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No commercial pressure behind 'race' start, insists Stefano Domenicali

NEWS STORY
29/08/2021

Amidst growing anger over today's Belgian Grand Prix, F1 boss, Stefano Domenicali insists there was no commercial pressure to start the event, albeit for just two laps.

While fans attending the event appeared to accept today's events in good faith, this was not the case on social media where F1 and the FIA came in for fierce criticism for what, to the layman, appeared to be a farce of epic proportions.

Just weeks after Christian Horner and Max Verstappen criticised Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes for celebrating their Silverstone win whilst the Dutch driver was hospitalised, fans wondered how drivers could stand on the podium, punching the air in victory and high-fiving having only completed two laps behind the safety car.

Indeed, most feel that there was absolutrely nothing to celebrate.

Speaking at the official press conference, Hamilton repeated his earlier call for fans at the track to be refunded, a cry that will not go down well with F1 bosses.

"It's a real shame," said the Mercedes driver. "We obviously can't control the weather. I'm sure all of us love racing in the rain, especially here in Spa. It's one of the greatest circuits in the world.

"I think today, I think just really disappointed for the fans," he added. "They stood out there for absolute hours in the rain, no covering in the grandstands - I think maybe on the pit grandstand there is - but cold and wet and particularly the kids.

"More importantly, they had to spend so much money with travelling, accommodation and then they didn't get a race.

"I'm a little bit confused as to why they restarted the race because between the two hours when they stopped us the first time to the last time, there was no change in weather. But... yes... I mean I know why, but I do feel the fans were robbed of a race today and I think they probably should get their money back.

"There was no point at which we could race so there wasn't a race," said the Briton. "But there is a rule that says for it to be a legal race, it has to be, I think, a minimum of two laps. So they knew that and they sent us out for two laps behind the safety car and that activates a bunch of things and - I don't know all the politics and the background - but my most concern is that the fans should probably get their money back.

"I don't know if by doing the two laps it means they don't, and that's... I just don't think that's what we want. We have better values than that as a sport."

Earlier, when told that the formation laps would take place behind the safety car, Sebastian Vettel told his team over the radio: "What's the difference now... nothing.

"I guess TV money is the difference," he added. "I'm just stating the obvious. There's more rain the last 20 minutes now".

However, F1 boss, Stefano Domenicali was keen to dismiss talk that the race was started in order that the contract with the race promoter was fulfilled.

"Two laps or zero laps, it doesn't make a difference in that respect," said the Italian. "When I hear that there was some commercial discussion behind that, it's totally not true, because when we're talking about racing, there is responsibility, that is a clear process, and those things are not connected at all."

Asked again, if the decision was influenced by other factors, he insisted: "No, none, zero, never! And that would never become part of my consideration... not at all."

Asked if the full sanctioning fee would have been due without the race starting, he said: "Absolutely. That's why I said to consider that as something related to a commercial implication is wrong.

"For the people, of course, it's a shame, because it's something that everyone wants to see, a proper race," he continued. "But I think that the decisions taken by race control are absolutely correct.

"There was the wish and the will to do the race," he insisted. "And as soon as there was information, I was following what was the situation there, there was a window of possible weather improvement to try to do the race.

"Then as soon as they restarted, the comments were pretty clear, and on the other side another weather forecast received, not possible. Despite the disappointment for everyone, I think in terms of management, it was the right thing to do.

"It's not a problem of laps," he added. "It was the point of trying to do the race. I think on that, race control tried to do the maximum to do it. So as I said, it's not a problem of laps or no laps, it's really unfortunate conditions.

"You need to consider safety for everyone, and that's very very important. As I said, the first to be disappointed is me, because I love racing, but there are always conditions where you cannot do it."

Asked about Hamilton's call for refunds, he said: "It's something we can discuss with the organiser. We are not the ones that are putting the tickets.

"Some sign of attention could be done, so it's something that as a gesture of attention, in terms of what will be the right reward in this condition.

"Unfortunately the race is not there. You can pay the ticket and it is what it is. At the end of the day, for sure, the organiser, together with us, will consider the attention, the maximum attention to the fans, that's for sure."

The Italian also confirmed (race director) Michael Masi's claim that the race could not be held tomorrow.

"Not for logistical, not for a lot of reasons, you cannot schedule the race the day after for many things, related to availability of marshals, availability of other stuff.

"That was considered, of course, but it's not possible. With the promoters, everything is very close, they followed the decision process, so they are not out of that."

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spa, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 03/09/2021 3:03

"@ Pavlo...yes, you are correct. A misinterpretation. My mistake. Need better glasses hahaha."

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2. Posted by Pavlo, 02/09/2021 7:39

"@kenji - I wrote already 3 times in this thread that visibility was a problem and a reason to cancel the race. I don't see what exactly are you objecting.
@VC10-1103 - just because people had accidents in Spa (even in dry) doesn't mean there should be no motorsport at all. Or does it?
To summarize: obviously Spa had to be cancelled, done and dusted. But for future F1 needs to think how to adjust the rules (for tires, aero, even as ridiculous as putting arches during rain) ensuring F1 can race under rain. Otherwise in 10 years we will see races cancelled after first droplet, for all the valid reasons of course."

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3. Posted by Spindoctor, 31/08/2021 11:49

"@RP a good point about those half points. If RBR wins the championship by (say) 2 points & gets a lot more cash as a consequence, it might ruffle a few feathers... Similarly, McLaren\Ferrari & so-on."

