Domenicali: No ‘commercial’ reasons behind Belgian GP restart
Formula 1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali denies that the decision to restart Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix and award points for the event was motivated by commercial considerations.
After a nearly three-hour wait that followed an initial truncated start behind the safety car at Spa, a final attempt to get the race underway – again behind the safety car – was red flagged after three laps in the worsening conditions.
However, as the minimum requirement of more than two laps was fulfilled for the event to be officially considered a race, a classification and half-points were issued by the FIA, while a podium ceremony also took place to celebrate Max Verstappen’s ‘victory’ ahead of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.
When all was said and done, Hamilton criticized FIA race director Michael Masi’s decision to bring the cars back out late in the day, insisting the decision was justified by financial reasons.
“We were sent out for one reason and one reason only,” wrote the Mercedes driver on social media. “Two laps behind the 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.”
But Domenciali responded to speculation that the event was restarted only to keep Formula 1 within its contractual obligations.
“No, no, at the end of the day,” said the F1 chief. “That’s why, when I hear that there was some commercial discussion behind that, it’s totally not true.
“Because when we’re talking about racing, there is responsibility, that is a clear process, and those things are not connected at all.”
Asked if Formula One Management would have received its full franchise fee from the race’s promoter if the race had been properly cancelled, Domenicali added: “Absolutely. That’s why I said to consider that as something related to a commercial implication is wrong.”
Domenicali sympathized with the disappointment and ordeal endured by Spa’s spectators, most of which braved the element for over eight hours in the hope of watching a proper motor race.
But the Italian also supported race control’s decision to delay proceedings until a window in the weather appeared, and then to permanently suspend the race when conditions proved too dangerous.
Read also – FIA: Late Spa restart was attempt to assess conditions
“For the people, of course, it’s a shame, because it’s something that everyone wants to see, a proper race,” he said. “But I think that the decisions taken by race control are absolutely correct.
“There was the wish and the will to do the race. And as soon as there was information, I was following what was the situation there, there was a window of possible weather improvement to try to do the race.
“Then as soon as they restarted, the comments were pretty clear, and on the another side another weather forecast received, not possible.
“Despite the disappointment for everyone, I think in terms of management, it was the right thing to do.
“You need to consider safety for everyone, and that’s very very important. As I said, the first to be disappointed is me, because I love racing, but there are always conditions where you cannot do it.”
Domenicali said that talks would likely be held with Spa Grand Prix – the race’s promoter – to see what could be done for the fans that attended Sunday’s washed-out event.
“It’s something that [we can discuss] together with the organiser,” said the former Ferrari team boss.
“We are not the ones that are putting [out] the tickets. Some sign of attention could be done, so it’s something that as a gesture of attention, in terms of what will be the right reward in this condition.
“Unfortunately, the race is not there. You can pay the ticket and it is what it is. At the end of the day, for sure, the organiser, together with us, will consider the attention, the maximum attention to the fans, that’s for sure.”
“I think there will be ideas that they already are thinking [about], considering what has happened this year.”
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