Lewis Hamilton has accused Formula One’s rulers of putting money first following Sunday’s farcical Belgian Grand Prix which lasted only two laps behind the safety car.
Max Verstappen was proclaimed as the winner of the shortest race in the sport’s 71-year history. George Russell took second, with Hamilton third after the 12th round at a rain-soaked Spa-Francorchamps circuit was finally abandoned following three hours and 44 embarrassing minutes.
Hamilton’s championship advantage over Verstappen has been reduced from eight to three points.
Seventy-five thousand fans stood in the persistent rain and wind for a race due to start at 3pm, pushed back to 3: 10pm, 3: 15pm and then 3: 25pm.
The safety car took the field away on a formation lap, but after eight minutes the red flags were deployed.
Following a delay of two hours and 47 minutes, the FIA’s race director Michael Masi gave the green light for the race to start again.
Some of the sodden spectators pumped their fists in delight, with Verstappen’s fans lighting orange flares on the Kemmel Straight.
But their celebrations were short-lived. After just two laps of the 4.35-mile circuit, the race was red-flagged for a second time, and 19 minutes later, at 6: 44pm, the torrid affair was called off.
Hamilton raised suggestions of a cynical manoeuvre by the sport’s bosses, calling the afternoon a “farce”. Completing two laps ensured an official result, that half-points would be awarded, and the spectators, whose tickets ranged from £107 to £505, might not be refunded.
It was alleged F1 would then also receive their £15million hosting fee from the race organisers – an accusation CEO Stefano Domenicali rebuffed.
“The sport made a bad choice today,” said Hamilton. “Money talks, and the two laps was literally a money scenario. Between the two hours when they stopped the race and started it again, there was no change in the weather.
“But I know why they did it. There is a rule that says for it to be a legal race there has to be a minimum of two laps. They knew that and they sent us out for two laps behind a safety car.
“That activates a bunch of things and I don’t know the politics in the background. But my concern is that the fans should get their money back. I don’t know by if us doing those two laps means they don’t. We should have better values in the sport.”
Hamilton last year said “cash is king” when condemning F1’s decision to go ahead with the Australian Grand Prix amid the outbreak of Covid-19. The event was cancelled at the eleventh hour after a McLaren mechanic contracted the virus.
On Sunday night, Hamilton added: “There are similarities today with us being in Melbourne last year when we shouldn’t have been.
“Today was a farce and the only people to lose out are the fans who have paid good money to watch us race. Of course you can’t do anything about the weather but we have sophisticated equipment to tell us what is going on and it was clear the weather wasn’t going to let up.
“We were sent out for one reason and one reason only. Two laps behind a safety car where there is no possibility to gain or lose a place to provide entertainment to fans is not racing.
“We should have just called it quits, not risked the drivers, and most importantly refunded the fans who are the heart of the sport.”
Domenicali was asked if the decision to complete two laps held a commercial bearing. “No,” he said. “It is totally not true because when it comes to racing that is the FIA and their processes. These things are not connected at all.
“For the people here it is a shame because everyone wants to see proper racing. But the decision taken was absolutely correct.”
Quizzed on whether the fans will receive a refund, he replied: “It is something we will look at together with the organisers. We are not the ones putting the tickets out.
“We can look at a gesture of intention to see what is the right reward in this condition. The organisers together with us will consider the maximum attention to the fans.”
The abandoned race came just 24 hours after British driver Lando Norris emerged unscathed from a terrifying 185mph crash at Eau Rouge in qualifying.
The Spa-Francorchamps venue is considered to be one of the most dangerous on the F1 calendar, with 23 men perishing here. Two years ago, French Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert lost his life after a multi-car collision.
Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, tweeted: “Brave decision by Michael Masi. 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.”
Verstappen, who declared the conditions as “fine to race” after it was stopped the first time around, added: “I said at 3: 30, ‘Let’s go’.
“The conditions were decent but the visibility was low. If we started at 3, we stood a better chance. It is a win but it is not how you want to win.”
Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, a seven-time winner, concluded: “We are still competing in a dangerous sport and playing on the edge of danger but there is danger and being unsafe, and then there is the extreme of having people unnecessarily helicoptered out of here.”
