I have been looking everywhere to find out why the two hour time limit was not enforced on the European GP last weekend. This should have had a big impact on Giancarlo Fisichella’s strategy, among others who might have short-fueled, presuming the race wouldn’t go 60 laps.
Sure enough Fernando Alonso’s winning time was two hours, six minutes 26.358 seconds. Here’s why it was legal:
Jonathan is quite right to point out that the FIA stipulates a two hour time limit for Grands Prix. Article 5.3 of the Sporting Regulations says:
The distance of all races, from the start signal to the chequered flag, shall be equal to the least number of complete laps which exceed a distance of 305 km (Monaco 260km). However, should two hours elapse before the scheduled race distance is completed, the leader will be shown the chequered flag when he crosses the control line at the end of the lap during which the two hour period ended.
But that article also includes this important line:
However, should the race be suspended the length of the suspension will be added to this period.
From looking at my video of the race I can see there were at least 16 minutes between the red flag and the safety car setting off to restart the race (the actual total will be several minutes more as the adverts are cut out on my video – it would have been at least 20).
Adding that extra time onto the two hours means the race finished with around quarter of an hour to spare.
The act of ‘suspending’ the race in this fashion is relatively new to F1 – the red flag is hardly seen at all these days. Race control have relied on the safety car even in some of the most extreme situations such as when two marshals were killed (Melbourne, 2000 and Monza, 2001) and on occasions when people have run onto the circuit (Hockenheim, 2000 and Silverstone, 2003).
The 2001 Belgian Grand Prix was suspended in this way when Luciano Burti crashed on lap four, causing a race stoppage.
They have a similar rule in the F3 Euroseries and the first of two races at Oschersleben in 2005 was suspended due to heavy rain. Once it finally got going again Lucas di Grassi’s winning time for the 20 lap, 73km race was five hours, one minute 3.295 seconds. That’s an average speed of 14.6kph!
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