The Belgian Grand Prix was frustrating not just because of the stewards’ decision to penalise Lewis Hamilton, but because for almost all of the race the indispensable Live Timing was not working. Live Timing is without doubt the best feature of Bernie’s website. And like many of life’s great things, you never realise how much you depend on it until it’s no longer there.
That is on the back of a number of failures over the past few grands prix where individual transponders have failed, causing drivers to start falling down the order on the screen when in fact they had lost no places at all. But this was a whole lot more serious — the live timing application simply wasn’t loading at all.
I wonder what caused the failure. I spent periods of the race trying whatever I could think of to get live timing to work — using different browsers and so on. I noticed that Formula1.com as a whole was slow. I do wonder if the failure was simply caused by too many people trying to access it. If that is the case, I hope it has sent a message to Bernie Ecclestone. The fans love circuits like Spa-Francorchamps, and we want fewer Tilkedromes!
In addition to the live timing problems of the past few races, there have been a number of incidents involving fuel rigs. There were a number of fires during the Hungarian Grand Prix while drivers were taking on more fuel. Then in Valencia, in addition to at least one more fire, a Ferrari fuel rig became stuck, partially causing the nasty incident when Kimi Räikkönen left his pit box too soon.
Fuel rigs ought not to be having these sorts of problems as they are all standardised and supplied by the FIA. These types incidents of by no means unheard of. But it does seem unusual that there have been so many problems in such a short period of time.
Now Renault have criticised the meteorologists employed by the FIA to provide all of the Formula 1 teams with weather data. All the teams contribute to pay for the service provided by Météo-France. But it seems as though Pat Symonds doesn’t think the system is working well enough. Here is what he said during the post-Belgium Renault podcast:
We use a weather prediction service this year from Météo-France. It’s really not been terribly good at the best of times. But it actually failed for fifteen minutes during the race just before that [the rain shower towards the end of the race] occurred. I think if you were to listen to the recordings of our pit communications, you’ll find a bit that would definitely need to be bleeped out when the radar comes back on and we see what’s on it. So it was very difficult for us to make those decisions at the time.