Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Monaco, 2022

IndyCar’s determination to complete every racing lap is an example to F1

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The 15th round of the IndyCar season went the distance at Gateway last weekend thanks to the organisers’ preparation and perseverance.

It’s hard to imagine some other series, notably Formula 1, would have coped as well with the challenges posted by the weather at the two-kilometre oval in Illinois.

Like F1, IndyCar does race in the rain on road and street courses. But ovals are a different matter – the risks posed by a sudden loss of adhesion are simply too great, and the merest hint of moisture brings proceedings to a swift stop.

So, when the weather radar gave ominous readings ahead of Saturday’s IndyCar race, the organisers first reacted by bringing the start time forwards by half an hour. This was the earliest they could arrange within the window allocated for television broadcasts, and is something F1 hasn’t previously done when its races were threatened by severe weather.

IndyCar started Saturday’s race early due to the threat of rain
At first the organisers had some good fortune – a succession of showers brushed past the vicinity of the speedway without disrupting proceedings. But by 217 of the planned 260 laps the dreaded drops had hit, and the red flags flew.

At this stage more than 80% of the race distance has been covered, more than enough for an official result to be declared. Nonetheless, IndyCar persevered with its efforts to ensure the race ran its course.

So, two hours and 19 minutes after the race was stopped, the cars roared off again. As it turned out there was only a quarter of an hour of the race left to run. But spectators were treated to a thrilling conclusion, Josef Newgarden passing his team mate Scott McLaughlin to win while the pair were hunted down by flying rookie David Malukas, who split them before the chequered flag fell. It came four hours and 40 minutes after proceedings began.

This would not happen in F1. Indeed, this could not happen in F1: The rules don’t allow it.

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Since 2012, once an F1 race starts the chequered flag must fall before a certain amount of time has elapsed. The limit was originally set at four hours.

Thrilling Canadian GP led F1 to introduce time limit
This was prompted by the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, which was badly disrupted by heavy rain. It always seemed perverse that such a celebrated race (currently number four in the RaceFans’ readers Top 100 races), which was decided by a last-lap pass in its 244th minute, prompted the introduction of an arbitrary four-hour cap on race time.

Whose interest does such a rule serve? Certainly not those who ponied up the dough to buy tickets and sat in a downpour for hours.

Worse followed in 2021, when the cap was cut from four hours to three. Now any serious mid-race downpour risks curtailing the contest.

It’s true that, no amount of regulatory twiddling could have saved last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, when a downpour fell throughout Sunday. Still, those in charge should have had enough sense not to award (half) points for what was officially a single lap of running behind the Safety Car, and the compensation offered to spectators was meagre.

But the shortcomings of F1’s rules were exposed earlier this year in Monaco, where the chequered flag fell early on a race which could easily have continued.

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

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Note that Monaco’s uniquely short race – 260 kilometres instead of the standard 305 – meant the full implications of F1’s time limit rule were partly disguised. The race ran to 64 laps instead of the scheduled 78, but at any other track the distance would have been 92 laps.

F1 dropped the chequered flag early in Monaco
So, with race leader Sergio Perez increasingly struggling with his tyres and facing growing pressure from behind, instead of getting 28 or even 14 laps of rising tension, the race ended. The track was clear, the conditions were good, daylight was ample and the spectators were watching, but the chequered flag dropped.

It’s important to stress the end did not come about on the whim race director’s whim, but because the rule book dictated it must. In Azerbaijan last year former FIA F1 race director Michael Masi ordered a restart with just two laps remaining, as sufficient time remained to do so.

“Going back 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 forth,” he explained. “But obviously, with the race suspension elements, there is an option to not restart, but within the timeframe and within the format of the regulations, we can restart and there was no reason not to.”

There was no reason not to continue May’s Monaco Grand Prix, except to fulfil the poorly-considered article 5.4 (b) of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations.

Spectators at IndyCar races can feel confident the series will ensure their races go ahead in the face of challenging weather conditions. The same can’t be said for Formula 1 – notwithstanding its considerably higher ticket prices.

As F1 seeks to make greater inroads into the American market, it should take note of the lengths its domestic single-seater series goes to ensure those who buy tickets get the show they pay for. Still, for those heading to Spa this weekend, a single racing lap would be more than they enjoyed last year.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 36 comments on “IndyCar’s determination to complete every racing lap is an example to F1”

    1. It’s nice for the spectators, but think about the 100s of staff and vendors at the track who now must work “overtime” and probably don’t get paid a single cent more for their efforts.

      1. Certainly that would be a problem in countries with poor workers rights, which invariably are the same countries with poor human rights in general. In Canada, for instance, the workers would legally have to be compensated for their time, plus the vendors would ultimately sell more t-shirts and hotdogs to fans waiting for the action to resume.

