Former Formula One driver Martin Brundle has decried the “weak view” that the Qatar Grand Prix should not have gone ahead amid oppressive conditions that saw drivers claim they were passing out mid-race.
With a raft of criticism for the race going ahead in temperatures that remained over 30 degrees Celsius despite being held at night, alongside over 70 per cent humidity, Brundle came out on social media to present an opposing view, which was shared by fellow pundit Will Buxton.
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Brundle, best known during his career for his massive crash at Albert Park in 1996, said it was a “weak view” that the race should have been cancelled, and looked to the greats of his day.
“It’s races like Qatar and very rainy days which make F1 drivers look the heroes and athletes they are,” Brundle wrote on Twitter.
“Absolutely don’t buy into the weak view we shouldn’t put them through this kind of challenge.
“Check out Senna in Brazil, Stewart at rainy Nurburgring, Lauda post crash, etc etc.”
Brundle’s reference to the legendary Ayrton Senna was particularly cutting, given that Senna himself died during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix in circumstances deemed unsafe after the fact, and that his death is largely credited with a revolution in the sport’s attitudes to safety.
Brundle’s other reference to Niki Lauda’s return from a fiery crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the notorious Nurburgring, also grated with fans given that Lauda had urged his fellow drivers to boycott the race on safety grounds ahead of the race, and almost died from his injuries, being left with lifelong disfigurement.
One fan slammed Brundle’s remarks, bluntly replying: “Stop being barbaric.”
Jalopnik senior editor Elizabeth Blackstock referenced Brundle’s infamous grid walks, where he is oft-criticised for pestering celebrities for interviews.
“Celebrities should be forced to talk to me and F1 drivers should be forced to endure heat exhaustion for my entertainment,” Blackstock wrote on social media.
“Every single one of those drivers he cites got out of the car after those exact specific races to be like ‘yeah let’s never do this kinda sh*t again’.
“Niki Lauda literally decided his life was worth more than a whole ass championship after his crash but go off.”
Brundle’s remarks were also in contrast to his own son, Alex, who was until recently a regular in the World Endurance Championship.
“My first year of WEC, 10 drivers left Circuit of the Americas in September in an ambulance,” the younger Brundle wrote on social media after the Qatar Grand Prix.
“F1 is massively more physical and twice the G but …
“I can confirm, The ‘other motorsport drivers’ chat is very much ablaze with ‘thank god it’s happened in F1 so people will finally start caring about it’ style discussions.”
F1 broadcaster Will Buxton, however, agreed with Brundle, noting while many drivers had safety concerns, none called for the race to have not gone ahead, and referenced Logan Sargeant’s decision to retire after being told there was “no shame” in doing so by his team.
“Absolutely do not agree with the social media noise around a retrospective anger to have called the race off,” Buxton wrote on social media.
“Racers race. Lights to flag. They are elite sportspeople and the choice to compete and to continue is theirs alone. As radio comms attests.
“I think of triathletes pushed beyond their limits. The Brownlees. That show of ultimate sportsmanship.
“Countless examples in numerous sports where competitors have pushed beyond. But again I ask the question from the outset – recklessness or courage? A fine line.”
Williams’ Alex Albon was helped from his car after the race clearly struggling, treated for what his team called “acute heat exposure” before he was cleared.
“This is the toughest race, I think, for every driver in F1 of our career, for everybody,” Charles Leclerc of Ferrari said.
“I don’t believe anyone that says it’s not.”
“The temperature in the cockpit started to be almost too much,” Alfa Romeo veteran Valtteri Bottas said afterwards.
“The feeling is like torture in the car. Any hotter than this would not be safe.”
As early as lap 15 of the race, Alpine driver Esteban Ocon was in trouble.
“Then I was throwing up for two laps inside the cockpit,” he said. “Then I was like, ‘s**t, that’s going to be a long race.’”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the race, ahead of Australia’s Oscar Piastri, who recorded his best F1 finish.
Both drivers were feeling the affects afterwards, while Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll said he was “passing out” and suffering from blurred vision.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “These temperatures – everything goes blurry. The last 25-30 laps it’s just blurry in the high-speed corners.
“Blood pressure dropping, just passing out, basically, in the high-speed corners with high loaded G-forces. The kerbs are now painted because they’re worried about punctures.
“I couldn’t see where I was going because I was passing out. I was fading in and out. The temperature was too much.”