Ecclestone: Two lap ‘race’ just for commercial reasons

start 2021 belgian grahnd prix wires pool

Like millions of Formula 1 fans sat on their couches plus 70,000 or so wet ones at a miserable Spa-Francorchamps,  former supremo Bernie Ecclestone had a lot to say of wasted Sunday afternoon.

The Belgian Grand Prix was never going to happen as rain in the Ardennes was constant for most of Saturday and, of course, the whole of Sunday which in the end grounded F1 and also shed light on somewhat farcical protocols that officialdom tripped over.

In the end, the right call was made by F1 race director to not go ahead with the race, the problem lies in that they ran the ‘race’ for two laps under the safety car to allow half points to apply! That’s where the farce lies because there was no Grand Prix race at Spa in 30 August 2021.

Speaking to F1 Insider, Ecclestone admitted he did not know whether to laugh or cry as he watched events unfold on the telly from his home: “It was a disaster.

“You don’t have any control over the weather but it is important how you deal with it. It seemed that nobody wanted to take responsibility and make decisions. And in the end, together, they did everything wrong.”

Ecclestone ruled the sport with an iron fist for decades and will of course be commenting with his one rose-tinted glasses on: “How can you just let them run the two laps behind the safety car? Then finish the race and then stand there like Stefano sand say: We didn’t have any commercial reasons for doing this!

“That’s not true. There are contracts. By starting the race and completing their two minimum laps for a result, their contract has been fulfilled. So the organizer is obligated to pay the rights holder.”

Asked how he would have handled the situation on Sunday, Ecclestone ventured: “I would be doing a lot more laps than only two behind the safety car. On one hand, to really hope for an improvement in the weather and a drying track. And on the other, not to end up as it did.

“Because it doesn’t get more obvious than stopping after exactly two laps. Now everyone knows it was just for commercial reasons. From the money that the rights owners have made from their two cheating laps, they should compensate the fans who stayed in the rain for ten hours. There would still be enough left over in profit.

“Max Verstappen, George Russell and all the others risked their butts in qualifying and did a fantastic job. So it’s only right that that’s appreciated. Maybe now, more than before, we should think about even giving out points in qualifying.”

Looking back on his own experience with events besieged by rain: “In 1976 at Fuji, we had the first-ever worldwide television coverage. It was pouring with rain, really unpleasant. Still, I wanted to let it start.

“I told everyone: ‘I’m not forcing you to race! If you don’t want to, don’t. But I will let the race start. Niki Lauda drove into the pits after the first lap and gave up. I thought that was consistent. The others drove on.”

Ecclestone went on to also cite the race in Adelaide, in 1990: “It was raining even more than in Spa. The drivers grumbled, but I told them: You don’t have to drive, your choice! We started the race and after 14 laps we realized: it makes no sense. But at least we tried properly.”

As for his actions had he been there Sunday, 90-year-old Bernie said: “In Spa, I would have told them we’ll start the race. If it’s too dangerous for them, tell them to come into the pits after a few laps. But after what happened, there were only losers.”