F1 CEO Domenicali reacts to calls for refunds as Hamilton brands Belgian GP a “farce”

2021 Belgian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali responded to calls for spectators at Spa-Francorchamps to be given refunds after today’s drastically shortened, rain-hit race.

Fans saw no laps of racing and just four slow tours behind the Safety Car as incessant rain fell from the start of the race until it was abandoned some four hours later.

Drivers such as Daniel Ricciardo have said those who came to the track deserve their money back. “I’d love for them to get refunded or compensated,” said the McLaren racer.

Lewis Hamilton was stinging in his criticism after the race and continued his attack on social media afterwards.

“Today was a farce and the only people to lose out are the fans who paid good money to watch us race,” said the Mercedes driver. “Of course you can’t do anything about the weather but we have sophisticated equipment to tell us what’s going on and it was clear the weather wasn’t going to let up.”

Hamilton was particularly unhappy the cars were sent out for two further laps behind the Safety Car, which achieved sufficient running for the FIA to award points, despite no racing having taken place.

“We were sent out for one reason and one reason only,” he said. “Two laps behind a Safety Car where there is no possibility to gain or lose a place or provide entertainment to fans isn’t racing.

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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 our sport.”

Asked whether he supported the calls for refunds, Domenicali said “no I don’t”, however he indicated some form of compensation could be offered by the promoter, who handles ticket sales.

“Unfortunately the race is not there. You can pay the ticket and then [it is] what it is. At the end of the day for sure the organiser, together with us, will consider the attention, the maximum attention to the fans, that’s for sure.” Domenicali and the promoters are understood to be looking at a number of different options.

Asked by RaceFans if he had a message for those who attended the race, Domenicali said: “The message is clear: that, unfortunately, we don’t control the time. And two laps or no laps, the spend [on holding the race] was there.”

Race control “tried to do the maximum” to hold the race, he added. “So, as I said, it’s not a problem of laps or not laps, it’s the unfortunate conditions.

“You need to consider the safety for everyone and that’s very, very important. So as I said, the first to be disappointed is me because I love racing but there are also conditions which you cannot do it.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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141 comments on “F1 CEO Domenicali reacts to calls for refunds as Hamilton brands Belgian GP a “farce””

  1. isthatglock21
    29th August 2021, 20:48

    Glad Lewis has the balls to say it as it is….but surprised he cares given how many of the fans booed him on Saturday & the general toxic environment with dodgy graffiti/stickers left around Spa….yet advocates them to get refunds….bigger man than me that’s for sure. I bet F1 can’t wait till Lewis retires so he stops embarrassing them!

    1. Exactly, props to Hamilton for standing up. Hamilton comes from a poor background and understand some people have to save up the money to buy the expensive tickets to watch a Formula 1. Letting fans get sick in the pouring rain for 350€ is an absolute disgrace.

    2. Balls? He didn’t have the balls to race when others were ready to. Maybe with his Ok on the radio during the first outing, the race director would have started it proper. And remember he doesn’t want the run-offs changed around Eau Rouge and Radillon and that drivers should just accept the risk, so don’t know why he chickened out today when that’s his philosophy.

      1. No drive offered to race, unless you mean that comment by Max who was out of front but had complied a few earlier about spray from the safety car

        1. Exactly, Max was the only driver who made any sort of comment about racing, and I’d assume that comment was purely to encourage doing enough laps under the safety car to get half points. He would have known that there was no chance of racing today.

        2. ‘No driver offered to race except the driver that offered to race’

          How can you come on here and seriously expect stuff like this to pass?

      2. isthatglock21
        29th August 2021, 21:35

        Name one driver today who was happy to race/unhappy with the decsion? Even Max post race shared same views, he even said his comment was just 1 moment & others at the back probably had worse visibility/spray. No driver has come out to say they should’ve raced/it was wrong call.

        1. What was the stickers/graffiti left? Media not saying anything that I can find.

          1. Fake news, some friends attended and praised the public for sportsmanship.
            There will always be degenerates who think racism is a way to “hurt” someone. But you have to look for it to see those outings.

      3. @balue I know what you mean and I agree, Ham says one thing and does the opposite. he is right about the money though even if he is an hypocrite as his millions come from f1.
        I don’t think we should have raced, as you pointed out we might have managed to race but I think what Ham means is that we could have raced in the morning as it was done in Japan once upon a time.

        1. The hate on the only black man in the sport is so real wow

      4. Were others ready too? As far as I can make out, all the drivers have said it was too dangerous to race…

      5. Robert Drach
        30th August 2021, 0:51

        @Balue:The only person ready to race was Max, that had quaint time of it sitting behind the safety car. All 19 other drivers didn’t share his sentiments. I wonder, maybe fans should pay for two lap specials for the rest of the calendar year. They could have raced on Monday. They chose not to, denying the fans a real race.

      6. @balue you must have hit your head as a baby, the only driver who was keen to race was the only driver with clear visibility of course, what are you on about?

