Cynical Spa non-race may not be F1’s last as visibility problem will only worsen

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In April 2009 I received a call from then-Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone after I published the suggestion that he committed an error of judgement by starting the Malaysian Grand Prix at 4pm local time, which backed the race into poor light once an hour-long deluge, which arrived mid-race, stopped at 6pm.

“It could just as easily have poured at 4pm or whenever,” he protested, pointing out that the later start potentially attracted more TV viewers in western time zones.

I agreed with him but pointed out that an earlier race start not only reduced audiences in eastern zones but would have increased the chances of resuming racing before darkness fell. As it was the race was aborted and audiences were sliced by 50%.

“Do you think we should start at 3pm?” he asked.

“Yes, or earlier,” I replied.

Without as much as a farewell he cut the line, but a year later the race started at 3pm and did so until the demise of the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2017, (coincidentally?) the same year Liberty Media acquired F1’s commercial rights.

F1 has pushed race start times back to suit TV audience
That 2009 race was the last grand prix for which half points were awarded until last Sunday. The discussion I had with Ecclestone echoed in my ears at Spa as I watched the race clock count down. Crucially, since assuming control of F1 Liberty has progressively moved start times later, primarily to grow US audiences, which are among the smallest on a population basis regardless of how numbers are massaged.

To cater for the subsequently reduced daylight time, F1’s sporting regulations were amended for this year to reduce the maximum event ‘window’ from four hours to three. Thus a conscious sporting decision was taken in this regard, a decision that had involved all teams, Liberty and the FIA.

There are, of course, powerful commercial arguments in support of later starts but, as Sunday proved, there are considerable commercial risks. Significantly, this risk is primarily carried by an unrepresented group, not the race promoters, the commercial rights holder or even F1’s global TV audiences. That group is the spectators who, having shelled out eye-watering sums for tickets, made the race possible in the first place.

F1’s business model is that gate income (and associated spending) provides promoters (and local authorities) with vital funding to cover F1’s fees – average $35m per race – which in turn enables promoter to stage the event that TV broadcasters subsequently transmit. With no live audiences there would, in ‘normal times’ be no F1 world championship – yet decisions taken revolve mostly around their impact on TV broadcasters.

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Consider: last year F1 staged 17 races, only a handful of which were permitted to host spectators; the result was a swing from a budgeted profit to a $400m loss – primarily as race promoters could not shell out fees without spectator income. Prize payments to teams were on average $30m down on 2019. The bottom line – in every sense – is F1 needs fans more than the fans need F1, yet are the last to be considered, as Sunday proved.

Half points were awarded for the first time since 2009
In early 2017, shortly after taking over as Liberty’s choice of managing director of F1 Ross Brawn – he of serial successes as Ferrari technical director and whose eponymous team walked both 2009 titles – said that F1 would in the future be putting its fans first.

“We know what fans want: They want entertainment, they want close racing, they want to be able to understand what’s going on,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I think everyone agrees on that… I think simplicity is a key objective for the future.”

Brawn added that, “F1 tends to be reactive. It has a problem, it reacts and tries to find a solution. But (it) very rarely has the vision of looking forward three to five years and deciding where it wants to be. [The fans] want racing, and we haven’t seen too much of that…”

“Three to five years” later very little seems to have changed if this Sunday past provides any guide. Matters are also highly unlikely to change unless F1 identifies the core issues that caused what many consider to have been one of the most farcical events in its history – and these factors were not the incessant rain, but the sport’s cack-handed reactions to the poor weather that had been predicted for at last two weeks.

Chances of rain at Spa can never be eradicated but shifting dates would reduce risk without affecting commercial rewards. Statistics show that since 2007 the 29th day of August has been hit by heavy rain no fewer than nine times, with three days being overcast and one being hot (27C) and sunny. Statistically a late August grand prix in the Ardennes was sure to be rain-affected; it was only a matter of time – that time was Sunday.