      2. Those staff and vendors have been there all day, all day the day before, and all day the day before that.

        The vendors even have the opportunity to make more sales during the red flag period.

        An extra couple of hours over a 3 day event is not going to bankrupt people who can afford to go an F1 race in the first place.

      3. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
        23rd August 2022, 20:26

        The majority of the vendors are not affiliated with the track, teams, F1, etc. Vendors usually are made up of individual business whom pay a fee to occupy a spot on track grounds with a license to sell on track property (food, merch, etc). These vendors will have some restrictions as to how early and late they can be open to not infringe on track souvenir stores and food stations. Event staff usually arrive very early to beat the fan traffic and start with setup (it is usually pretty early). I know some tracks have two waves of workers (morning crew and afternoon crew). The staff is typically paid by the track and are typically paid by the hour, so likely not an issue. Marshal’s are volunteer only so that is not an issue other than getting them to the corner stations in time. The only other hold up would be medical coverage, but if F1 can prepare themselves I’m sure this wouldn’t be an issue. So I would say this is a non-issue for the majority of tracks/races (my concerns of work force labor issues would be solely with one part of the world).

    2. Jonathan Parkin
      22nd August 2022, 13:33

      I would like F1 to do this too. If you have to bring the start time forward do it. If you have a 2 hour stoppage for rain like Canada 2011 then so be it. The only time to abandon a race should be when the sun sets (or rises). The TV contracts should be worded to allow this to happen

      And please please please can we stop the clock during a red flag stoppage so the race time isn’t needlessly inflated. Jenson’s winning time in Canada without the two hour stoppage was 2:00:27.

      And if we have a two hour rule, can it BE two hours and not 2 hours +1 lap which makes no logical sense to me and I haven’t had a single reason why it was implemented in the first place

      1. And if we have a two hour rule, can it BE two hours and not 2 hours +1 lap which makes no logical sense to me and I haven’t had a single reason why it was implemented in the first place

        No, because it would open a can of worms. Say you reach the 2h limit, at what point on track do you determine that the 2h limit has been reached? Where the leader is? Where the 10th place guy is? What about the 6th place driver? 15th? Furthermore, which timing line will be used in that case, to determine who won the race? What if the designated timing line for this certain race has just been crossed by the designated driver who will determine when the 2h limit has been reached? Does that mean that everybody has to do one extra lap?

        By keeping it at 2h+1 lap you clean all of that up. Once the 2h limit is reached, leading driver gets to the finish line and then does one more lap. Just because it doesn’t roll off the tongue so easily it doesn’t mean that we have enough reasons to change it.

        1. Jonathan Parkin
          22nd August 2022, 14:44

          But before we had 2 hours + 1 lap we had the 2 hour rule which was implemented in a few places notably at back to back Monaco races in 96 and 97 and again in 08.

          How did it work? It was very simple. When the 2 hours was up when the leader next crossed the finish line that was the race. And this was the procedure since it had first been introduced in the late seventies I think it was with barely an issue. So again I ask the question. Why 2 hours + 1 lap. The previous procedure worked for years why change it?

          1. Other than semantics, why does it matter?

            1. Jonathan Parkin
              22nd August 2022, 20:41

              Because we had a procedure that worked well for nearly four decades and then for no necessary reason that nobody (including the FIA most likely) can tell me they had to complicate it

            2. Semantics indeed.

              The question to me is, why wouldn’t a motorsports enthusiast want one more racing lap?

            3. @sjaakfoo It’s a purist thing, I suppose. It’s the 24 Hours of Le Mans, not the 24 Hours Plus 1 Lap of Le Mans.

              @S Well, if the +1 lap rule had been in effect, Dan Gurney couldn’t have taken his glorious hybrid victory at Daytona in 1962.

        2. One lap past the time limit, and the checkered flag flies.

          That’s easy.

      2. One problem with F1 is that it’s a globally broadcasted sport. Europe is their main target demo but they have key markets in China, the US, and varoius audiences all around the world, which means different television providers. The whole uproar back in 2019 I think about Sky Sports getting more exclusive rights to F1 in UK didn’t matter to me because I’m in Malaysia, but recently channels have been here switched and I too have to get a new subscription to watch the race. My point is having to answer to every single country’s network provider asking to allocate time would be a hassle and most likely poorly received by the networks. Indycar is solely covered by NBC, and even they could only give an extra half hour of time. Imagine if China’s network allows to postpone a replay of a baseball match for the race but Canada can’t cause it has a live hockey match to air? Not every country has its own dedicated F1 channel like Sky Sports F1 does.

    3. Indycar does have a 2 hour time limit if a “wet start” (with mandatory rain tires) is declared. Barber 2018 is the most recent and extreme example of how inflexible the rule is as the race was postponed to Monday after 22 laps and the time limit remained in place despite it being clear that day.