Belgian Grand Prix, classification
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull 12.5pts
- George Russell, Williams 9pts
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 7.5pts
- Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren 6pts
- Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin 5pts
- Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri 4pts
- Esteban Ocon, Alpine 3pts
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari 2pts
- Nicholas Latifi, Williams 1pt
- Carlos Sainz, Ferrari 0.5pt
- Fernando Alonso, Alpine
- Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
- Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
- Lando Norris, McLaren
- Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
- Mick Schumacher, Haas
- Nikita Mazepin, Haas
- Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
- Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
- Sergio Pérez, Red Bull
Belgian Grand Prix, as it ‘happened’
Hamilton on another podium
I feel really sorry for the fans today. I really hope the fans get their money back today. You couldn’t really see… five metres in front of you the car disappears… you couldn’t even go flat out because you didn’t know at what point of the track you were on.
Could have been a great race today were it not for quite so much rain, he says. He’s right. Oh well. Could have been worse for him had he not been third and close enough to Verstappen.
George Russell reacts to a first F1 podium
We don’t often get rewarded for great qualifying but today we did. It’s a shame we couldn’t get this race underway but from our side and the team’s side. The team deserve it. There’s not been anything to show for it [their hard work]. We absolutely nailed it yesterday.
Verstappen reacts to a strange victory
Now in hindsight it was very important to get that pole position. Of course, it’s a shame not to do proper laps. I said it at 3.30 let’s go. I think the conditions were decent but the visibility was very low. It’s a win but it’s not how you want to win. A big credit goes to all the fans who are at the track to stay here. They are actually the bigger winners today.
He has closed the gap to Lewis Hamilton, at least. Dutch Grand Prix next week.
Max Verstappen wins the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix
Not the hardest fought victory he’s ever had…
Russell ends up second and Hamilton third. It’s a podium for Williams but not really how he’d have wanted it. He had one cruelly taken away from him when he drove for Mercedes at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year.
They could and should probably just call this off now
That said, the rain in the pit lane looks to be easing. Let’s not go there, though. I do wonder if they should have just gone around under the Safety Car until it was absolutely obvious there was no chance of racing. Then again, we do not know what the drivers were telling their teams on the radio.
Current top 10
- VER 12.5pts
- RUS 9pts
- HAM 7.5pts
- RIC 6pts
- VET 5pts
- GAS 4pts
- OCO 3pts
- LEC 2pts
- LAT 1pt
- SAI 0.5pt
I am almost certain that will be it. The rain in the pit lane is fairly heavy again. I’ve put the potential points in there, too, but we may run again. You never know. We will just count down to zero, though, I think.
RED FLAG – 49 mins remain
I thought that they would continue behind the Safety Car but, really, now they’ve got the two laps done (and we can now award points) perhaps this is the best decision for safety.
The cars go back to the pit lane behind the Safety Car. I do not expect them to go back out again. The clock will continue to tick down as well.
We didn’t hear a lot of radio chatter from the drivers but I suspect few of them will have been happy.
53 mins remain
There is an advertising board on the exit of La Source for Visit Wallonia. I am not sure this is the best advert.
Sergio Pérez saying it’s getting better at the back for visibility, especially in the final sector. I think the difference this time is that they know it is now or never, so they will probably persist behind the SC at this speed. Rather than waiting for a window in the next three or four hours.
Belgian GP – Race order under SC with 57 minutes remaining
The conditions look worse than before. No word from the drivers yet. At least we will get a result. And as long as they can continue to go around they have a chance of starting the race properly and getting rid of the Safety Car.
The Safety Car leads the cars out of the pit lane and the race – finally – begins. We have an hour on the clock. What drivers feed back to race control and their teams will be crucial as to what happens. I can’t say it looks any better than when they last red flagged the race, however…
This means we should get to half points, if two laps are completed under the Safety Car
Whether we will get the Safety Car to come in is another thing. Fingers crossed. There is an hour on the clock and as long as the conditions are okay enough to stay out behind the Safety Car there is a chance.
Chances of getting to full points are slim to none. We won’t be able to do 75 per cent race distance in an hour. No chance of that.
It has simply not stopped raining all day
And that is the problem. Yesterday, qualifying was wet but it at least stopped raining for periods of it. The race should have started three hours ago. Think the track is getting wetter. That’s what normally happens when rain falls, isn’t it? Might have to keep those big old trucks going around.
Here’s a weather update from someone in the know
The BBC’s Ian Fergusson.
1640BST UPDATE: Teams apparently just being advised that rain is expected to stop by 1805hrs local, with gradual easing beforehand.
