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Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has backed up Lewis Hamilton’s “farce” claim over events at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, and is adamant he would not have abandoned the race. Only three laps were completed as relentless rain caused havoc at Spa, all over which were behind a safety car with overtaking not allowed, before it was called off and half-points awarded to those in the top 10.
Hamilton, who lost ground to rival Max Verstappen in the title race through the decision, called the situation a “farce” and suggested the organisers’ decision was financially driven.
The race was due to begin at 3pm local time, but there were several delays in increments of five or ten minutes before safety car driver Bernd Maylander led the field on a formation lap.
But it was decided the conditions were too treacherous with visibility next to zero due to all the spray, and so the racers were led back to the pits where they remained for around two hours.
Race director Michael Masi chose to send the drivers out for two more laps behind the safety car, before abandoning the Grand Prix with 20 minutes left on the clock.
“Two laps behind a safety car where there is no possibility to gain or lose a place is not racing,” Hamilton said on social media on Sunday evening.
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“We should have just called it quits, not risked the drivers, and most importantly refunded the fans who are the heart of the sport.”
Ecclestone, 90, said he agrees with the seven-time world champion, and detailed how he would have done things differently had he been in charge.
He told Sportsmail: “I would have said at 3pm when the race was due to start, let’s try again at 4pm or 4.30pm.
“It doesn’t look as if conditions will improve but I don’t know. But regardless of what’s happening it will start then.
“If you want to race fine – if not, fine. Nobody could put a pistol to anyone’s head. It was up to [the drivers].
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“If I was at the back of the grid, I might decide it’s not worth the risk because it’s bloody dangerous out there.
“If I wanted to score points for the team and for myself, I might think I wanted to go ahead. People make their own minds up, and it is not Afghanistan.
“We have raced in worse conditions than that and not called off the race.”
F1 bosses are set to meet with the FIA and team chiefs for talks, with a view to changing the rules so such a scenario does not arise again.
The sport’s chief executive Stefano Domenicali also has concerns about how the situation was dealt with, and is keen to meet with all relevant parties to consider such changes.
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