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4. Posted by VC10-1103, 31/08/2021 11:48

"Pavlo - How much heavier than an F1 car is the medical car with all the equipment it carries? No wonder it didn't have the 'cruise' over the water. F1 tyres also launch gallons of water into the air reducing visibility, not confining it to in the wheel arches of a road going vehicle, HGV's excepted. Anyway, just because you have been lucky not to have an accident in poor weather conditions on a motorway it doesn't mean they never happen."

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5. Posted by kenji, 31/08/2021 11:31

"@ Pavlo...I don't know what TV feed you were watching but what I observed were images that proved beyond doubt that it was impossible to see the car in front, even with a space of some 4/5 car lengths. That perspective was, IMO, a perfectly valid reason to prohibit any racing. As for the rest of the 'hoo har', quite laughable."

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6. Posted by Pavlo, 31/08/2021 8:38

"@VC10-1103 - this is what I wrote, problem is poor visibility, not that the track is slippery. "Drive slower" was reference to slippery track. Yes, with poor visibility the only option is to cancel the race.
@nmw01223 - even you wrote in your comment "above a certain speed". This is a core of a motorsport - for every corner "above a certain speed" you are a passenger. The skill is to find that speed and get as much as possible close to it.
Anyway, in Spa things were slightly different. We saw a nice drive from Medical Car. This was definitely not cruising over water, it was a "drive", that would allow to "race". There were also races of other series same day. It was not a hurricane, just rain. I drove on motorways in way worse conditions, and F1 has tires that can shift (theoretically) twice more water."

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7. Posted by RP, 30/08/2021 19:18

""...to the layman, appeared to be a farce of epic proportions." So, us laymen are just too uniformed to not understand there was a race, even though it appeared to not be a race. I need to through away my television as it didn't display a "race". It displayed a terrible offense against sportsmen everywhere. Stefano certainly played the role of Pinnochio with no commercial pressure. That makes it even more ludicrous, if that is possible. But, hey, what does a stupid layman know?
Now, at the end of the season when the big money is distributed, a team that has moved ahead of another based on the half points issued yesterday stands to make millions based on what has been written over the years. I can only hope that Red Bull or Mercedes win the championship by 0.5 pts. Let's see what they have to see or perhaps the wise Pinnocio (opps, Stefano) will be happy when Ferrari falls to 5th by 0.5 points
Pitiful! Michael Massi should have handed out the trophies at the podium.
"

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8. Posted by VC10-1103, 30/08/2021 17:25

"Paulo - "Drive slower on water" - I refer you to Spa 1998 when Shumacher dove into the back of Coulthard in heavy rain and no visibility. "

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9. Posted by Pavlo, 30/08/2021 13:01

"@ nmw01223 - agree about laps.
Aquaplaning though is something the driver can control. Just drive slower on water. And yes, it’s a skill. And technology. If Mercedes and RB make cars that are marvellous on dry, but undriveable in rain, Williams can do opposite and win occasional race. Fair. But designing the cars that can’t drive on wet and cancelling all rainy races is weird… good only for the drivers who don’t have wet skills."

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10. Posted by Pavlo, 30/08/2021 8:07

"@Lapps - the problem was not the grip, but the visibility. There were many drivers and team principals interviewed, and former drivers as commentators, all agreed that low grip and aquaplaning is for a driver to manage, they are paid for it. But the low visibility makes it too dangerous if anything happens.
As our commentators mentioned, there was no visibility between the marshal posts, meaning that drivers didn't see the (potential) flags at some places on the track, which technically makes racing impossible.
Solution is actually opposite - cars should have more restrictive aero, decreasing the aerodynamic downforce sucking water from track. The same thing that makes it impossible to follow now."

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11. Posted by Lapps, 30/08/2021 7:53

"One of the considerations making it impossible to race was the rule preventing changes to set up after qualifying. Could we not have an allowance of (say) 5degrees extra rear wing (front wings are free so cars can still be balanced)? This would make ‘wet’ races more viable. "

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12. Posted by Pavlo, 30/08/2021 7:53

"@Endre - MotoGP contractually agreed with all the parties the possibility to postpone the race to Mondays, but F1 didn't. Obviously there are many things that can't be possibly done just "for tomorrow".
This may be considered now, but as cars are in general less vulnerable to rain, this was never required. By the way, it's raining right now in Spa, so would be anyway useless.

More interesting question - where did F1 go the wrong direction, that 20 best drivers in the world can't drive under the moderate rain? F3 and Porsche raced in same conditions. I drive quite often under heavier rain. Maybe FIA needs to look at the aero, car dimensions, etc. to ensure there is better visibility, which will also greatly improve overtaking on dry."

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13. Posted by Pavlo, 30/08/2021 7:32

"@nmw01223 - I agree with you about this situation, but in general the laps behind the SC are counted because cars use (limited) fuel. We sometimes see 5 laps behind the SC, if it's in the beginning they can save, but in the end they will just dry up.
And a small joke: actually there were even overtakes before the formation lap (Perez), so can be counted :)"

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14. Posted by Endre, 30/08/2021 0:39

"Interesting how MotoGP can move a race to Monday due to bad weather when needed, but it is "impossible" to the FIA. Maybe they should fire all the incompetent people and organizers they are working with and ask Dorna how they do it ...."

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15. Posted by Jet Jockey, 30/08/2021 0:27

"Total Italian boloney!"

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