FIA Accepts Max Verstappen Blunder While Hitting Back at “Fairness” Accusations

Published 01/25/2023, 12:45 PM EST

When Max Verstappen was on the verge of becoming a 2-time champion, the rain showed up in Japan. As if the entire premise of Verstappen enjoying a controversy-free championship victory was impossible. The rain and the timed race confused everyone on whether drivers will get full points or not. Even after the checkered flag, there was uncertainty in the paddock about if the Red Bull driver had sealed the championship or not. Going into 2023, the FIA president has accepted this blunder about Verstappen’s 2nd title and assured of avoiding this scenario with a rule change.

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Speaking to Motorsport.com, Mohammed Ben Sulayem said how this rule that gave points for shortened races, which came after the 2021 Belgian GP, will change. While he also explained how the implementation of this rule wasn’t wrong in Japan.

Formula One F1 – New FIA President Press Conference – Paris, France – December 17, 2021 New FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem during the press conference REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Ben Sulayem said, “Yes, it’s changing. Steve [Nielsen], now, who is the sporting director [of the FIA], is going to improve it. Going back to Japan. First of all, if you look, before the next race, we had a complete report [on the events that took place]. It was never done before. We had it on the website of the FIA.”

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The rule for reduced points as per the distance run in the race had a loophole. It was only for races that did not restart after a red flag. As the 2022 Japanese GP restarted and reached the checkered flag after the 3-hour time limit, full points were given. Meanwhile, as Verstappen outscored Leclerc in the race by 10 points, due to the latter finishing 3rd, the title was sealed in Suzuka.

Formula One F1 – Japanese Grand Prix – Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Japan – October 9, 2022 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates winning the race and the championship on the podium REUTERS/Issei Kato

Ben Sulayem expressed and hit back at the “fairness” accusations against them. He stated, “Then coming to the points: who chose that? The teams. Who approved them? The teams. We just had to implement them. And who takes the blame? Us. Honestly. Where is the fairness? Tell me. This frustrates [me].”

This uncertainty in Suzuka confused all teams and drivers, and fans as well watching the race. But, the root cause of this confusion was indeed the 2021 Belgian GP farcical, that forced the introduction of this rule.

How the FIA still has to deal with the aftermath of the 2021 Belgian GP

The 2021 Belgian GP was a huge moment that forced F1 and the FIA to revisit its points system. This rule for having points as per the distance run in the race was introduced when any Grand Prix was rained out.

Formula One F1 – Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium – August 29, 2021 General view as the start of the race is delayed out of bad weather REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

According to this rule, there are separate points systems for up to 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of the distance run in a race. But, as everyone saw in Japan, this rule did not solve but actually complicated things. Thus, the aftermath of the 2021 Belgian GP debacle has pending aspects to resolve.

Firstly, the FIA needs to standardize this reduced points system for all shortened races, regardless of the interruption. If such gray areas of a race restarting or not exist, it ain’t simplifying the sport for the fans. Further, the FIA also needs to think about whether there can be any provisions for rescheduling a race if they know the weather won’t be suitable for racing.

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Besides that, the wet tires were also a factor that limited running at the 2021 Belgian GP. Even in 2022, we had delayed starts at the 2022 Singapore and Japanese GP. So, if F1 and the FIA can work with the tire supplier Pirelli to create a better-wet tire compound suitable and safe for racing in the rain, it would be hugely beneficial.

Presently, these rain delays happen due to the wet tires being safer and not fast enough compared to the intermediate tires. Therefore, even teams hesitate to run these wet tires. While intermediate tires are fast, they are not safe in extreme wet track conditions.

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WATCH THIS STORY: How Fast Can F1 Cars Go? Comparisons With MotoGP, IndyCAR, NASCAR and Formula E

Ben Sulayem and his team will hope to resolve this points system issue for the upcoming season. Still, there are these other aspects that the FIA and F1 need to work on together and find better solutions for the sport. Let us know which rules or aspects confuse you about F1.

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Aishwary Gaonkar

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Aishwary Gaonkar is an F1 Author at EssentiallySports. Having completed his postgrad, he has set out to venture into the world of Sports Journalism. He is an ardent fan of F1 and has been following the most prestigious form of motor racing for over a decade now.

Edited By: Ranvijay Singh

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