Lewis Hamilton has called for a radical shake-up over how Formula One grand prix weekends are formatted after Friday’s Chinese Grand Prix afternoon practice session had to be abandoned due to heavy rain and fog.
With the medical helicopter unable to land at the designated hospital in Shanghai 38km away, the session was not able to begin and as such, practice was limited to just 15 minutes of the three hours initially scheduled for Friday’s running.
Fans were left deeply frustrated with the lack of track action, which led Hamilton to take to the stands and hand out signed caps and give autographs for those who had made the effort to stay until the end of the day, and the three-time world champion called for the FIA to use the issues faced on Friday to bring in the changes that he insisted the sport needs.
“So sorry for all u [sic] either watching on TV or here at the track. We must find a solution to deal with weather issue,” Hamilton wrote on Twitter after the session was abandoned.
While some mocked the Mercedes driver for appearing to call for a way to avoid the impact of weather in an outside sport, the 31-year-old went on to elaborate that the entire weekend can be reduced to two days rather than three, with the qualifying session currently booked in for Saturday moved to Sunday morning before the grand prix itself.
Sat program: 3 practice sessions, qualifying Sunday morning and then race. Who's down for the switch up?” Hamilton asked. “Seriously tho [sic], this could actually be a blessing in disguise. A chance for new bosses to be proactive & be creative #switchitupF1 #bestfans.”
Formula One’s new owners, Liberty Media, were expected the shake-up how the sport is formatted along with plenty of over changes that it’s hoped will broaden the appeal of motorsport’s premier class. However, they have so far proven reluctant to make too many changes to how the sport is run, with the only notable change coming in the wider use of social media to help give F1 more exposure to fans worldwide.
All 10 teams met on Friday at the post-practice drivers’ briefing to discuss the possibility of moving the Chinese Grand Prix to Saturday, with more bad weather expected on Sunday afternoon. The low-lying fog that hit Shanghai meant that practice could not begin as the medical helicopter – used to transfer injured drivers for emergency treatment in the event of a serious crash – must be able to fly to the nearest hospital within 20 minutes.
Moving this weekend’s Grand Prix to Saturday would likely have seen the third practice session cancelled to make way for an earlier qualifying session, meaning that teams would have experienced just 15 minutes of running before the shootout to decide the grid, with six drivers – including Lewis Hamilton – yet to post a lap time.
The change needed all 10 teams to agree to the switch, but the FIA race director, Charlie Whiting, ruled out that possibility on Friday night due to the FIA’s belief that the weather conditions will not be as bad due to a higher level of cloud and stronger winds.