    3. It’s also incredibly opportunistic and self-serving.

      1. Exactly. If he is so upset, he has millions, let him fork over some dough.

        1. Is it his responsibility? He is already providing funding to level the playing field with regard to diversity (that the FIA ought to be funding) why should he alone provide refunds for the fans (especially as a good number of them booed him at every opportunity)? The FIA ran the cars for two laps for no other reason than to get out of refunding the fans. That is utter contempt beyond the contempt of putting F1 behind paywalls… Domenicali hould hang his head in shame for supporting this farce. Spa is not easy to get to even when the weather is good. When it is wet it is a nightmare of muddy fields and long walks. I can’t imagine how horrible it was for the fans this year. They deserve better than a false race designed to fiddle them out of refunds.

          1. It was very hard to get to the circuit, indeed. Going through that, without seeing a race and waiting in the rain for 5 hours, it was a complete disaster

        2. He’s is the only driver ever in f1 who fark out 20 millions to diversity in the sport stop the hate its only so much one person can take, how you sleep at night knowing Hamilton make it by the hard work of his father but you still hating when the other driver come from well off family ?

      2. Karen Farrell
        30th August 2021, 13:54

        Racing means that cars are able to overtake safely etc . When cars are STUCK behind safety car… Considering the technology that F1 use over the whole season to see what weather will be like at specific times throughout the races. So tyres can be changed etc … On this day . The fact that heavy rain, lack of visibility, same technology was predicting more rain. Was expected. .and safety cars were used throughout the time on track,. so safety cars =NO overtaking… Hence NO race. If NO race monies should be refunded NO questions… The only reason F1 wanted and needed to 2 +laps of cars following safety cars was for Monetary gain .. So refunds if requested would be refused. Surely there are plans in place for this type of incident… I’m sure rules will be tightened up for next season. F1 are NOT a poor sport . With loyal fans who have to save . For months, possibly years to go and see a race.. as a special treat. In my own case I’ve never been able to afford to see a race live, so have to see on TV… With all advertising rights, etc I’m sure F1 can do the right thing and take it on the chin, this once!! This in turn will bring good will feelings to them and not money grabbing idiots some people may think of them… Me personally feel as if F1 have handled this wrongly.. only good thing was to stop actual racing albeit to late and shouldn’t have been started at all.

    4. It is very easy to ask for a refund for the fans if you don’t have to pay for it. So I don’t really understand why you think he shows he’s got balls.

      1. Gosh, the hate is real. Get a life!
        I know you probably don’t like him, but atleast keep the bigger picture in mind while commenting.

        His comment can make a difference to the fans getting a refund. Your sloppy comment here does nothing but show your hate.

        1. Stop using those puberale remarks.
          Accept there are other opinions then yours.

        2. Ah another Hamilton fanatic crawls out of the woodwork to attack posters and declare any criticism of Hamilton as hatred. In this case it’s incredibly someone disagreeing that an F1 driver complaining about the Spa race took ‘balls’. It’s simply inconceivable how anyone could say otherwise and must therefore be hatred, even if everyone knows he lost points and is angry the race wasn’t cancelled. Anything that is not glorifying Hamilton must be attacked in the hardest possible way.

          We’ve had a bunch of you on here, and it’s always the same. What it shows is your disrespect for civility, site rules, and hatred of others.

          1. Stephen Thompson
            31st August 2021, 10:09

            All the drivers thought it was too bad to race, they have more “balls” than you.

            I was recommended coming to this site from someone on PlanetF1 because there are less people who talk crap but it seems they were wrong.

            Lewis and most of the “older” generation have raced in worse conditions than at Spa in the past but things have changed. There have been a number of very bad accidents at Spa in the last few years in much better conditions.

        3. Indeed! Agree 100 percent!

        4. Andrew Smithson
          31st August 2021, 10:54

          As above totally agree

    5. If he would be on position 1 he wouldn’t be saying that.

      1. I love how you have the ability to visit various multiverses and qoute “if and but” situations as if you have witnessed them personally!

    6. Mark Middleton
      30th August 2021, 8:14

      Hamilton is only co.plaining about the two lap race because he lost points to max ha.ilton you petty little man

      1. What’s wrong with everyone???? We are all supposed to be F1 fans!!! Why slag drivers off? They are all there to provide entertainment…
        I can’t see why people comment about money either….these drivers are the best….they deserve their money!!!!
        Jealousy and hatred should form no part of F1. Why don’t people get a life, and live and let live??
        It’s brave to slag people off on here…..I’m sure these cowards wouldn’t do it face to face!!!
        Just enjoy the racing…..and the competitive sprit!!!

      2. No one should have got points from yesterdays farce it showed f1 in a bad light as for the fans they should be fully refunded no one drivers construtors organisers should benefit from yesterdays disgrace

    7. Roger Matthews
      30th August 2021, 12:25

      F1 could learn a lot from UK drag racing…if its damp we cant race, never mind rain…but promoters have almost always issued free entry to events following or a discount in accordance with the percentage of the racing day lost….

    8. Don’t tar us all with the same brush! I suspect over 90% of my fellow fans at Spa deplore the anti Lewis behaviour as much as you do. I am not a Lewis fan, as I support Max, but I respect him as a person and I really admire him for standing up for the fans like that – Good on him.