— Ian Fergusson (@fergieweather) August 29, 2021
That is about the most promising thing I have seen all day.
Various industrial vehicles are out on track
Sweeping away the standing water and clearing the racing line, it seems. Does this signal some kind of intent or just it is a case of doing everything they can do to get a race going if conditions improve. I am not hopeful. It could be dangerous out there.
Timeline of today’s events
- Race start delayed several times until 2.25pm BST
- Cars completed two laps under the Safety Car before returning to the pits with conditions too dangerous
- The rain has continued to fall for the next two hours
- FIA pauses three-hour countdown clock with one hour remaining
- Not enough racing laps completed for points to be awarded
Maybe… just maybe?
1600BST UPDATE (corrected): A period of heavier (moderate) rain is within 6 miles from the circuit & closing-in. Behind that, an improvement – at least in terms of a return to lighter rain/drizzle. Currently, expect a more general easing of rain amounts from around 1730 local.
— Ian Fergusson (@fergieweather) August 29, 2021
I wonder if the medical car is trying to help contribute to a dry line? No. It would make such little difference.
Okay, scrap that, an update from the FIA
Don’t know why they stopped the time limit at an hour and not, say, one hour 30. That makes the chance of getting a race on a lot greater.
So the 5pm cut off is no longer in place. Have they seen something on the forecast? The medical car stays out…
Less than an hour remaining now
Daniel Ricciardo is getting a Mexican wave going in the grandstand opposite the pitlane. The rain has not eased in the slightest in the last 90 minutes. Race should have started two hours ago.
The medical car is out again. It gets a bit of a slide on on the exit of the hairpin at La Source. Just looks horrid.
The rain is getting heavier
Sorry, I do not think anything constituting anything like a Grand Prix will be run today. And tomorrow might just be wishful thinking. I think the logistics of getting volunteer marshals and then getting all the equipment from the teams, broadcasters etc. to Zandvoort is too much of a mountain to overcome.
News just in: The race will be considered to be started when the green light in the pit lane goes out
So, in that case, they can do enough laps to constitute a race for half points. It would be a bit rubbish, but better than teams and drivers having nothing at all. If they can all get around without slipping off under the Safety Car.
I would suggest that they would try this if remotely possible.
The race will be 39 laps, once it restarts
But that is almost immaterial as we only have 1h28m left on the clock before the race is stopped altogether.
Actually, contrary to what I said earlier, it might be the case that there has to be an actual start in racing conditions and then two laps to get to half points. Not just two under the Safety Car.
I think we will probably get to half points
Just by virtue of the cars following the Safety Car to get the required two laps in to allow, by the regulations, a classified race.
Whether we get any actual racing, I am doubtful. This is incredibly frustrating. Can’t imagine what it’s like for George Russell… who should be starting on the front row.
At present, there would be no points awarded
We need to complete two laps to get to half points and then 75 per cent of race distance. And we have also just had it confirmed by Michael Masi that the three hours’ maximum time started at 2pm BST. So we are fast running out of time to get a full race or anything approaching it. We have just 1h45 of time left, then.
What does that mean, then? The absolute last moment they can start the race is about 4.55pm local time. And even then it would just be a couple of laps. That would be enough to get to half points, though, behind the SC or not.
It’s not looking good I’m afraid…
Wolff: “It is not going to get better for the next 45 minutes. There is even heavier rain coming. We are limited by three hours. Lewis said that you cannot see the light of the car in front. The further back the less you see. I have plans tomorrow and that is beach.” #BelgianGP
— Philip Duncan (@PhilDuncanF1) August 29, 2021
George Russell tweets
I hope he’s somewhere dry, unlike any of those fans.
To all the fans getting soaked out here at Spa right now, sorry to keep you waiting and thanks for braving the weather! We know it’s frustrating for you all, but safety has to come first. Fingers crossed we can get a result today one way or another. 🤞
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) August 29, 2021
It just seems to get gloomier and gloomier.
A bit of Red Bull/FIA back and forth about allowing Pérez back in
Michael Masi, the race director, is getting it checked out. He said initially that Pérez would not be allowed to rejoin (once the car is repaired) after his crash on the way to the grid because he received mechanical assistance to get back to the garage. But Jonathan Wheatley, of Red Bull, says it wasn’t during the race so it should be fine.
“It’s not Le Mans!” he says.
