comments are no longer reported the better.

  26. I wish instead of saying “there would certainly be a crash!”, people brought instead a scientific, statistical argument into the discussion.

    Such as “racing in the rain there’s an X times increased chance of accidents”, or “rain races have seen X times more hospitalizations or fatal crashes than dry races”, or yet “X% of times accidents were caused by spray”.

    It’s hard to counter an argument based on vagueness and/or anecdotal evidence.

    1. The vast, vast majority of injuries and deaths have come in dry conditions. In fact, besides Bianchi’s incident (which led to the Mickey Mousing of F1), not a single death or serious injury occurred in the rain in about the last 45+ years in F1. And I don’t think accidents in the days of zero cockpit integrity are even valid anymore.

      1. Nick T The things you think are “Mickey Mousing” started before Bianchi was born, let alone his death. (Denis Jenkinson, one of the finest journalists in F1 during the 1960s and 1970s, was complaining about it during Jackie Stewart’s early career. He only didn’t call it “Mickey Mousing” because Disney characters weren’t associated quite so strongly with early childhood back then.

    2. “Certainty” indicates 100% chance. As there had already been a crash on the outlap, when cars have no reason to go faster than they think the conditions can handle, that is all the evidence one needs to know there’d be another crash in the 44 subsequent laps. The other problem with demanding statistics is that there aren’t many fatal F1 accidents to reference (one in the last 27 years) and this specific occasion had several shared factors with it (heavy rain, FIA breaking its own regulations, no medical helicopter, prior crashes under slow conditions in the same race…)

  27. I may be blind but where in Ilott’s interview for F2 does it suggest he’s teasing an announcement?

    1. @rocketpanda “I have some news coming soon” isn’t so much teasing an announcement as outright stating there will be one. Hopefully it will be an announcement of some substance and not “I am announcing that there will be an announcement of an announcement soon”.

  28. Point to ponder though

  29. For most of the era Bernie governed F1, he would have tried to order the start at 4 pm, only for Sid Watkins to point out that the medical helicopter couldn’t fly and the traffic outside the circuit prevented an evacuation in the 20 minutes stipulated in the regulations Bernie ordered Sid to help develop.

    Sid would most likely have said Bernie was free to start the race if and only if he would accept full liability for any problems resulting from that start.

    Bernie saw few people as his equal, and only took orders from two people – Sid Watkins and his successor, Gary Hartstein. He would have cancelled at that point (probably slotting Spa in at the earliest opportunity for a retry if that was financially plausible).

  30. Seems like everyone is talking about BE’s comments, but what about Brawn’s? Specifically, he said:

    [George Russell] doesn’t have a front row car but in those tricky conditions in qualifying, he trounced people with far better cars than he had. In my view, there is only one decision for Mercedes next year with regards the second seat.

    I bolded the last bit for emphasis.

    I get that Brawn’s history in the sport provides him a somewhat unique perspective to have seen talent and his viewpoint is interesting to hear because of his time and positions in the sport. But I find it troubling that someone with a history at the team in question, and currently an F1 Managing Director, would make comments about what a team should or should not do regarding driver contracts.

    This is supposed to be a competition, and someone in Ross Brawn’s position surely has access to vast amounts of data and information that most others do not. TO BE CLEAR—I am not stating that Brawn is doing anything purposefully dirty or underhanded. But even casually talking about what specific teams should or should not do, with regards to decisions that are within the realm of the competition, smacks of impropriety to me.

    1. of course the bold didn’t show up, so never mind. the last sentence in the quote is the one i was attempting to point out.

    2. I know what you mean and there were some occasions I felt the same like you mention here

    3. Leaders of Liberty commenting on that sort of matter is wrong – and is also old news. (I don’t think they should be doing news at all, unless it directly directly affects something about which Liberty has specific duties e.g. TV contracts).

  31. And that’s why you’re no longer in charge, Bernie.

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