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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  • 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. Sam (@undercut677)
          31st August 2021, 15:23


          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. On the Marbles
            1st September 2021, 16:39

            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.