Sebastian Vettel says it is “clear” Formula 1’s final qualifying session should not have started in the conditions that led to Lando Norris’s huge crash at Eau Rouge and reckons FIA race director Michael Masi is “not proud of what happened”.
Belgian Grand Prix qualifying was held in wet conditions with heavy rain starting and stopping through the session.
Norris had a heavy shunt on his first flying lap in Q3 and the McLaren driver has had to go to hospital for an elbow X-ray.
Vettel had said over the radio before that happened that the conditions were too bad and the session should be red-flagged and fumed over the radio when Norris crashed: “What the f*** did I say? What did I say? Red flag! It’s unnecessary.”
The four-time world champion briefly stopped on track to check Norris was OK in his car and after the session finished had a short exchange with Masi over the matter.
Vettel told Sky Sports F1: “I think Michael is not proud of what happened either.
“It’s always easy to play Captain Hindsight but we need to find a way that we listen more to the information that we have.
“Inside the garage it’s very limited because it’s just like looking out of the window, but then 3 kilometres that way I have no clue what’s going on.”
Vettel said he knew immediately on his outlap that there was too much standing water on the circuit at Eau Rouge and on the Kemmel Straight.
He sympathised with the quantity of information race control has to deal with in such situations but in a debrief with written media reiterated his belief that the wrong decision had been made for Q3 to start when it did.
“They do listen,” Vettel reckoned.
“We are feeding it back as a team to race control but there’s a lot of drivers, a lot of teams, a lot of radio, so you cannot be listening to everybody every time.
“It’s clear we should not have gone green.”
Vettel said F1’s priority is to “learn from what happened” as “it could have been a different outcome with the crash” and reckons F1 was “lucky” in that regard.
He also said it was down to the officials to take control of such situations because if the session goes ahead the drivers are not going to be conservative in qualifying.
“Of course we are in control, and you can always say ‘well, if you feel unsafe, box’, but it’s sort of a weird situation because everybody’s in the same position,” he said.
“That decision shouldn’t be really entirely up to us.
“We delayed the session in the beginning when there was less water, so I don’t entirely understand why we just didn’t start the session.
“But as I said, it’s always easy afterwards, the main thing is it doesn’t happen again.”
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez also felt the session should have been started.
“It was very hard I have to say for Michael to judge the conditions given that going into Q3 it’s raining on the main straight but it’s not raining at the back,” said Perez.
“I think when I left the garage going into Q3 the first time, it was clear that it was too wet, but it was already probably a bit too late. But I have no problems with it.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 28, 2021
Explaining why he stopped on-track briefly as the first car to reach the scene of Norris’s crash, Vettel said: “I didn’t know if he was OK. So I didn’t think.
“I stopped because I wanted to see if he gave me a thumbs up, to see if he’s conscious.