FIA Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department Michael Masi confirmed that the championship’s stakeholders will take into consideration the possibility of bringing a grand prix start time earlier into the weekend in case of a poor weather forecast.
The way in which Formula 1 approaches wet track conditions has been a hot topic of conversation at the end of the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix ‘non-race’, a weekend when drivers completed every session on Friday and Saturday, but were able to run only two laps behind the safety car on Sunday, as the rain refused to abate throughout afternoon.
Last Friday at Sochi, with torrential rain forecast for much of Saturday, a decision was taken to bring forward the first FIA Formula 3 race of the weekend to Friday evening, when Red Bull-supported driver Dennis Hauger ended up taking the title.
Asked whether this was something that could happen with Formula 1 Grands Prix in the future or whether the start times were simply depended too much on TV schedules, Michael Masi explained: “Not so much TV schedule-dependent… I think it’s something that we’re going to be discussing in the coming weeks. We said that following Spa that there’s obviously a whole lot of strategic discussions that need to take place between the FIA, F1 and the 10 teams, and that’s going to be one of the discussions at the Strategy Group meeting. It’s not just a ‘pluck it out’ scenario, we’re talking about two completely separate governance structures between the three championships. [F1 and F2/F3].” – he added.
Regarding the commercial aspect, he added: “Commercial, but just the governance structure before we even get to the commercial part. Those discussions [about F1] will happen in a proactive matter, we’ll have a look at it and see where we get to.”
When the expected heavy rain did turn up in Saturday at Sochi Autodrom, Formula 1 ended decided to cancel the final practice session and also the planned Formula 2 and Formula 3 races. Eventually the rain stopped and the qualifying session could take place in good conditions.
Asked by whether the decisions to bring forward F3 and swiftly cancel respective sessions on Saturday were a new, more proactive approach that’s a legacy of the situation at Belgian Grand Prix, Michael Masi replied: “No, not at all. Let’s look at Saturday for what it was. If you look at earlier in the day, those that were here at the time saw that there was a window that actually looked OK, which is why we brought the F2 cars into the pitlane. And then obviously that diminished. And we’ve always run by principle on those types of scenarios to go session by session, which is what we did. Obviously, there were limiting factors. With regards to the F3 race being moved to Friday, obviously the conditions looked as they did, probably the overriding factor in that scenario was that it was the last round of the championship, and we had the ability to fit it into the programme. So you’ve got to take all those factors into account, but, no, Spa certainly hasn’t come into it whatsoever.” – the FIA Formula One Race Director concluded.