By proclaiming Max Verstappen the winner of the Belgian Grand Prix after just two laps behind the safety car in the heavy rain that fell on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the image of Formula 1 was scratched in front of the public and raised many questions about its regulation.
The start of the 12th stage of the World Championship in the category was held after three hours, after two failed attempts, with the cars starting from the pits behind the safety car because visibility was zero, preventing any overtaking and only for two laps: a “farce” according to the leader of the championship, Briton Lewis Hamilton, who stated that he preferred the cancellation of the race.
What does the regulation say?
According to the regulations of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), “half the points will be awarded if the leader completes more than two laps, but less than 75% of the starting distance of the race”. It is not stipulated that this should be done without a safety car. F1 was therefore able to designate a winner and award points to the top ten.
According to another point of the regulation, the classification is approved in the penultimate lap before the interruption of the race. Which is a questionable point, as the Belgian GP officially only lasted one lap and 3 minutes, 27 seconds and 71 thousandths. By far the shortest race in history.
Why was the race not cancelled?
A Grand Prix was never canceled on race day. Formula 1 certainly didn’t want to create that precedent. Especially when the category seeks to organize a record number of competitions this year.
Since it had to reduce the total to 22 races instead of the initial 23 due to the pandemic, the annulment would be a blemish on this record (currently set at 21).
“We did our best but time beat us to it,” explained Michael Masi, director of the Belgian race. “We were in permanent contact with our meteorological service provider and there was a window where it seemed that the weather would allow the start, (…) but the weather defeated us”.
Is it necessary to change the regulation?
Drivers themselves don’t understand the rules. “It’s a joke. I thought it was necessary to complete 25% of the race to receive points,” said German Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin).
“It’s shocking. How can you score points in a race?” asked another world champion, Spaniard Fernando Alonso (Alpine).
“We need a better solution for our sport. All together we have to review the regulations to learn the lessons of this day,” said McLaren Team Director Zak Brown.
F1, the FIA and the teams said they want to sit down and discuss possible changes.
Couldn’t run on Monday?
“There is no possibility of postponing the race until tomorrow (this Monday),” Masi said on Sunday. Why? “The list (of reasons) would be long,” he added.
The main cause was the huge logistics required to move the gigantic paddock to get ready for the next race this weekend in the Netherlands.
The weather was still bad on Monday at Spa-Francorchamps according to forecasts.
Can financial reasons explain the decision?
For Hamilton, this “farce” was the “worst choice”. The seven-time world champion of Mercedes considered that “the money spoke”. “These two laps to the start of the race are a show for the money.”
F1 president Stefano Domenicali argued: “When I hear that there are commercial discussions behind it, it’s totally false.” According to the Italian, F1 would still have received its revenue as a promoter of the race, even if the cars had not left the ‘boxes’ for the attempt to start.
Are there precedents?
Never has a Grand Prix winner been named without a single actual race lap. But in some GPs half of the points have already been given because of the rain: in Malaysia in 2009 (Jenson Button’s victory), in Australia-1991 (Ayrton Senna after just 14 laps and less than 25 minutes), or in Monaco-1984 (Alain Prost)