Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali and FIA race director Michael Masi insist there was no commercial influence on how the controversial Belgian Grand Prix was handled.
Only three laps were completed – all behind the safety car – and half points were awarded on a miserable day at Spa that featured over three hours’ worth of red flags in total and a significant amount of waiting around.
At one stage the race was “temporarily” stopped by the stewards in an unprecedented move “on the grounds of force majeure”, extending the limit to get the race done beyond 6pm local time – but it did not result in any green-flag racing.
All that materialised was a brief ‘race restart’ in which the field completed the required number of laps behind the safety car to allow points to be awarded, which some – including championship leader Lewis Hamilton – suggested was motivated by the desire to produce an official race result to satisfy contracts with both the promoter and the television broadcasters.
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However, F1 and the FIA have both claimed this was a legitimate attempt to restart the race that had to be aborted because the weather worsened again, and that there was no commercial element to it.
“No, it’s covered,” said Domenicali when asked if having no race would have impacted F1’s commercial deal with Spa.
“That’s why when I hear there was some commercial discussion beyond that, it is totally not true.
“When we’re talking about racing there is a clear responsibility and process. These things are not connected at all.”
Domenicali also confirmed that F1 would have got the full fee from Spa without a race, adding “that’s why I said to consider that as something related to, or [with] a commercial implication, is wrong.”
F1 race director Michael Masi also rebuffed any suggestions of commercial factors impacting the FIA’s decision-making process as the regulator.
He stated that there was “absolutely not” any communication with F1 that represented any kind of commercial influence.
“No, none, zero, never,” said Masi. “And that would never become part of my consideration. Not at all.”
While he confirmed that he was in regular communication with Formula One Management to ensure it was kept informed, he stressed that this was primarily to benefit those producing the television coverage.
“I speak to Formula 1 regularly to keep them updated, particularly from a television perspective because obviously they’re broadcasting the world feed,” said Masi.
“So I always keep them updated regularly, in direct communication with the timing room, with everyone to keep everyone up to date, because obviously the pictures that are delivered and the graphics for everyone at home are generated through them”
Masi explained that the attempt to restart the race was a genuine one given there was hope of a break in the weather.
The teams also felt this was possible given their forecasts, but that the rapidly changing weather meant that opportunity faded away.
“We were all aiming for a window that we thought was there and the teams even saw that there was a weather band near where we thought we could get some racing in,” said Masi.
“You’ve all seen how rapidly the weather changes at this venue more than anything, having seen rain on one side at times and sunshine on the other.
“So we thought we could get something in. But then the weather deteriorated so rapidly that unfortunately, we couldn’t.”
Domenicali backed the way the race was handled by Masi and the FIA and said that every attempt was made to have a race under green-flag conditions.
“For the people it’s a shame,” said Domenicali. “But the decision taken by race control is absolutely correct.
“There was the wish and the will to do the race. There was a window of possible window improvement and we tried to do the race.
“As soon as they restarted the comments were pretty clear and another weather forecast said it was not possible. [We’re] disappointed for everyone but in terms of management it was the right thing to do.”
When asked for his message to the fans, Domenicali said he was disappointed with the situation but that the weather conditions meant it was unsafe to do so.
“The message is clear that unfortunately we don’t control the time,” said Domenicali. “It’s not a problem of laps, it’s a problem of trying to do the race. On that, race control tried to do the maximum to do it.
“[It’s] unfortunate conditions. You need to consider safety for everyone. It’s very, very important.
“The first to be disappointed is me because I love racing, but there are also conditions where you cannot do it.”