By dedicating Max Verstappen winner of the Belgian Grand Prix after only two laps at idle, behind the safety car, under the deluge that hit Spa-Francorchamps, Formula 1 has discredited itself in the eyes of the public and raised many of questions.
The start of the 12th round of the year was given more than three hours late, behind the safety car, because the visibility was zero, preventing any overtaking, and for only two laps: a « farce » according to the leader of the championship, Lewis Hamilton, for whom the cancellation would have been preferable.
What does the regulation say?
According to the rules of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), « half of the points will be awarded if the leader has completed more than two laps but less than 75% of the initial race distance ».
It is not stipulated that this must be done without a safety car. F1 was therefore able to designate a winner and distribute points to the top ten.
According to another point of the rules, the classification is confirmed on the penultimate lap before a race interruption. Which is particularly funny in this specific case: the Belgian GP, very officially, lasted only one lap and 3 minutes 27 seconds and 71/1000. Which makes it, by far, the shortest in history.
Why not have canceled the race?
Never has a Grand Prix been called off on race day and F1 probably didn’t want to set that precedent. Especially since the discipline aims this year to organize a record number of Grands Prix. As she has already had to resolve to lower the total to 22 races against 23, because of the pandemic, the cancellation could have meant putting a cross on this record (currently at 21).
« We did our best, but the weather got the better of us, » said Michael Masi, race director. « We are in constant contact with our weather service provider and there was a window where it looked like the weather was okay to start (…) but the weather got the better of us. »
Should the rules be changed?
The drivers themselves don’t understand: « It’s a joke. I thought you had to do 25% of the race to get points, » said Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin).
« It’s shocking. How can you give points for a non-race? » Asked another former world champion, Fernando Alonso (Alpine).
« We need a better solution for our sport. We must all review the regulations together to learn the lessons of this day, » said McLaren team boss Zak Brown.
F1, FIA and the teams have indicated they want to sit down around a table to discuss a possible change.
Wasn’t it possible to run on Monday?
« There is no possibility of postponing the race until tomorrow, » Masi said Sunday. Why ? « The list would be long », he evaded, without mentioning the case of the numerous marshals, most of them volunteers … and employees.
Also involved, the monster logistics engendered by moving the gigantic paddock in time to be ready for the next race, in neighboring Netherlands, this weekend.
The weather also remained a black spot on Monday in Spa-Francorchamps according to the forecast.
Are there financial reasons for the decision?
For Hamilton, this « farce » was the « wrong choice ». The seven-time Mercedes world champion ruled that « the money has spoken »: « These two laps to start the race are a scenario for the money ».
F1 president Stefano Domenicali refuted: « When I hear that there have been commercial discussions behind this, it is totally false. » According to the Italian, F1 would still have received its income from the race promoter if the cars had not left the pits for the attempted start.
Are there any precedents?
Never has a Grand Prix designated a winner without a real race lap. But some had already given half the points because of the rain: in Malaysia in 2009 (victory for Jenson Button), in Australia in 1991 (Ayrton Senna after only 14 laps and less than 25 minutes), or in Monaco in 1984 ( Alain Prost).