POLE POSITION: Rain stopping F1 races seems mad… but don’t forget drivers risk their lives to entertain us – Maxsports
May 20, 2024

Maxsports

All Sports To The Max

POLE POSITION: Rain stopping F1 races seems mad… but don’t forget drivers risk their lives to entertain us

It is not an easy sell. These are meant to be the best drivers in the world, so why should they dodge racing when the heavens open?

They could drive as slowly as the conditions allow. I put that solution to Daniel Ricciardo two years ago when rain here in Spa resulted in no more than a couple of laps behind the safety car after an interminable delay. He didn’t have an answer.

It is, though, fair to assume that the hardwired urge to race as fast as possible trumps any possibility of school-run caution.

So that brings us to this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix in the Ardennes. Rain fell steadily all on Thursday and forecasters say it will continue to do so for much of the weekend. One shaft of sunshine lies in the fact that conditions in the Ardennes are capricious.

It was in spray in Spa earlier this month that 18-year-old Dutch driver Dilano van’t Hoff died in a Formula Regional European Championship race. He became the 49th man to perish here since 1925.

The Formula 1 circuit has experience some heavy rainfall and more is expected to come

The Formula 1 circuit has experience some heavy rainfall and more is expected to come 

As a result, the topic of visibility and driver safety has been at the forefront of conversation

As a result, the topic of visibility and driver safety has been at the forefront of conversation 

There is no doubt this is a dangerous track, especially along the Eau Rouge-Raidillon- Kemmel Straight section that also fatally ensnared Anthoine Hubert in a Formula Two smash four years ago.

That was in the dry, but the intrinsic hazard there of a car hitting the wall and rebounding into the path of oncoming traffic was the devastatingly conclusive factor, as it was with Van’t Hoff. The FIA have made no changes to the track in the last few weeks, saying they do not have adequate data to make empirical modifications.

But, leaving the contours of the circuit aside, drivers are most concerned about a lack of visibility in poor weather. Lando Norris, sitting in the McLaren motorhome, reached out his forefinger and pointed two tables away, saying that in wet conditions you couldn’t see that far. Which at high speed is a potential problem, to say the least. But surely this is not a new phenomenon? ‘The wider tyres have made it worse,’ he said.

Russell, director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association and a thoughtful member of the grid, came up with his own analogy: ‘It’s like driving down the motorway in heavy rain with no windscreen wipers.’

He added: ‘The tarmac has an effect. Water sits inside it and the F1 cars suck it up and throw it into the sky. Always into Les Combes, there are lots of trees around and the moisture has nowhere to go so the visibility is tough. We have to get out there and see, but it is going to be a challenging weekend.’

This kind of talk was a reminder of the eternal truth that motor racing is dangerous.

It was in spray in Spa earlier this month that 18-year-old Dutch driver Dilano van‘t Hoff died in a Formula Regional European Championship race

It was in spray in Spa earlier this month that 18-year-old Dutch driver Dilano van’t Hoff died in a Formula Regional European Championship race

LEWIS MUST BEWARE THE PULPIT

To switch sports for a moment, Jordan Henderson quits Liverpool for the football powerhouse of Al Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia, and thus exposes his support for LGBT issues as little more than a plume of hot air.

It is not to say that his support for the Rainbow Laces campaign was insincere, but not a strongly held enough conviction to forgo the £700,000 a week he will earn in the strict Muslim state.

Henderson’s move highlights the danger of sports stars climbing into pulpits. Which brings us to Lewis Hamilton (below), who gave vocal support to the Just Stop Oil madmen when it was believed they would sabotage the British Grand Prix. This was ironic at best: if it were not for oil, nobody would ever have heard of Lewis Hamilton.

He was already in the Henderson-bind by then in that his wages and world championships are funded by Mercedes’ partners, Petronas.

They are Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company. A state in which, incidentally, homosexuality is punishable by the death sentence.

To switch sports for a moment, Jordan Henderson quits Liverpool for the football powerhouse of Al Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia, and thus exposes his support for LGBT issues as a plume of hot air

To switch sports for a moment, Jordan Henderson quits Liverpool for the football powerhouse of Al Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia, and thus exposes his support for LGBT issues as a plume of hot air

LANDO’S REMORSE AFTER SMASHING MAX’S TROPHY 

Lando Norris, a bit flippant after accidentally smashing Max Verstappen’s winner’s trophy in Budapest last week, adopted a more contrite tone in Spa.

‘I apologise,’ he said of the damage to the £30,000 piece of ornate china. ‘I didn’t mean to do it and I know how much it means to Hungarians and their culture. I made a couple of jokes at the time, but I said sorry to Max. I’ll be more careful in future.’

Lando Norris, a bit flippant after accidentally smashing Max Verstappen's winner's trophy in Budapest last week, adopted a more contrite tone in Spa

Lando Norris, a bit flippant after accidentally smashing Max Verstappen’s winner’s trophy in Budapest last week, adopted a more contrite tone in Spa

LAURENT MEKIES WILL BE ON THE GRID NEXT AS ALPHATAURI BOSS 

Laurent Mekies was in blithe spirits as he left Budapest on Sunday. It was his final weekend as sporting director of Ferrari, and the next time we will see him in the paddock will be as boss of AlphaTauri. 

He promises to be a little brighter of demeanour than the outgoing ray of sunshine, Franz Tost.

Between now and his return at the start of next season the Frenchman is serving gardening leave. ‘First, I have to get a garden,’ says Mekies.

Laurent Mekies (pictured above) was in blithe spirits as he left Budapest on Sunday. It was his final weekend as sporting director of Ferrari

Laurent Mekies (pictured above) was in blithe spirits as he left Budapest on Sunday. It was his final weekend as sporting director of Ferrari

STEAKS ARE HIGH FOR BILLIONAIRE STROLL 

Lawrence Stroll, billionaire owner of Aston Martin, is an exacting gourmet. So much so, I can reveal, that he flies in steaks from Argentina for his delectation at race venues around the world.

‘He loves sharing his finest cuts with his high-rolling friends,’ explains a source with a glass to the kitchen door. ‘He relishes telling them the provenance of their haute cuisine, usually Argentina but sometimes Texas.’

It reminded me of a story about Ron Dennis, legendary McLaren chairman. A stickler for high standards, Ron had his favourite sausages, served at the track by his Absolute Taste company, couriered by van from Spa to Farnborough airport so he could enjoy a Full English on board his private jet.

If you can afford it, why not?

Lawrence Stroll, owner of Aston Martin, is an exacting gourmet. So much so, I can reveal, that he flies in steaks from Argentina for his delectation at race venues around the world

Lawrence Stroll, owner of Aston Martin, is an exacting gourmet. So much so, I can reveal, that he flies in steaks from Argentina for his delectation at race venues around the world

F1’S COMMISSION MEETING WILL CONSIST OF SPRINTS DISCUSSION

Subject to Friday’s F1 Commission meeting, sprints are due to remain on the calendar next year. There will be six of them again.

But, alas, the format almost certain to be adopted is the one that made its debut in Azerbaijan and is due to be run again this weekend in Spa. It breaks up the rhythm of the weekend by dedicating Saturday to sprints and dislocating qualifying, on Friday night, from the grand prix on Sunday.

The previous schedule was better: Friday: FP1, qualifying; Saturday: FP2, sprint; Sunday: GP. It was not perfect but as the sprint result determined the grid for the grand prix, there was a continuity to the weekend.