Spa had already flooded earlier in the year
Forget not that in mid-July the circuit was affected by regional flooding that claimed over 200 lives, yet F1 sailed glibly on. No sport is as statistically driven as F1, yet its calendar masters ignore Spa’s historic rainfall records, which show that August ranks amongst the highest of the region’s precipitous months, while during the month of April – traditionally F1’s European season opener – average rainfall is lower by almost 50%.

Despite these arguments (and statistics) F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali after the race asserted: “You could have said in these conditions, is it like to throw the balls in the air [as to when the rain would fall heaviest]. It could have been pouring from 11am or whatever it is. It’s really something that you cannot predict.”

Modern weather models can predict to the minute let alone the hour, while statistics predict weather patterns. Thus F1 steers well clear of, for example, Middle Eastern events in August, when temperatures exceed 50C, and does not schedule a German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in December when snow is sure to fall.

I admire Domenicali and was delighted when he was appointed to the role late last year, but his arguments gloss over that racing was possible on Sunday, as various support events proved. With a bit of programme flexibility, F1 could have raced on Sunday, but such changes would potentially disrupt broadcast schedules, so the sport winged it in the hopes that things would get better – at the expense of fans.

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F1 mandates various safety measures such as halo and HANS devices to minimise risk when accidents occur. So it should be with F1 calendars – particularly given the critical importance of live fan experiences to the overall show.

There are no doubts the decision to not go ahead and race was the right one given treacherous conditions, not least due to aquaplaning and lack of visibility. One wonders, though, whether these elements are largely self-inflicted; for example, whether Pirelli’s wet weather tyres are fit for purpose given comparisons with other brands are not possible. A team engineer pointed out that intermediate tyres are the default option when going gets wet.

Under F1’s (pre-2007) open tyre regulations there was an imperative for Bridgestone, Goodyear and Michelin to develop wet ranges or risk getting beaten; Pirelli has no such incentive – it holds the sole supplier contract until the end of 2024. Said engineer, who has with experience of various wet weather tread patterns remarked on Sunday that Bridgestone’s 2009 ‘Monsoon’ tyre was the best he’d ever worked with.

“It was developed during the ‘tyre war’ with Michelin,” he explained, adding that his conviction that aquaplaning would have been reduced – and that racing would have been possible – with improved water ‘dispersement’, to apply his uniquely F1 term. Possibly it is time for the FIA to investigate this angle in conjunction with Pirelli given the potential safety angle.

Massive diffuser on 2022 cars will exacerbate visibility problems
However, in the engineer’s opinion the biggest contributor to racing not being possible on Sunday was the spray thrown up by cars, causing drivers to drive ‘blind’ at 300kph. He believes 60% of spray is created by underbody ‘suction’ which in turn gets widely dispersed by rear diffusers, and 40% by tyres. The bad news is that the situation is unlikely to improve for next year; if anything, the opposite.

Current cars generate 25% of their downforce via the front and rear wings respectively, he explained, with underbodies responsible for around 50%. With F1’s 2022 regulations designed to reduce ‘dirty air’ created by front and rear wings there is greater reliance on underbody ground effects for downforce and thus the floor figure is likely to rise to 60% (or even more), intensifying spray and further reducing visibility.

F1’s regulations do not anticipate extraordinary scenarios. Thus, there are numerous ‘grey areas’, with Sergio Perez’s car damage providing an example: was the team permitted to repair the car after his heavy shunt on the ‘warm-up’ lap or not given it returned to the garage on a flatbed, in contravention of Article 38.1, which requires a car to reach the grid under its own power after a reconnaissance lap.?

No one knew – we asked a Red Bull team contact, who said, “Checo confirmed not in this race” after his car returned to the garage on a flatbed. Visuals later showed the Mexican’s mechanics slaving away while sporting director Jonathan Wheatley – usually the widest awake of his ilk – tapped race director Michael Masi for advice.

