The world of motorsport has been stunned by a bizarre Belgian Grand Prix that played out in unusual circumstances.
Heavy rain delayed the start of the race, with officials issuing a red flag after the drivers completed a formation lap behind the safety car.
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Once an F1 grand prix starts, it has a window of three hours in which the race must be completed.
As drivers twiddled their thumbs in their garages and fans got drenched trackside, it was hoped there would be a break from the rain and the race would be able to resume.
But as time began to run out and the race clock ticked down, race officials decided to stop the clock to give themselves more time for the weather to ease.
The downpour continued and the race was delayed for two hours and 52 minutes until it was finally announced the race would resumed.
However, the hope was short-lived as the cars once again drove behind the safety car for two laps in order to complete the minimum number required for classification points to be awarded, before the race was red flagged by race director Michael Masi.
With a slippery track and extremely poor visibility, it was just too dangerous for the race to continue.
Ultimately, Max Verstappen’s pole position was enough for him to secure the most anticlimactic victory of his career in what was the shortest race in F1 history.
With the drivers holding their positions from qualifying, Williams’ George Russell finished second to claim his first ever podium finish, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was third.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was rewarded for his superb qualifying effort with fourth place — his best result so far at McLaren.
The top 10 drivers were awarded half the normal amount of points because they had completed more than two laps but less than 75 per cent of the original race distance.
It’s only the sixth time in F1 history half points have been awarded.
Fans were disappointed the race fizzled out in such an underwhelming manner.
Seriously F1 is going to make a race official with 4 laps? Just do the race tomorrow. Nobody wants a decision like this.
— David Alter (@dalter) August 29, 2021
F1 has some really weird rules, you guys.
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) August 29, 2021
Brave decision by Michael Masi @fia If the race had gone ahead and there had been a serious accident, we’d be asking why he started the race. Tough. But ultimately a mature thing to do. Spa has claimed a lot of drivers #f1
— Damon Hill (@HillF1) August 29, 2021
With the Belgian Grand Prix the first leg of a triple-header and bad weather forecast again for Monday, it would not have been logistically possible to hold the race a day later.
The only real drama on the track came before the race had even started, when Sergio Perez lost control of his Red Bull on the slippery track and crashed into the barriers at slow speed on a warm up lap.
“It’s a win but not how you want to win,” Verstappen said, who now trails Hamilton in the drivers’ championship by only three points.
“I think the credit goes to the fans who stayed here in these rainy conditions.”
Hamilton echoed his rival’s sentiment, adding fans at the track should get their tickets refunded.
“I feel really sorry for the fans today,” he said.
“Obviously it’s no one’s fault with this weather but the fans have been incredible to stick with us this whole time and hold out with us for a potential race.
“They knew when they sent us out the end there that the track wasn’t any better and they did it just so we could start two laps behind the safety car, which is the minimum for a race.
“I really hope the fans get their money back today.
Hamilton took a swipe at race organisers, who he believed were motivated to get a result purely for financial reasons.
“Well money talks,” he said when asked how he felt about racing for only two laps.
“It was literally two laps to start the race, all money scenario, so everyone gets their money and I think the fans should get theirs back too, because unfortunately they didn’t get to see what they came and paid for.
“It’s a shame we can’t do the race tomorrow. Today wasn’t a race.
“I think the sport made a bad choice today, of course we wanted to race, but there is a minimum of two laps you need to do to count as a race, and between that gap of stopping the first time and the second time, it had rained consistently.
“So there is only one reason why they sent us out, so that’s why I feel more bad for the fans.”
Belgian Grand Prix Top 10
1st: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2nd: George Russell (Williams)
3rd: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4th: Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
5th: Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
6th: Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
7th: Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
8th: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
9th: Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
10th: Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
Originally published as Fans divided by ‘weirdest’ F1 race in history