      1. @mr-pug: That’s true. That makes a certain amount of sporting sense though since once a time limit comes into effect, all teams will backtime their pit stops based on that. And, unlike F1, teams aren’t allowed to service cars under red flags, so delays don’t nullify pit strategy. In that sense, I admire IndyCar’s commitment to maintaining continuity of strategy across red flags.

        Though the pits closing under caution is another thing entirely…

        1. @markzastrow It makes sporting sense but it seems odd that a wet start triggers a TV window friendly time limit but pre- and mid-race delays for rain or crashes can last for hours on end and the race will still go the full distance (see the two races at Nashville).

    4. It always seemed perverse that such a celebrated race (currently number four in the RaceFans’ readers Top 100 races), which was decided by a last-lap pass in its 244th minute, prompted the introduction of an arbitrary four-hour cap on race time.

      This quote resonated with me; I fondly remember that Canadian GP and am disappointed that we took the driver endurance portion of the race away. All F1 drivers are incredibly fit but Button is/was a triathlete so he understands the endurance portion of racing.

      1. I believe it is actually number eight on that list (Canada 2014 is number four), but really Canada 2011 should be number one. It is certainly the best race since racefans started, along with Interlagos 2008 which is bizarrely all the way down in 20th. Then the other races I would consider to be on a similar level across history are Adelaide 1986, Silverstone 1965 and Nurburgring 1957.

        But in terms of the actual question, I certainly agree that the three-hour time limit is quite pointless. There comes a point when a race should not be restarted if light is too low or conditions are just too bad, but there is no reason why it should always be exactly three hours after the race should have started. This is something that should be down to the decision of the race director, rather than a set rule, in my opinion.

    5. I mean, I agree, but it sort of feels like treating the symptom rather than the cause. It is F1’s modern aversion to racing in the wet that causes the delays in the first place. Monaco this year is a good example – there was no need for any delay really, apart from the ultra-conservatism of the officials (since when has ‘no wet running earlier in the weekend’ been a reason not to race?) Arguably Canada 2011 could have got going a lot sooner than it did, too – from memory it was intermediate conditions by the time they finally restarted.

      1. @red-andy The delay in Monaco was caused by more than just the conditions as there were some local electrical outages that caused some problems along with water getting into the start light system (Due to it not been installed correctly) which caused the start light system to fail.

        Going back to Montreal 2011, The rain had stopped so most of the circuit was dry enough for inter’s but there was still areas of the track that were flooded & they weren’t able to get going until those areas had drained sufficiently. That is what tends to be the biggest issue as it’s the deeper areas of standing water/flooding that not even the full wets can cope with & that is where you can get aquaplaning even going at very slow speeds.

        Some standing water is dodgy but fine. It’s when you get a lot of deep standing water that isn’t draining quickly that it becomes a problem.

    6. It’s much easier for Indycar (Or NASCAR for that matter) to do things like bring the start time forward or wait for longer before declaring a race as they aren’t bound by TV contracts, Travel arrangements, Spectator travel or as much equipment teardown with flights for it to be on.

      The Indycar TV broadcast is produced by IMS Productions purely for the domestic broadcaster (NBC) & so are able to communicate directly with NBC to bring start times forward or keep a broadcast going longer. F1 however isn’t broadcasting for any one broadcaster & isn’t in direct communication with all it’s broadcast partners to discuss moving start/finish times around. Some broadcasters like Sky who have a dedicated channel will be able to react but many others would not & that is why the start time & windows for race completion were implemented.

      Additionally crews need time to tear down the equipment, Pack it up & make the flight it has to be on to get it to the next race. That isn’t just the team equipment but also the TV broadcast & other race control equipment as well as that sent out by individual broadcasters. All that stuff needs to be ready for travel by a certain time to make the flight (Or road trip) for the next race. And there is less time now than there once was due to how many double/triple headers are required to squeeze in the amount of races Liberty want to make up the season.

      There is also local infrastructure to consider in terms of getting fans in/out. No disrespect meant to Indycar but it draws smaller crowds than F1 for most races & so there is less pressure on the busses, trains, parking etc… than what you get at an F1 weekend. Especially when you factor in the media & others who also come to the circuit via the same routes.

      And of course in some cases you also have light conditions to consider. Not just in terms of it been safe enough for cars to run on circuits that don’t have artificial lighting but also for the teardown/pack-up. The pits/paddock tend to be fairly well lit, But around the track where other equipment needs to be torn down & packed you need enough light to be able to do it & again not every track has artificial lighting.

      F1 isn’t simply so rigid on start times or with having a window to get the race in because they don’t want to get a race in. It’s there because of these factors and more which doesn’t give them the same leeway that domestic categories in particular can have.