Masi referred the matter to the stewards, who eventually decreed the car could start from the pit lane. Masi explained that, if two laps were completed behind the safety car, then half points could be awarded if under 75% of the race distance was completed. This was said over an hour before the eventual (re)start.

Safety Car laps gave a useful ‘alibi’ a race had happened
Clearly, then, what had looked like a reconnaissance lap wasn’t a reconnaissance lap. Similarly, if (half) points were to be awarded for a few laps behind the Safety Car on the basis that these were official laps, why were no points awarded for fastest lap? The reason is simple: regulations don’t specify either way because no one anticipated a grand prix being run solely behind a Safety Car, so scrapping the point was the only option.

Those Safety Car ‘alibi’ laps rank amongst the most cynical ever seen in F1, a situation compounded by Masi’s “two lap” comments and subsequent on-screen graphics which repeated the information, which is how it panned out. The logical conclusion is that was the intention all along – in turn ticking all sporting and commercial boxes – and if not, F1 was badly served by pure coincidence. Once again…

It is urgently clear F1 needs to urgently review and amend its regulations, which FIA president Jean Todt yesterday acknowledged. Even more so, it also needs to frame suitable anticipatory clauses. Such race weekends are unlikely to remain the exception for as long as F1 refuses to learn from Sunday, with Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff’s comments ranking amongst the most short-sighted of Sunday, even dafter than suggestions that the race should or could to be delayed to Monday.

“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,” the man who was once tipped to run F1 said post-race.

Report: Farce and mockery – Belgian GP spectators react to F1’s Safety Car parade at Spa
“[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.”

Imagine paying €500 for a ticket, shelling out double that for accommodation for the weekend and huddling in pouring rain all Sunday to see two alibi laps run behind a safety car, then reading such nonsense. The fact is that thorough analysis proves that Sunday was far from ‘freakish’; that the sport has plenty to learn from the entire weekend – and if it fails to convert hindsight to foresight F1 does not deserve to have a single fan.

In the final analysis the promoter Spa Grand Prix, working in conjunction with Liberty should compensate fans in full – both gambled on Spa’s August weather and lost, but not as heavily as fans and F1 as a whole. The problem is Article 13 (sic) of Spa’s general ticket sales conditions states in bold letters: “NO REFUND AND NO CHANGE ON TICKETS WILL BE GIVEN UNLESS THE EVENT IS CANCELLED!”

Which, thanks to those crafty alibi laps, it wasn’t.

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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...

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54 comments on “Cynical Spa non-race may not be F1’s last as visibility problem will only worsen”

  1. Yeah, probably about time people started to get over it now.
    Weather happens, F1 structure and rules are inward-focused primarily for stakeholder benefit, “Event” means all the races on a program and not just one of them…. Nothing new, really.
    Oh, and yes – the next set of cars will be even less usable in the wet.

    Still not the most boring F1 event I’ve ever seen. Plenty of full GP’s have had less suspense, intrigue, excitement and sporting purity than this one did.

    1. “Sporting purity”? Name one.

    2. I used to watch F1 races in America and it was a sacrifice and pain to wake up at 6 a.m.

      But sadly, for Liberty, pushing back by two hours may result in an even smaller audience as Sunday morning is a busy time for Americans who focus on getting ready for the afternoon football games.

      1. @bankelele, When I lived in Florida (pre digital) I recorded early AM races and watched them over my morning coffee before going out for breakfast. I find it hard to believe that current US viewers have no-way to timeshift cable tv programs, just make sure not to view or listen to any news beforehand.

        1. Aah, F1 has come a long way now.

          My most vivid memory was watching the 1996 Spain grand prix (Schumacher’s first Ferrari & epic wet race win) and, as soon as he crossed the line, the credits started scrolling across the screen and the feed immediately cut to the start of ESPN’s morning Sportcenter show.

