The Ross Brawn Column – Belgian Grand Prix edition

Formula 1 saw its shortest ever Grand Prix after torrential rain hit Spa on Sunday, with Max Verstappen taking the win from pole as half points were awarded because less than 75% of the race was completed. Formula 1 Managing Director, Motorsport, Ross Brawn discusses the key talking points from Belgium…

Challenging conditions on a challenging day

I feel terrible for the fans, who turned out in their thousands and braved consistently wet conditions in the grandstands to support their heroes. They showed such dedication and will never forget this weekend.

Unfortunately, the weather worked against us. It was relentless. The FIA tried everything they could, sending the cars out twice behind the Safety Car to assess the conditions. It wasn’t so much the intensity of the rain that was the problem, more that it was consistent which led to very poor visibility.

It’s pretty rare to see a weekend where the weather has been so intense, so consistently. Every effort was made to get the race underway safely and normally, there is a window when you can bring the safety car in, but that wasn’t possible.

At the end of the day, safety comes first. And it wasn’t safe enough to continue the race. So the FIA did the best they could in what have been very challenging circumstances, of which we’ve not seen in decades.

Half points were awarded. It’s not ideal but if you can’t reward someone for the race, reward them for the bravery in qualifying. A lap like George Russell did in qualifying in the absence of a full race should be rewarded. As I say, it’s not ideal, but it’s where we are. The weather just wasn’t in our corner on Saturday.

Russell shines once more

We all know George Russell has a fantastic talent. We have seen it a lot at Williams, and we saw it amplified at Mercedes, when he stood in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year.

George’s performance reminded me a lot of Fernando Alonso when he drove at a wet Spa for Minardi in 2001. He was mighty impressive in a car that clearly was not up to the job. In those conditions, the ratio of driver to car changes – and we saw that with George on Saturday.

He doesn’t have a front row car but in those tricky conditions in qualifying, he trounced people with far better cars than he had. In my view, there is only one decision for Mercedes next year with regards the second seat. 

Ten more races to savour

This weekend, we announced a revised calendar for the remainder of 2021, which will see the campaign feature a record-breaking 22 races.

In a year which is proving just as challenging and, in some ways more challenging, to get that kind of calendar is quite exceptional. It does mean a massive commitment from everyone to achieve it. We have to respect the commitment everyone will make to get it done as it will be tough.

We will be racing in some great places, putting on a great show. It’s a calendar we think we can deliver and one which will mean we have another major chapter in this championship. We’ve seen a fascinating battle in the opening half of the year and we still have 10 more races to savour.

Hamilton v Verstappen battle finely poised

Max’s win in Belgium is a small boost to him and Red Bull, who let’s not forget arrived at Spa after two very tough races.

We can debate the incident between Lewis and Max at Silverstone, but there was no debate in Hungary – for Max to be taken out like that at the first corner is sheer bad luck, which will happen once or twice a year.

Every championship battle ebbs and flows. I hope we can now have 10 races where both Max and Lewis score and we can see them battle for the lead. When one driver gets knocked out or has a failure, it spoils the battle.

Max is going to enjoy some extra support in Zandvoort this weekend. It’s a race I’m very much looking forward to. The promoter has made a tremendous effort to put the event on and made massive modifications to the track.

It will no doubt be a sea of orange – but Lewis had huge support at Silverstone. To see such passion for our sport is a great thing.