By Alan Baldwin
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Formula One served up plenty of excitement in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix but some were counting their lucky stars that nobody was hurt.
On a rainsoaked afternoon that saw the race twice stopped and re-started with the safety car deployed five times, there were also those who felt the sport had erred too far on the side of caution.
But if there were some mocking comments on social media about the world’s top drivers being unable to cope with rain, others breathed a sigh of relief.
The crash that halted the race for the first time, Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari spinning on the pit straight on lap 20 to face cars hammering along in a wall of spray, was an incident of particular focus.
“Esteban (Ocon) so very, very nearly had a head-on with Kimi and if that had happened we’d all be talking a different story,” said Manor racing director Dave Ryan of his French rookie driver.
Manor were previously Marussia, the team that suffered the sport’s most recent tragedy when Ocon’s compatriot Jules Bianchi suffered ultimately fatal head injuries in a crash in the rain at Suzuka in 2014.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz, another rising talent who has had some big crashes already in his fledgling career with Toro Rosso, also felt he had been fortunate.
“It’s very easy from home to say ‘Oh, these guys — why aren’t they racing? This isn’t F1 anymore’,” he told reporters.
“From the inside, it’s unbelievable how difficult it was, how dangerous it was.
“Kimi spun completely in front of me, and I was just 10 meters from hitting him at 300kph. From 300 to zero, you can imagine the magnitude of the crash.”
The second stoppage confused even some drivers, who had been calling for the safety car to come in because they felt the conditions had improved enough to race.
Race winner Lewis Hamilton, who led from start to finish for Mercedes, was one.
Officials indicated later, however, that they thought it better to stop and wait for a window of good weather that allowed a real chance of racing.
“You can understand them being prudent, thinking about the safety of the driver at all times,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
“The great thing is they did get it underway in the end and we saw a fantastic motor race.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nick Mulvenney)