          Sometimes I even drove to have breakfast in a hotel in a neighboring county that had the next race broadcaster (Speed TV) which was not available in my cable area.

      2. I loved waking up (with the help of ol’ trusty alarm clock, granted) to F1 on a Sunday. For me that’s Australia, but it lets me watch F1 in peace, and then I’d walk the still silent and mostly empty streets at 8am post race, with the day still ahead. Instead of having to tell all my friends that I can’t go hiking or whatnot throughout that Sunday, because there’s a race smack-dab in the middle of the day.

        It’s a ritual of sorts that I truly miss (thanks Corona!).

    3. S I’m not so convinced the new cars will be less wet weather friendly. While I do get the point in the article above about downforce generated from the floor being the main culprit in producing spray in the wet, with the new cars producing even more suction with the underbody, I’m still not convinced. The new cars are going to produce less dirty air with which to begin, and that dirty air is going to be sent higher up by the rear diffuser and the shape of the rear wing, so I do wonder if in the wet the spray will be sent above the trailing car much more than currently, and therefore visibility in the wet for trailing cars will improve. I wonder if the new cars will be better at drying a track more quickly as it sends a mist higher up giving it more time to disperse and evaporate and not just land back on the track. It will depend on the conditions no doubt, but I can see the new cars drying a track quicker or at least forming and drying a racing line more quickly.

      1. If the water is thrown higher into the air maybe it will hang around longer?

        1. or maybe it will blow away more quickly. We have to wait and see (or not see as the case may be).

    4. I didnt realise Spa’s new CEO was a racefans reader

  2. Similarly, if (half) points were to be awarded for a few laps behind the Safety Car on the basis that these were official laps, why were no points awarded for fastest lap?

    Because Mazepin did not finish Top 10, which is required to get the point. This is basic info that an experienced F1 writer like Dieter should know.

    1. I think the point was that it probably wouldn’t have been awarded even if someone inside the top 10 had got it, as nobody would have done so under green/competitive conditions.

      But yes, F1 got out of having to think about that thanks to first Bottas in 12th, and then Mazepin in 17th.

      1. Yes but that didn’t actually happen. As it is the non-awardance is completely consistent with the current Fastest Lap rule.

        We don’t know whether F1 would have awarded the (half) point or not if somebody from Top 10 happened to get it. Maybe they would have weaseled out of it – or maybe they actually would have given it.

        My issue is that Dieter (who’s work I generally respect) was trying to argue the non awardance we got look like a contradiction with the other (half) points awarded in the race when it was completely consistent

        He probably just forgotten about the Top 10 part whe he wrote it, we all make errors.

    2. Dieter is right to flag this. Nikita Mazepin’s fastest lap was set on lap 3, which didn’t count in the official results due to the count back rule under red flags. This is the same as how Kimi Raikkonen’s overtake on Fisichella for the lead of the race at the 2003 Brazilian GP did not count. So, with that in mind, the fastest lap of this 1-lap race was of course set by the guy who crossed the finish line first – Max Verstappen. So not to award Max the point (or half point) was a conscious decision given there is nothing in the regulations that dictate what does/doesn’t count for fastest lap in these circumstances.

      @dieterrencken – I noticed there is a repeated paragraph in the middle of this post – the “in mid-July the circuit was affected by regional flooding” paragraph appears twice. Great read as always though!

  3. I don’t think it matters to start at 9 on the US east coast versus 7. Fans will watch at 7 and casuals are not going watch at 9 what they wouldn’t get up for at 7, and ESPN is doing replay the race later anyway. Also the west coast is asleep at 9am EDT. I assumed the idea was to have it midday in the UK/Western Europe.

    1. @dmw From what I’ve been told, the 2018 changes in Europe were because the previous pattern got tight with UK’s lunchtime or generally for Europeans when they’d most likely watch live, lunch, dinner timings, etc.

