How the FIA can prevent a repeat of Spa 2021

At the end of the Belgian Grand Prix (which really never got underway to be honest) fans, drivers and pundits were left disappointed, miserable and for the 70,000 that had camped around the 7 kilometres of the Spa Francorchamps track, very wet. 

Written by Andrew Lwanga, edited by Janvi Unni

At the end of the Belgian Grand Prix (which really never got underway to be honest) fans, drivers and pundits were left disappointed, miserable and for the 70,000 that had camped around the 7 kilometres of the Spa Francorchamps track, very wet. 

Heavy and unrelenting downpour meant that the drivers were unable to go racing on Sunday. What followed was a delayed start after delayed start whilst we waited for the Stavelot heavens to close but they did not. Seemingly left with no option, F1 Race Director Michael Masi allowed for a pair of laps to be completed under safety car which according to the Sporting regulations is enough for a classification and the awarding of half points. 

Needless to say the masses didn’t like that very much, as a wonderful qualifying session and the prospect of a wet session were all decided in a non race and if your name isn’t George Russell you were probably frowning more than you were smiling. 

Conclusions from the 2021 'Belgian Grand Prix' | Planet F1

Whether we like it or not, the Belgian Grand Prix has concluded, it’s water gone down Eau Rouge and under the bridge. But how can we prevent this from repeating?

1.DO IT LIKE NASCAR

NASCAR often gets flak from F1 fans and fans of European motorsports as many consider the series across the pond to not be entirely up to scratch with those in Europe and particularly “The pinnacle of motorsport, F1”. However it’s worth noting that such a fiasco wouldn’t happen in NASCAR. 

Whilst nobody can control the weather we can prepare for it. In NASCAR should a race fail to commence or is brought to a halt due to the weather, it is simply rescheduled to take place on the following day. In fact this past weekend on Friday in Daytona a NASCAR Xfinity race was postponed due to heavy rain after 19 laps of the scheduled 100 and resumed on Saturday. 

This of course is not to undermine that it would be a logistical nightmare to push the race forward one day taking into television broadcasting deals, bringing back marshals who are volunteers and don’t get paid for another full day e.t.c however, going all over the world to race cars shaped like upside down airplanes with a thousand horsepower is a logistical nightmare, and we made that work! All this to say if the FIA and Formula 1 were to look at a race weekend whilst considering the possibility of it being a 4 day weekend, measures would be taken to ensure that it could run as smoothly as possible. 

2.WE’VE GOT TO REDO THE RULES

Oftentimes when a new rule is put in place it’s to compensate for an outdated one or to prevent abuse of an existing one by one of the teams, this time we’ve got to do it to prevent Race Control from abusing the rules. 

1.The Timer

During the “race”, race control transcended time and space to press pause on the 3 hour timer that starts during the scheduled race time. This serves as a time limit and should the 3 hours come to an end before the final lap the race ends either way, but pressing pause on a time limit defeats the whole purpose of the time limit. 

2 . What classifies as a race (don’t call it a race if it wasn’t)

According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary a race is “a competition between people, animals, vehicles, etc. to see which one is the faster or fastest.”

That didn’t happen yesterday but yet we had a race classified since according to the FIA a minimum of 2 laps are required, be it under safety car or racing conditions. This is what was eventually exploited by Race Control leading to perhaps the most anticlimactic conclusions of a race weekend. 

Perhaps the bigger problem is that it robs the teams and drivers the ability to compete simply rewarding points based on qualifying positions, which isn’t what F1 is about. Fernando Alonso summed it up perfectly saying,

“Well, for some of them it probably was a little bit of an early Christmas, because there were some gifts given today to some people because we didn’t race, and they still get the position and still they get the points.

“So it’s a little bit shocking. I was P11, I was one place to the points, I was never allowed to fight for those points, but they still gave the points.”

Ultimately the FIA needs to revise the rules concerning giving out half points, we can’t call it a race without having had racing laps. Therefore to the FIA if you’re reading this (you probably aren’t), take this from me, for a race to get a classification there should be a minimum number of racing laps not under a safety car. 

3.Delayed/Aborted starts

If you were watching the Sky Sports F1 coverage of what should have been the Belgian Grand Prix, you’ll have heard commentator and 9 time podium sitter Martin Brundle disagree with Race Control removing a lap for every delayed start. 

In his well articulated argument, Brundle stated why it’s done and why it shouldn’t have applied to Sunday’s non-race. The reason why delayed or aborted starts result in the omission of a lap from the total lap count stems from the original reason for aborted starts. In times past drivers would complete a formation lap and whilst on the grid if they’d realized they had stalled the engine or had a problem they’d wave their arms signalling to race control that they have a problem and that the start should be aborted. This resulted in another formation lap in which the cars would have burnt fuel thus necessitating the removal of a lap as the extra formation lap was not included in fuel calculations. 

This didn’t happen on Sunday though, 4 starts were delayed whilst the cars sat idling on the grid but in that time no fuel was burnt. Perhaps on revision the rule should be rewritten only for aborted starts and not delayed ones, some may argue that a few laps are negligible however 4 laps around the Spa Francorchamps circuit are close to ten percent of the race. 

Can Belgian GP be Postponed for a Day Later on Monday After Heavy Rain at Spa  F1 Track? - EssentiallySports

3.THINK ABOUT THE FANS

Perhaps the saddest part of the Sunday race was the fans in live attendance. 70,000 people took time out of their weekends to camp along the circuit for as long as 8 to 9 hours only to see 2 laps under the safety car. Admittedly there’s very little the FIA, Formula 1 or the promoter could do on this front as postponing the race would only mean asking the fans to come back the next day, a work day nonetheless. 

But most of them would. Once passionate about a sport, humans tend to cast logic aside. 70,000 people from all across Europe camped alongside the Belgian countryside in what is almost a forest for 3 days in spite of rain and all other inconveniences. If the race were to be postponed earlier it may have saved everyone time but all that hinges on the FIA setting infrastructure necessary to enable the postponement of a race. It’s safe to assume that the decisions made didn’t take into account the fans and whilst that might be good for any other decision when it directly affects fans who’ve spent their hard earned money, it’s a little bit different. 

At the end of the day the FIA and Formula 1 cannot prepare for every possible eventuality but when curve balls like these are thrown at them, it’s wiser to take measures to better prepare for them. If there’s any consolation, at least this non-race happened now and not in the middle of a titanic battle between two of the world’s best drivers and teams.

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