Chinese GP practice canceled; scrap the helicopter rule?

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No one likes a canceled Formula 1 session and like the USGP in 2015, the Chinese Grand Prix had to cancel its second Free Practice session due to inclement weather preventing the medical helicopter from flying.

This issue is one of the three trump cards F1 applies to its series—Safety, cost, sustainability. Nothing outrages F1 fans quite like a careless dismissal of safety and whenever something bad happens, the fan outrage and armchair race directors take the mobocracy’s megaphone, that is social media, to slate all involved.

On one hand, fans are perplexed and upset that the FIA canceled the second session while the Porsche Cup cars took to the track. The helicopter rule is a critical one that F1 is unyielding on. On the other hand, are they upset enough to demand safety comes second or third to fan entertainment? Or is there another solution? McLaren’s Zak Brown would like to think there is:

“We need a plan of when this happens – a contingency.

“Should we be opening up the paddock and letting the fans in?

“At the end of the day, everyone is expecting a show. At the same time, is there a different way to get the rescue situation sorted?

“It’s our collective responsibility to take care of the fans. If this happens again – because it will – what can we do to entertain the fans more?

“That’s the best we can do. We can’t change the weather.”

While some berated Lewis Hamilton from hamming it up during the canceled session by engaging the crowd, I have to applaud him for trying to entertain the fans in attendance and at least he was trying to provide some fun and fan engagement. The other drivers could have joined him.

Like Zak, Lewis knows the importance of engaging fans and seeking their emotional capital. Zak would like an alternative solution to the helicopter rule and perhaps there are ways to find a compromise but all it takes is a serious accident on track and the inability to get immediate medical care at a local hospital to outrage the fans worldwide about the lack of safety.

It’s the rule and if Austin 2015 is any measure, it could actually produce a great race…just like the USGP in 2015.

Hat Tip: Autosport 
Photo Courtesy: Kym Illman F1

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Tom Firth

Helicopter rule is in place for a good reason. Just one thing we must accept.

Having some sort of contingency at the track though that can happen, like fan engagement off track in the event that this occurs, which is lets be honest is a rare occurrence is a good idea.

Negative Camber

I agree Tom, I think Zak is right. If that happens, like Austin, open the pits. Do meet and greets with fans. Let team folks explain their garages and how they work etc.


I was going to write a comment, but Tom said everything I was going to. He’s absolutely right.


They could always improve the circuit medical facilities, so it was less critical to transfer an injured driver immediately.
Alternatively, as the issue was at the primary hospital landing site, they could investigate a temporary helicopter landing site at the secondary hospital?

Tiago Santos

If Porsche Supercup was like F1… it wouldn’t be call “Porsche Supercup”. It would be call Porsche F1. The risk of serious injuries in a crash aren’t comparable. If you scrap this rule, you may regret that in the future.


I was watching the SkyF1 broadcast and they said that the reason why the Porsche Supercup ran is because they would use a hospital that is only a few minutes away. F1 only uses FIA approved hospitals which the closest one is 30 some kilometers away.

Rob McClelland

Is that rust on the grandstands? If it is, there’s more in that precip than water… here’s a fan participation idea — a brillo pad, a towel, and a can of spray paint.

Tom Firth

Don’t think so, the seats are yellow, brown and white and I think it’s just the low light that makes it look like it is rust.

On another note, back in 2011, the circuit was reportedly sinking a tiny bit due to subsidence however, it is built on reclaimed swampland.


I think it’s bird poop.

Buddy Hardin

Not a big HAM fan, but watching his foray into the crowd was great. How many millions of dollars did he increase his brand value by being the only driver out there. He was zinging hats up into the grandstands! USGP in 2015 turned out to be a great day on Sat. We were all soaked, but when they opened up the paddock, all was forgotten. Some of my best F! photos were from that closeup experience. On of my buddies even got an autographed HAM hat.

Eje Gustafsson

I agree, after a utterly miserable day to finish out by being let into the pit lane and talk with teams and drivers ended up making it worth hanging out waiting for hours in the cold and wet.

Had a smile on my face when driving back to the hotel that night.

Salvu Borg

“Scrap the helicopter rule?”. WTF is going on here?. (1) A hospital must be reached within 20 minutes, it was tested between FP1 and FP2 by the FIA and it wasn’t possible due to traffic. (in Japan it was possible to reach by road so the race went on). but anybody remember the lambasting the FIA GOT FOR that?. (2) So the designated hospital must be accessible vie helicopter. (3) The chosen hospital must have neurological specialists based there that meets FIA’S standards. (4) Some says why doesn’t the FIA have a state-of-the-art medical center at every race?. (5) They… Read more »


Anyone who has not seen the film “1” should get it and watch it. It’s a great film, but also a sober reminder of how deadly F1 was. Many of the past race deaths could have been prevented if the drivers received proper medical attention within a short time. Don’t drop the rule. But do take the opportunity to engage the fans during a weather delay. That’s a super idea.

Matthew Fearon

My wife randomly bought me that movie for Christmas one year, I was surprised at how good it was.

Smythmic Bismolthil

I have an idea. Why not decide to have F1 races in places where you can’t chew the goddamned air?

Paul KieferJr


(Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;-))