      1. Jonathan Parkin
        1st September 2021, 14:49

        I was a regular watcher of F1 in those days and I managed fine. I even booked time off work so I could watch the Australian and Malaysian GP’s live

    2. Like many North American viewers, I have a DVR so the race can start at anytime they want and if I’m not up, I’ll record it and watch it later. The use of DVRs does factor into ratings so I don’t see where or why the start time is an issue for anyone.

    3. Except that here on the west coast, three time zones earlier, the races start at 6:00 am. Way too early for any enjoyment. It was even worse in NZ….

      Reply moderated
  4. I’m not sure if moving the Belgian GP would make a massive difference.
    The last time I checked, I didn’t notice much difference in precipitation between the only decently warm months. Maybe switching with French GP since June is decently warm, while Le Castellet stays warm deep into the Northern Hemisphere autumn, but this is about the only one I could see.
    AFAIA, the 2018 start time changes (mainly Europe) were for the UK as the previous 13:00 standard got tight with their lunchtime.

    1. It doesn’t ensure racing conditions it would just provide more opportunity to start the race before dark. Starting late in the day at a track and time of year where rain is probable is painting oneself into a corner.

      1. @ryanoceros 15:00 isn’t late per se. The sunset time difference between French GP and Belgian GP weekends is about 1h25min, but starting a race 5+ hours before sunset isn’t uncommon.

    2. The 15.00 timeslot is very annoying for mainland Europe. There is a pointless gap between lunch and race start.
      With current trigger happy red flags, races run well into dinner prep time. The British GP was the icing on that cake
      Qualy was at 19.00
      Sprint was at 17.30
      Race was at 16.00 and had a lengthy red flag.

      Almost every session coincided with dinner

  5. It was pretty obvious that they were going to do everything they could to not cancel the race. Thanks for showing the ticket conditions to confirm that there was a financial benefit to not calling the race cancelled.

    Cancelling it would also have reduced the number of races from 22 down to 21 this year which would have messed up Liberty’s record breaking year, something they seem to be absolutely set on making happen.

    1. @dbradock But not the number of events, which is what counts.

      1. F1: The Pinnacle of Cynical Motorsport.

        Seems I need to up my game or be left behind in the mist of 2 race-defining safety car laps.

  6. Wont next year’s cars produce a bigger rooster tail as more is all squirted out the back of the car rather than over it?

    1. Witan I’m not quite sure exactly what you mean and as per my comment above to ‘S’ I wonder if the new cars, designed to send a reduced amount of dirty air (compared to current cars) over the trailing car rather than at it, visibility for trailing cars will be improved in the wet starting next year. I guess it remains to be seen, but I can envision a rooster tail of mist sent higher in the air and therefore more easily dissipated and even evaporated, and prevented from coming back down onto the track, aside from better visibility for the trailing drivers. I can envision a drying track drying even quicker with the new cars running on it.

      1. Coventry Climax
        1st September 2021, 17:26

        @Robbie, ground effect effectively means there is an amount of suction, keeping the car tighter to the track. That inevitable means that if the track is wet, water gets sucked up, and spray results.
        With the cars depending for a larger part on ground effect coming year, suction, and thus spray, will increase.
        Spray may well occur in a very laminar stream of air, so no dirty air, yet no visibility either.

        1. Coventry Climax Yeah fair enough but I’m mostly curious about the concept that the new rear diffusers and rear wings will be sending the dirty air upwards and over the trailing car, which is, combined with the reality that they will make less dirty air than currently, why I wonder about spray from a wet track also potentially rising above the trailing car more than now. I mean, if the cars are supposed to be able to race more closely because they will make less dirty air, and that dirty air will be sent upwards, not to mention the cars will be less sensitive to dirty air, I just wonder about the spray being sent higher too, and potentially making for less visibility problems. I also wonder about a drying track where let’s say it has been raining but now the sun has come out, and that is where I envision a higher spray being evaporated more quickly in the air, as well as dispersed away from the track more quickly. All speculation on my part of course.

