Formula One bosses are ‘apoplectic’ with Lewis Hamilton for accusing the sport of putting money ahead of all else in the farce of the rain-sabotaged Belgian Grand Prix.
The seven-time world champion accused the sport that has made him a fortune worth more than £250million of greed by staging a ludicrous ‘race’ of just two laps behind the safety car on Sunday.
He said the 75,000 fans who were drenched to the bone should be refunded their ticket price, worth between £107 and £505.
Formula One’s Belgian Grand Prix descended into farce on Sunday as only two laps took place
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton (R) and supremo Bernie Eccleston have since spoken out
Hamilton made a worthy point in recognising that some form of compensation is required, an argument Formula One bosses yesterday acknowledged they were looking into, but the Briton’s stinging remarks that the non-event was a charade for commercial reasons has landed badly with the sport’s hierarchy.
One source told Sportsmail: ‘There is absolute fury internally at the naivety of Lewis’s comments. He talks about handing back millions of pounds to fans, though he makes millions out of Formula One, and it guarantees his team’s job, and he gives little or nothing back himself.
‘He could have expressed his opinions privately rather than in the way he did, which makes no sense.
Formula One as a sport did not even make any financial benefit from acting as it had to on Sunday. It was about trying in difficult circumstances to get as much track-running as possible. The window to run a race was kept open as long as possible.
‘People wonder if Lewis would have moaned if he had been on pole and won the race.’
As it happened, Hamilton started and finished third, with his title rival Max Verstappen winning from pole to cut his deficit from eight to three points going into the next race at home in Holland.
But Formula One bosses are said to be seething with the British star for his comments
It is understood that Jean Todt, the FIA president, was particularly hurt by Hamilton’s accusations, and he is due to issue a statement today defending the governing body’s calls on the day.
In fairness, race director Michael Masi, the Australian who took control after the sudden death of the respected Charlie Whiting in 2019, was damned if he allowed racing to go ahead and damned if he didn’t.
Former supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Sportsmail that he favoured the grand prix continuing as close to normal as possible.
The 90-year-old said: ‘I would have said at 3pm when the race was due to start, let’s try again at 4pm or 4.30pm. It doesn’t look as if conditions will improve but I don’t know. But regardless of what’s happening it will start then.
‘If you want to race, fine; if not, fine. Nobody could put a pistol to anyone’s head. It was up to them. If I was at the back of the grid, I might decide it’s not worth the risk because it’s bloody dangerous out there. If I wanted to score points for the team and for myself, I might think I wanted to go ahead.
‘We have raced in worse conditions than that and not called off the race.
The fiasco culminated in Max Verstappen being crowned the winner of the bizarre showpiece
‘I remember 1976 at Fuji when James (Hunt) was going for the world championship and Niki (Lauda) decided he wouldn’t race on. He pulled out. James won the title. They should have done the same on Sunday — a choice.
‘People screamed at me saying the race should be called off in Japan, but I said it must be on.’
John Watson, who raced in Fuji that dangerous year and rates Spa a needlessly treacherous track, said: ‘I agree with Bernie. I think the FIA were paranoid.
‘In the preceding days, they had seen a near fatal accident in W Series and with Lando Norris in F1 qualifying, where he was over-confident and driving too fast, and that was factored in.’