The weekend of chaos and controversies amid Formula One’s shortest and most absurd race in all of its 71 years.
On Sunday 29th August 2021, the shortest F1 race in history took place. The race had only 3 minutes and 27 seconds, handing Max Verstappen the Belgium race win. The whole weekend was filled with torrential rain, which made racing extremely dangerous for the drivers.
On race day, incredible amounts of rain poured throughout, only varying in intensity. The start time of the race changed multiple times, based on the idea that the rain would eventually get to a more manageable level in which a race would be able to take place safely.
Due to the relaxed COVID-19 restrictions across Europe, those who had bought tickets remained within the venue, under heavy rain, waiting for the race to begin. In F1 tracks, most tickets sold have no overhead coverage for the elements, meaning that during this whole time of speculation, people remained in their places, taking on heavy rain, with the hopes that the race would eventually begin.
The race continued to be dragged on until, eventually, they decided to attempt to begin the race. The rain seemed to have started to cease, the key element for the green light to be given. All the racers got into their cars and the race was finally initiated after hours of delay.
In a normal Formula 1 race, there is a warm-up lap where the safety car leads the race and it's a chance that the drivers are able to get the tires ready to race. During this race due to the weather conditions, the safety car did not leave as it usually would. The rule is that when the safety car is on the track, the drivers are not allowed to fight to take any positions or pass the safety car. During the 3 laps, race control was monitoring the conditions and as the rain seemed like it was not going to stop, race control then ended the race.
“Under Formula 1 regulations, half points are awarded if drivers do not reach 75 per cent of the planned distance—in this case 44 laps—but they must complete two laps. Three laps were run under the Safety Car before the red flag was terminally flown, but due to the mechanism of the regulations the results are taken back two laps to the end of lap one. However, half points are still awarded.”
F1 official Michael Masi also stated that “we were all aiming for a window we thought was there, and the teams saw it,” regarding the decision to run three laps behind the Safety Car instead of any live racing. “There was a weather band where we thought we could get some racing, but you know the weather rapidly changes at this venue, we thought we could get something in, but the weather deteriorated rapidly, so we couldn’t.”
As some laps of the race had occurred the FIA decided to award half points to the racers. In this circumstance due to the fact that the safety car did not leave the track the drivers were not allowed to “fight” for any positions meaning that the amount of points were basically decided by the qualifying grid.
Controversy then began, as many stated that the Formula 1 team should have been able to predict that there would not be proper racing conditions on Sunday. This would then have led to an imminent refund to the people who had bought tickets and would have saved attendees hours of waiting under precarious conditions, under a thunderstorm, only to watch a measly 3-minute race. Race drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, 7 time world champion, and Carlos Sainz, called for full compensation to be awarded to the people who had bought tickets.
Lewis Hamilton posted the following message on his Instagram stories on the night of the race: “Today was a farce, and the only people to lose out are the fans who have paid good money to watch us race. Of course you can’t do anything about the weather but we have sophisticated equipment to tell us what’s going on and it was clear the weather wasn’t going to let up. We were sent out for one reason and one reason only. Two laps behind a safety car where there is no possibility to gain or lose a place or provide entertainment to fans isn’t racing. We should have just called it quits, not risked the drivers and most importantly refunded the fans who are the heart of our sport.” He added that “There was no moment today when we would have been able to race.” And during an interview with Sky also stated that “Money talks. It was literally the two laps to start the race. The sport made a bad choice today.”
As of this moment, no official statement had been made by the F1 commission regarding the possibility of a ticket refund.
The race day was a fiasco. While the weather cannot be controlled, there is no way that the commission did not know that the rain would not stop. The person who benefitted the most from this race was Max Verstappen, as he was to start in the pole position, and George Russel, who had qualified in second, making it the first podium of his career.
What are your opinions on this race weekend? Would you consider it a fiasco or not? Should Formula 1 refund the people who bought tickets or was watching three laps behind the safety car enough? Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section!