      2. The problem with Spa has always been the trees in close proximity to the track. You can pump the water into the air, but it comes back down at Spa.

  7. There is some confusion in this article about whether it makes sense that Pérez was allowed to start. Article 36.1 of the Sporting Regulations states:

    <Any car which does not complete a reconnaissance lap and reach the grid under its own power will not be permitted to start the race from the grid.>

    This only meant Pérez had to start from the pitlane instead of the grid. There is also 22.4 which I think Masi originally quoted as the reason Pérez would not allowed to start, but that one only applies to the race:

    <If any mechanical assistance received during the race results in the car re-joining the stewards may disqualify him from the race (other than under Article 22.7(d).>

    Reply moderated
  8. Coventry Climax
    1st September 2021, 17:30

    This is a very good article @DieterRencken, thank you.
    I sincerely hope the FIA and Liberty take notice too. I’m sorry to say however, I have serious doubts there.

  9. It is interesting to note that back in the 1980s when I first started watching F1, the Belgian Grand Prix was always held in May. It then seems to have moved to a late August/early September date in the late 1980s. Maybe it should go back to May or early June. I think there are several places that could slot into Belgium’s now regular date at the very end of August.

  10. If even more water gets lifted by the new cars, then it won’t take much running before most of the water is gone. Even now one can use intermediate tyres where once one had to use of wets because of the strength of this effect.

    Maybe all that’s needed is 5 or more laps at a good pace to get rid of the most of the water, and maybe also a sort of GPS / tracker on the steering wheel display that shows the distance to the car in front, with red lights if that car suddenly does something odd.

    Start the wet race like all those other years, let the cars spread out naturally and it should all be fine. Of course one need to fix track issues like run-offs at Radillon and maybe Eau Rouge.

    1. I think racing could have been possible had they tried to start, the rest you are going into driverless car territory.
      As soon as they stop trying it was only going to become too wet.
      I have a crazy idea, what about shortening the cars by 2m and narrowing them by 20 cm it would help with racing in the wet, something never done before..

      1. @peartree I don’t understand this comment. F1 has already has a tracker system that shows where all cars are on the circuit (even I can see it on F1TV), and it would obviously not take much to incorporate this to the steering wheel display to show the driver what’s hiding in the spray ahead.

        1. @balue The point is not whether that is possible or not (I too have f1tv!) But rather no driver is going to be driving staring at a distance meter.

      2. smaller cars would help, like old Parc-Fermé regs would, so that you can adopt your car in optimal fashion to current circumstances; tyre competition would help, less tarmac dessert, too — and I bet there is a way to prepare tarmac for better drainage

  11. Whilst I don’t think I disagree with anything written in the article, it is poorly edited and the quality of articles seems to be dropping on this site in recent months.

    That paired with what seems to be some slight favour for Red Bull from both Dieter and Keith (whether conscious or not) means for me I’m going to be coming to the site much less now.

    It used to feel like a well informed fan writing well written and balanced articles here, but I’ve noticed stronger opinion of late.

    If anything I am more interested in the collation of non-F1 news on this site now.

    1. The only thing that might have changed recently is the pro-Hamilton rhetoric is slightly toned down after some blowback, so I guess that’s what you take to mean ‘favorable to Red Bull’.

    2. I cannot second the drop in quality at all.
      Content matters and I am all happy with that here — especially TODAY, with this VERY open, clear, resume of Dieter !
      (they type the stories not always while sitting on a proper desk => typos may occur, but Hey !)

      IF there was a tendency to favour a different team as next Champion than we saw for the last 7 years — this would not run under “tendentious journalism” but under sheer interest for the welfare of the whole sport !
      YES !

