GULF WEEKLY: Wet weather may have rained on Lewis Hamilton’s parade, but it definitely did not dampen Max Verstappen’s day as he won the Belgian Grand Prix in what may be deemed as the shortest race in the sport’s history.
Damp weather affected the whole weekend at Spa-Francorchamps and the rainy conditions on Sunday meant the race had to be red-flagged before it even began.
After two formation laps behind the safety car on wets, the red flag was brought out and start procedure was suspended. The three-hour window for the race was temporarily stopped at 5pm before a further delay of more than an hour. The race then officially resumed at 6.17pm, with cars exiting the pit lane and the clock starting to tick down with one hour remaining.
The cars then completed two racing laps behind the safety car, signalling the start of the race, before it was red flagged and suspended again. This was enough for half points and a race classification to be awarded.
Half-points were awarded to the top 10 drivers after the race was marred by rainfall. That made green-flag running impossible which meant the top six finished in the same positions as they qualified, with the rest of the top 10 moving up a spot after Red Bull’s Sergio Perez crashed before the race had even started. Perez slid off into the barrier and his car sustained suspension damage.
At 6.44pm, the race was called off and Red Bull driver Verstappen was declared the winner with George Russell second for Williams and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in third.
Verstappen had collected 12.5 points instead of 25, with Russell getting nine for his second career podium and Hamilton picking up 7.5.
“It is always good to win and the points are important, but this is not how anyone wants to do it, especially on our 50th start with Honda,” said Vertsappen. “In hindsight, it was very important to get pole on Saturday and although it’s a big shame not to do some proper racing laps, as I really love coming to this track, it was just impossible in these conditions.
“I thought maybe at 3:30pm the conditions were a bit better when we tried to re-start, but the visibility was still very low and I understand why we couldn’t race. For me in the lead, the visibility was a lot better, even with the safety car ahead. But the guys behind me couldn’t see a single thing and if someone went off at Eau Rouge and bounced back onto the track, they could have been T-boned at high speed which we do not want.
“It was also extremely low-grip and because it kept raining all afternoon, it just didn’t improve. I think credit goes to fans around the track who stayed here the whole day in the rain, wind and cold. It must have been horrible to sit in those conditions, so big thanks goes to them and they should be the real winners.”
The seven-kilometre (4.3-mile) Spa-Francorchamps circuit was totally drenched with some soaked fans huddled under large umbrellas on muddy banks on the hills around the track as they waited for the rain to pass. It didn’t stop them from cheering loudly though from the stands and the hills whenever the race took off.
“Now we have to keep on pushing and trying to regain the championship lead. I’m confident we have a good car and there is a long way to go, so we just need to make sure we get the best performance out of it for the rest of the season,” added Verstappen.
This is Verstappen’s sixth win of the season and 16th of his career, that also stopped Hamilton from earning a record-extending 100th win, while also trimming his overall lead from eight points to three.
While Hamilton wasn’t as pleased with the outcome, he also applauded the fans.
“It’s no one’s fault, you can’t control the weather, but fans have been incredible, sticking with us the whole time, holding out for a potential race, keeping their energy up and creating the atmosphere,” Hamilton said. “They were robbed of a race, unfortunately. I love racing in the rain, but this was something else. You couldn’t see the car ahead, there was aquaplaning, it was so, so tricky out there.
“It’s a shame because, of course, I wanted to race and I love this track as well. I think it would have been a great race if it hadn’t rained so hard, but unfortunately it just didn’t stop.”
While it was a shame that the race continued under such circumstances, Formula 1 organisers had “no ability” to reschedule the Belgian Grand Prix to take place on Monday, according to FIA race director Michael Masi.
“From the FIA perspective and jointly with Formula 1, safety is paramount for the drivers, the teams and all of the spectators,” said Masi. “We used every available opportunity within the rulebook, within the provisions of the International Sporting Code, to give us the best opportunity to be able to complete a race. So it’s unfortunate on this occasion that we could not go the full distance.”
Let’s hope for a sunnier race day on September 5 for the Dutch Grand Prix.