      1. Well said.

      2. This should be the COTD.

      3. Where’s the like button?

      4. Great post.
        However I wish they would still go back to the 4 hour limit, just to give more leeway, and then plan logistics accordingly around that. Just to give races like Monaco this year that opportunity to finish.

        And there is less time now than there once was due to how many double/triple headers are required to squeeze in the amount of races Liberty want to make up the season.

        I think this quote says a lot too!

      5. @gt-racer But bringing forward a race start oppositely gives more time for getting everything ready in time for transportation, etc. Otherwise, your post is more or less thoroughly spot-on.

        1. @jerejj True, But it does also cause issues with the broadcasters as a lot of them (Maybe even most) won’t have the option to pick up live coverage if the start time changes & most do pay for live coverage.

          And another concern would be getting fans in. A race starting 30 minutes earlier than planned likely wouldn’t be an issue in that regard as i’d bet fans are in seats by that point but 60+ minutes earlier and your going to have fans missing the start.

          Going back to Japan 2014, I remember Martin Brundle been adamant on Sky’s coverage that the race should have started 2 hours earlier when they knew they had a window of good weather & would have been able to get the race. However it was pointed out that doing so would have seen something like 40% of the fans not in the stands for the start & with most fans getting into Suzuka relying on public transport even making it clear the day before that the race would be starting earlier wouldn’t have guaranteed most would have got in in time.

          There are just various things like this as well as others I haven’t listed which make moving race start times & stuff more complex than it may seem on paper.

          1. That’s about the weakest of weak arguments.

            Most people who seriously want to watch a major event will happily turn up a few hours earlier, by hook or by crook.
            Besides, those who do choose to leave their entry until the last moment will probably still be happier to see most of a complete race than a small portion before it gets called off.

            When you know race-cancelling weather is coming, move it forward or accept that you may not get anything at all.
            With money being such a factor these days, it’s absolutely no surprise that Spa last year made sure the important people got paid.

            As for broadcast – is it really that important if it’s not live live? I don’t think so.
            It could still be broadcast at the exact same time, and only those who desperately need everything *right now* will have to sacrifice anything. First world problems….
            In those conditions, who is actually happier with a race being called off instead?

            My guess is: Nobody.

    7. Yeah, it was a terrific finish and worth the wait! IndyCar like F1 races in the rain on road and street courses, impossible on an oval. It has a rule on any circuit regarding lightning where no racing can resume until a half hour has passed due to the danger to fans.

    8. Good post, but I don’t have an issue with the present absolute 3-hour upper limit, which probably replaced the previous 4-hour limit to make things easier for broadcasters & 3h is perfectly okay anyway.
      I also didn’t have an issue with not continuing the Monaco GP for longer despite absolute time & daylight allowing for this.
      However, I wholly agree with bringing a race start forward to minimize weather impact.
      Doing so by an hour or so wouldn’t have necessarily made a difference for last season’s Belgian GP, though, given the weather & track conditions weren’t any better 60 min before the original formation lap time.
      Yes, a late timing change could negatively impact some people’s (viewers rather than spectators in attendance) day schedules, but minimizing weather impact is a justifiable enough reason for a late timing change, so a good general approach.

    9. Unfortunately with start times being later due to F1 trying to pander to the American audience, the time limit for daylight races needs to stay.

      1. @wsrgo American audience isn’t the reason, though, because if this were the case, all timings would be different.
        However, daylight races indeed need a time limit. Certainly more critically than floodlit ones.

        1. @jerejj Race start times been moved 2 hours later was something Liberty push through purely for the American audience.

          It was a change a lot of the teams, promoters & European broadcasters were against & something they still dislike.

          Teams as it puts a bit more of a time constraint on the pack up/shipping, Promoters as it created issues getting fans out as train services in some places end early on a Sunday & Broadcasters as it was pushing F1 up against other sporting events which tend to draw a higher audience than F1 (Sunday afternoon football in the UK for example).

          And starting races (And qualifying for that matter) 2 hours later than was traditionally the case does also leave you 2 hours less daylight to get a delayed session/race in.

          The later start times in some places is also something the drivers dislike due to the setting sun creating visibility issues. It was something they were very vocal about after the Australian GP in 2009 was moved to much later in the day & I think the races got moved back a few hours for following years as a result of there concerns about poor visibility with the low sun. Liberty haven’t been as willing to listen to them in that regard as Bernie was.

          1. @gt-racer Most timings, especially for the (European) races, are the same as they’ve been since 2018 & at the time, the reasoning was related to UK & or otherwise European audiences from what I know.

    10. I’m not exactly fond of stoping and restarting races due to weather, I’d rather have better rain tyres, better safety procedures (to avoid something like what happened to Bianchi in Suzuka) and track drainage and have cars racing under the rain. Cars right now seem to have enought passive safety measures and, after all, if its rainig they would be laping slower.

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