      1. ( and IF there was a slightly softer spot for the strongest / most promising non-Mercedes title contender, maybe this spot is also for HONDA — whereby I believe, that BOTH would deserve the title — already by now, HONDA alike Red Bull; and this preference has nothing to do with averseness towards Mercedes, who staid with the sport when many others fled away — BIG KUDOS for DAIMLER, always ! like for Ferrari, like for Renault, no difference, I sware ;)
        But this year shall be the HONDA year — just from a storytelling point of view. I hope I was clear ? ;)

  12. I don’t remember any Belgian GP not taking place in late August, early September. I’ve just checked and at least all the way until 1992 it’s been set around those days, and no wonder a lot of races have been rain affected. I don’t think we can blame them for again chosing that date for this GP. Even in hindsight, where would you put it? it was flooded a month before… and earlier dates would’ve made other rounds difficult, like Montreal which was scheduled before being dropped. I don’t remember anyone complaining about the dates when the calendar was announced last year, only talks about the triple headers and such.

    What would you do, tho, if the weather says rain in 2 weeks time? you just go, like you go to the beach if you bought your plane tickets 3 months before and with a couple of days before your flight Accuweather.com says it’s gonna rain like mad… you never know…

    Seems a bit over the top to blame anyone for that. It is what it is, weather’s been acting weird sporadically for years… it was 20 degrees above 0 in Antartica not long ago…

    But I do agree about their true intentions. As you say, way before the start was attempted, Masi had shot himself in the foot saying on live TV what was going to happen… I’ve also mentioned that in other comments, and I was surprised to the point of thinking “did he actually say that?” because few journalists (that I’ve seen) have pointed that out. That’s important, as it shows, even if they say that they really were trying to start the GP, they had that in mind. That whatever the case, they could just do a couple of laps behind the SC and “job done”.

    THAT is disgusting. That should’ve never, ever been even thought about… They knew exactly what they were doing, and while some might say “you should be in their position” you’re right, none of us are, but you’d expect someone at that position to cope with whatever and make fast, precise, and above all, correct decisions… and I don’t think they did.

    1. Central europe is always wet during the summer. A weather affected Belgian gp is clsssic. Moving it to April could help and they could swap with the portuguese gp which is ironically in the same conudrum as Spa, whilst august is dry in portugal april is often very wet.

    2. The sporting regs say they need to do 2 laps to call it a race – why wouldn’t race control try everything to have them do 2 laps to call it a race?
      The rules may be subjectively wrong, but deliberately going against them isn’t right either. They have to enforce the rules as they are written.
      If they chose to make something else up on the spot, there would be even more controversy.

      1. damned but that’s a good point !
        I anyway would have opened all F&B booths free for all — would have calmed the temper BIG TIME

    3. The Belgian GP was traditionally always in May, until sometime in the 1980s when it was postponed until September for some reason I don’t remember now. I think that may have even been at Zolder back then, not at Spa, but the September date has stayed on the calendar ever since.

  13. What happens when quali and the race is rained out?
    Will the driver who topped the practice session get a trophy for ‘winning?’

  14. Wouldn’t go with April for Spa, too cold.

    May might work, though. It’d still have a good chance of being chilly by F1 standards, but it wouldn’t be too bad and (while not making any great difference to chance of rain) it would reduce the probability of more energetic storms.

  15. It’s the FIA’s lack of vision, not weather-related visibility, that’s the problem.

  16. I think what was rightfully pointed out in the article is “Modern weather models can predict to the minute let alone the hour, while statistics predict weather patterns.”

    Going forward F1 should rewrite the regulations and TV contracts (easier said than done) so that in the event of extreme weather patterns or conditions which will not allow racing, F1 should reserve the right to move the race start within a timeframe, say 2-3 hours earlier, with advanced notice. So if Saturday qualifying is nearly cancelled because of weather and the conditions will stay similar for Sunday, then announce an earlier race start so that there is a larger window to complete a race. Even if this does mean a race that is in several parts with red flags postponing the race during the worse weather.

  17. I agree that the bureaucrats at the FIA have very poor foresight and really do not try to see what would rules could output is extraordinary situations.

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