Race Weekend Central

F1 Midweek: The Belgian Grand Prix Debacle & Silly Season’s Answers

The Belgian Grand Prix last weekend stands as the shortest “race” in Formula 1 history, as well as the most pathetic excuse of an event.  Even a few days after the GP, the sport is dealing with the fallout and recognizing that how it handled things in Belgium was unacceptable.

Many drivers voiced their opinions, with Lewis Hamilton calling the race a “farce,” Sebastian Vettel decrying that race points were awarded as “a joke,” and Fernando Alonso calling the points decision “shocking.” These three drivers constitute 13 driver’s championships between them. Perhaps if they are finding fault with the race, then someone should listen.

Vettel deserves further credit for calling out the third qualifying session, held the day before the GP. During the session, while driving through heavy rain, Vettel stated the session should not have even started, and a wreck that sent Lando Norris to the hospital gave further credence to Vettel’s assertion.

His further remarks addressed safety concerns and how F1 should have handled it, stating that “there’s plenty of things that could have been done better, but I think it’s better to be safe one too many times than one too little.”

His analysis was spot-on, as race director Michael Masi admitted that starting Q3 was a bad decision after the fact.

The qualifying session served as an omen for race day. With the two attempts to start the race futile and the event called official with just one lap being driven (behind a safety car), nothing about the event makes sense.

See also
F1 Review: Max Verstappen Wins the Belgian Grand Prix That Wasn't

Carlos Sainz offered a nuanced take on the debacle.

“If it was done just with the intention of awarding points, then I think it’s absolute nonsense,” he said. “I don’t think we should do any laps just to alter the final result of a race.

“If it was done with the intention of actually running and restarting the race, then yes, which brings me to the next point, which is how far into the race you call it a race, and if there were actually no race laps, no competition, why should points be given and any result be given, because there was basically no race. I didn’t race, so I didn’t deserve the half a point I got, so I don’t know why I got it.”

Nonsense seems to be a good descriptor of things. Laughable also seems to work. To think that a so-called official event occurred without any driver having the ability to actually race makes putting this trip to Belgium in the history books as a contested event disappointing.

To ignore, however, that the teams did any work this past weekend would belie the fact they showed up, practiced and qualified. To ignore the fans and their dedication, holding station for three hours in the rain, would set a distasteful precedent toward how the sport treats them.

The question that lingers is how the FIA should have handled things. The forecast for Monday (Aug. 30) offered rain much like what had plagued qualifying and race day.  With Monday out, would the best prospect have been cancellation or postponement? Perhaps.

With COVID-19 still serving as an influence, canceling the Japanese Grand Prix not that long ago, the ability to figure out where and when is a predicament. Even adding a date in Texas, long rumored to be the site of a second GP, would not work as numbers surge in the state and having fans in attendance become debatable.

Could the sport have returned to Belgium? Probably not, logistically speaking, and that is what makes the decision-making process so convoluted. So canceling the race may have been the best idea, but sporting enterprises have a difficult time giving back money. And that is what everything is about.

Hamilton stated it clearly, saying that F1 made a bad decision, but “money talks.”

Silly Season

The big announcement that seems to be hovering over the sport looks to be coming in the next week and a half, likely before Monza. Of course, the topic here is George Russell.

Russell seems set to join Mercedes next year in what may echo the Nico Rosberg – Lewis Hamilton pairing. Russell looks to have all the talent in the world and will surely benefit from being promoted to the seven-time constructor’s champion. That he took his Williams and put it on P2 for the start of the Belgian GP is a display of his raw ability.

While Russell looks like he will find his way into the biggest of spotlights, partnering with countryman Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas looks like he will replace fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo. The move seems peculiar and one that deserves scrutiny, as moving back to Williams may be a better move for Bottas.

As the game of musical chairs continues, two other spots are likely to be filled and that will end this year’s Silly Season mysteries. Antonio Giovinazzi looks like he will lose his ride, but will still move up to be Ferrari’s third driver/test driver for 2022 – with the possible intent of bringing him on board for 2023. In this scenario that continues to gain traction, former Red Bull pilot Alex Albon bounces back into the sport and lands with Williams.

The peculiar move that seems to be happening is bringing Formula E driver Nyck de Vries to join Bottas at Alfa, taking Giovinazzi’s seat. The element that is surprising here is that the 2021 Formula E champion was linked with Mercedes, making Williams a more likely spot than Alfa Romeo. But at this point, allegiances and constructors are a mystifying concept – as can be found with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff representing Esteban Ocon and securing Ocon a multi-year contract with Alpine.

One of the best things about the sport is its unpredictability, and F1 is showing it in spades recently.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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Tom B

The Belgian GP was worse than that debacle at Indianapolis with the tires and six car field.

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