      This weekend was a total farce. If Domenicali cannot see that the damage to F1 by not giving at least a partial refund will be much higher financially then the few million needed to do the right thing, then he should not be running the show. This sort of bad publicity will drive both fans and sponsors away in their droves. Also, if he really believes that the decision to run the ‘race’ was not cynical, he is far too naïve to be in charge of anything!

  2. However he indicated some form of compensation could be offered by the promoter, who handles ticket sales.

    What a leech. Anyone needs any more evidence on why they did exactly three laps and stopped?

    1. +1
      His referring to the promoter is absolutely disgraceful.

    2. Just come back to Spa again this year for another GP and keep tickets valid. refund only those, who wouldn’t able to attend new grand prix.

      1. That’s a great idea!

      2. @regs So that means a full refund basically. Paid out of the promoter’s pockets.

      3. There is no question there are lessons to be learned. It was a very unusual set of circumstances.
        There is no question the fans need to be looked after on some level.
        I think it’s disingenuous the way certain drivers try to use a difficult situation for F1 for self serving posturing.

  3. Oh, come on. Like Lewis said, we’re living in XXI century, a quarter of it just gone. They had 4 days to come up with a B plan if race wasn’t possible. They should have one for every race in the calendar, actually. What happened to day is called theft in any sensible dictionary.

    1. Exactly. F1 has been in business for well over 70 years and well over 40 in the relatively modern era. There should be plans for what ifs which can always be refined as new scenarios present themselves. Some parts of the business is modern and high tech and other parts are medevial.

    2. Sam (@undercut677)
      29th August 2021, 21:34

      It would not be calles theft. I get the point you are trying to make but that is a silly exaggeration.

      1. Fraud then? (In the UK That gets you a longer prison sentence than theft).

        1. But not if you’re in government…

  4. Spineless. Sad day for the sport and completely embarrassing. I have to say I’m a bit ashamed to be an f1 fan today.

  5. I asked this question on another post but it is more relevant here: can’t they hold a race in Spa between Interlagos and Jeddah or is too cold in november? Formula 1 would probably have to foot the bill and/or take a loss, but at least they would save face..

    1. The weather could be even worse.

    2. Stefano, i quit searching for 2021 GP tickets.
      See you in 2022.
      Or probably i’m going to Le Mans or Nordschleife.

    3. @fw11b

      No chance of F1 at Spa in November. Air temp was just 13C 𝘵𝘰𝘥𝘢𝘺. Any Euro races in November would have to be further south.

      spa-francorchamps.be is down at time of posting, so not able to check their calendar ATM

      1. It could go back after Italy though.. that is in September.

  6. I feel for the race organisers. It was not possible to hold a race today. That said, the spectators paid huge sums of money to see a race, and they should be refunded. Domenicali should be ashamed of himself for behaving this way.

    1. Absolutely. But is it surprising, given how they treated fans and promoters of the GP last year in Melbourne? Thousands of fans were waiting at the gates for the opening practices of the season and F1 was playing hide and seek with the organizers so they wouldn’t be the ones cancelling the event. Spineless behaviour, then and now also. On top of that, they will surely demand the hosting fees from Spa circuit. Appaling.

  7. Imagine if someone sued the FIA somehow. That would be hilarious.

  8. Wow! With these comments, Domenicali shows nothing but contempt for paying fans. Hey! Domenicali! Without fans F1 is nothing and you would have no job.

  9. Stefano, remember when you said Sprint Qualifying had “overwhelmingly positive feedback”? That’s the completely opposite. This is him being lost inside that cold disguise behind his lies.

  10. Everything that has happened today makes me question why I watch and follow F1 and if I want to continue to do so…FIA really are an embarrassment sometimes on so many levels.

    1. Same thing here, I already cancelled my subscribtion to F1 TV. The spectators were even worse off, getting cold in the rain after having shelled out half a month’s wage for this debacle.

      1. Argh, you could have given me. There’s no option for german viewers to get F1 TV account now.

  11. I’d like to remind people who compare this with indianapolis 2005 that 1) they ran the full distance with 1\3 of the cars, so better than here, and 2) they REFUNDED spectators, so it’s 2 completely different situations!

    1. Or actually I think they gave them a free ticket for indianapolis 2006.

  12. “after today’s drastically shortened, rain-hit race.”

    There was a race today?

  13. Let’s compromise: whoever bought a ticket this year gets a 50% discount for next year race.
    This year, Spa certainly wasnt at full capacity. Of those, probably not everybody would come next year anyway.
    So, this 50% discount would amount to about 10-15% of next year’s box office.
    That would be compensated by more people attending/spending on the track in 2022 and it would be cheaper than the PR backlash from today.

    1. Sam (@undercut677)
      29th August 2021, 21:33

      Yea, agreed

    2. The problem is that this would probably fall to the promoter, i.e. the track, because F1 “held a race”. The promoter has paid a huge sum of money to F1 to hold the race and depends on the tickets to cover that cost. There will be no reduction in the license fee paid to F1 because they officially held the race, and even a 15% reduction in next year’s take would probably mean them making a loss. Unless the costs are covered by F1, the promoter is unlikely to be able to afford it whether they want to or not.