Formula One failed its fans in the Melbourne rain

The postponement of qualifying after the first knock-out session in Australia was needless, it was an overreaction, it was a shambles. Whilst there is no doubt that the persistent rain at Albert Park made track conditions treacherous, at no time was it, as many teams and drivers claimed, too dangerous to drive in.

The latest of a string of incidents over the last few years in which track conditions have been deemed ‘too unsafe’ for green flag running, yesterday’s rash and ultimately wrong decision to cancel the session after Q1 ultimately left only one loser, the fans.

Firstly, teams and drivers should not be fully trusted when it comes to judging whether a circuit is in a good enough condition to drive on. Of course, there are times when they do tell the truth, but with dry weather much easier and more predictable to drive in, it’s a given that they will use some artistic licence to exaggerate the real conditions and get a session delayed until such a time that they can run on a drier, better, and ultimately more predictable track.

These are supposed to be the best drivers in the world. They should be able to drive in the worst of conditions and do so without any issues. Driving in the rain is extremely difficult but it is a vital part of Grand Prix racing and one that has made up a huge part of the sport’s history, and there is no justification why the teams and drivers should be able to dodge having to run in the wet just so they drive when the track has improved.

Although the track was sodden in Q1, and several drivers did make mistakes, at no time during that session did it appear that the circuit was too dangerous to drive on. There was no aquaplaning and no-one lost control without any sort of explanation. All the spins and accidents in that session were caused by driving errors that you would expect to be made in the wet.

Infact, conditions were good enough that the cars were able to change to intermediate tyres partway through the session. Yes, that’s right. Intermediates. The only real running on the full wets were to help form a drying line at the start of Q1. It’s a sad state of affairs when the wet tyre is not deemed suitable enough for competitive running in Formula One, the supposed pinnacle of motorsport.

Of course, while the teams may now be able to go away and come back at a time more suitable to them, it doesn’t dodge the fact that the ones who suffered are the ones who make the whole existence of the sport possible, the fans.

Whether it be the spectators that have forked out significant amounts of money for the privilege of sitting on a bank and getting soaked whilst watching an empty piece of tarmac, or the millions of fans around the world who have tuned in (many of them at extremely unsociable viewing hours) expecting to see the first qualifying session of the new season, the fans, the people who are most affected by these decisions, have suffered.

You can point to the fact that maybe the late start of the sessions in Australia compared to other races left no time for qualifying to be completed on time, but an even bigger (and more important) fact remains, that at no point was the track too dangerous to run on. The session should never have been delayed in the first place, and if common sense (a factor so often lacking in large organisations) had prevailed, then the session would have been run and completed without any issues.

No matter what excuses the powers that be may give, they have failed the many millions of fans around the world. Each party involved in making the decision has served their own interests first and foremost and totally ignored the single most important group of people in the entire sport.

Due to the sheer selfishness of the governing body, Formula One has found itself in a mess almost before the season has begun, and it’s something that has left a very sour taste in the mouth.

Stephen D’Albiac

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