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IndyCar’s determination to race every lap sets an example for F1 RaceFans

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Round 15 of the IndyCar season went the distance at Gateway last weekend thanks to the preparation and perseverance of the organizers.

It is hard to imagine that other series, especially Formula 1, could have faced the challenges posed by the weather on the two-kilometer oval in Illinois.

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Like F1, IndyCar races in the rain on road and city courses. But ovals are another matter – the risks posed by a sudden loss of grip are just too great, and the slightest hint of moisture quickly halts the procedure.

So when the weather radar gave worrying readings ahead of Saturday’s IndyCar race, organizers initially responded by moving the start time forward by half an hour. It was the earliest they could stage in the TV broadcast window, and something F1 had not done before when its races were threatened by inclement weather.

IndyCar started Saturday’s race early due to the threat of rain

At first, the organizers were lucky: a succession of showers brushed the edges of the motorway without disturbing the debates. But at 217 of the scheduled 260 laps, the dreaded crashes hit and red flags flew.

At this point, more than 80% of the race distance has been covered, more than enough for an official result to be announced. Nonetheless, IndyCar persevered in its efforts to keep the race going.

Thus, two hours and 19 minutes after the end of the race, the cars set off again with a bang. It turned out that there was only a quarter of an hour left to run. But the spectators were treated to a thrilling conclusion, with Josef Newgarden passing teammate Scott McLaughlin to win as the pair were hunted down by flying rookie David Malukas, who separated them before the checkered flag fell. He came four hours and 40 minutes after the start of the procedure.

That wouldn’t happen in F1. Indeed, this could not happen in F1: the rules do not allow it.

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Since 2012, once an F1 race starts, the checkered flag must drop before a certain amount of time has passed. The limit was initially set at four hours.

A thrilling Canadian GP led F1 to introduce a time limit

This was caused by the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, which was severely disrupted by heavy rain. It always seemed perverse that such a famous race (currently number four in RaceFans Readers Top 100), which was decided by a last-lap overtake in his 244th minute, caused an arbitrary cap to be introduced. four hours on race time. .

Who is such a rule for? Certainly not those who shelled out cash for tickets and sat in a downpour for hours.

The worst followed in 2021, when the cap was reduced from four hours to three. From now on, any serious downpour at mid-race could shorten the competition.

It is true that no regulatory manipulation could have saved the Belgian Grand Prix last year, when a downpour fell throughout Sunday. Still, those in charge should have had enough common sense not to award (half) the points for what was officially only one lap behind the safety car, and the compensation offered to spectators was meager.

But the loopholes in F1’s rules were revealed earlier this year in Monaco, where the checkered flag fell early on a race that could easily have gone on.

A downpour shortly after the scheduled start time meant about an hour was lost. As the cars were sent for two formation laps, the race clock started ticking long before any real action began. A second red flag triggered by the fall of Mick Schumacher left too little time to complete the race.

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Note that Monaco’s particularly short race – 260 kilometers instead of the standard 305 – meant that any implications of F1’s time limit rule were partly disguised. The race lasted 64 laps instead of the planned 78, but at any other track the distance would have been 92 laps.

F1 dropped the checkered flag early in Monaco

So, as race leader Sergio Perez struggled more and more with his tires and faced increasing pressure from behind, instead of getting 28 or even 14 laps of increasing tension, the race went on. is finished. The track was clear, conditions were good, daylight was plentiful and spectators were watching, but the checkered flag fell.

It is important to emphasize that the end did not happen on the whim of the race director, but because the regulations dictated it. In Azerbaijan last year, former FIA F1 race director Michael Masi ordered a restart with just two laps remaining as there was enough time to do so.

“Many, many years ago when a race was red flagged after a certain distance, it would go back two laps [to determine the result] and so on,” he explained. “But obviously with the racing suspension elements there is an option not to restart, but within the timeframe and in the format of the regulations we can restart and there was no reason not to. “

There was no reason not to go ahead with the Monaco Grand Prix in May except to comply with the ill-considered Article 5.4(b) of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations.

Spectators of IndyCar races can be sure that the series will keep their races running despite difficult weather conditions. The same cannot be said for Formula 1 – despite its considerably higher ticket prices.

As F1 looks to further penetrate the US market, it should take note of the length of its domestic series of single-seaters to ensure those who buy tickets get the spectacle they pay for. Still, for those heading to Spa this weekend, a single lap of racing would be more than they enjoyed last year.

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