The trouble is that the forecast is like this for the rest of the day
We may end up with several aborted attempts here. Would be such a shame if we do not get a race of any kind here today. We’re not at that crisis point yet, but there does not seem to be any significant gap in the weather.
What they really need is for the rain to ease and then to get them going around to try and clear the water before starting.
Verstappen: “I mean it’s wet but… for me it’s fine to race”
He knows better than me but I am not sure about that. He’s at the front, of course. He doesn’t have 10-15 other F1 cars generating gallons of spray ahead.
Giovinazzi says “from there the conditions are not driveable,”. Not sure what they do here. Just keep going round?
Verstappen gets alongside the SC at the top of the lap. Russell saying he can’t even see Verstappen’s red light on the rear of his car.
Forgot what I said about the rain easing
It’s still quite heavy. Are they going to attempt a start here?
“We expect this rain to continue for 15-20 minutes and then heavier rain,” Daniel Ricciardo is told. Perhaps they are trying to get going now rather than just waiting for it to get better. Teams seem to be starting to leave the grid, as wet as it is.
Pierre Gasly asking for some sausages
Not sure how he’d eat them with his helmet on, mind you. He also asks about the two-hour race time.
A shot of the Red Bull garage shows Red Bull mechanics swarming around Sergio Pérez’s damaged car. Wonder if they are thinking about working on it. Well, they are certainly thinking about it, but not sure that they will actually attempt it. Worth a go…
I think if they want to get this going then they need to just get on with it
It should be fine for a SC start and give them a few laps (or maybe six or seven) to follow it around and clear a dry(er) racing line. Teams getting rid of the car coverings but we have a further five-minute delay. So that’s 2.25pm BST at the earliest.
Scrap that… START DELAYED
We’ll keep you updated, then… I wonder if the rain has just come down too heavily now. I think so, it’s fairly heavy now. As heavy as it has been in the last hour or so.
The formation lap is now scheduled to begin at 2.10pm BST. They called that delay at the very last moment. I think they were literally seconds away from starting.
PEREZ IN THE WALL!
OH NO. I said it didn’t look undriveable that is going to be Pérez’s race over. His front right is off and that’s going to be that. No replay for what happened but it looks like it’s at the top of the hill at the end of the Kemmel Straight.
Okay. He caught the kerb at the chicane and then went straight on with no chance of stopping it from the barriers, just a few metres from the edge of the track. That’s poor.
I really like Pérez and he has just been awarded a new contract… but he’s made too many mistakes this season.
Looking at the cars on the way to the grid…
I think this is 90 per cent SC start conditions. That may change if the rain eases up but, really, the thing that will clear the water will be 20 F1 cars going around it fairly quickly. So, at the moment I would expect a SC start for 3-4 laps at least. The amount of spray is enormous.
“There’s no grip out here,” Hamilton says on the radio on his way to the grid.
It doesn’t look undriveable but a race start in these conditions is different to what is happening now.
Sky Sports F1 are showing a lovely feature at the moment
Mick Schumacher driving his dad’s Jordan 191, the car he made his F1 debut in at Spa in 1991, around Silverstone. He’s driven a fair few of his old man’s cars at various points, but this was special. They might have it on their “socials” or website at some point, they often do. Definitely worth trying to find.
He’s running with a replica helmet of his dad’s this weekend, too. A nice touch.
Not sure why, but I keep getting Spa 1998 flashbacks…
Think there would have been a few more red flags in that race had it been run today. I was watching highlights of it earlier on and there was just a stricken Stewart left on the grass, the track-side of the barriers.
Wonder how many red flags we will see today?
Hamilton has set his sights fairly low today, then
Lewis Hamilton, who starts third: “In the spray we are not going to be able to see too much. You cannot prepare for a race like this. You have to go out and be on it. It is a lottery in these conditions. I want to just finish – that is going to be the goal today.” #BelgianGP
— Philip Duncan (@PhilDuncanF1) August 29, 2021
Still, as Murray Walker used to say “to finish first, first you must finish”.
Belgian Grand Prix, qualifying times
- Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1min 59.765secs
- George Russell (Gbr) Williams 2: 00.086
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 2: 00.099
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 2: 00.864
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 2: 00.935
- Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia AlphaTauri 2: 01.164
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 2: 02.112
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 2: 02.502
- Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 2: 03.513
- Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren No Time Set
- Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1: 57.721
- Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 1: 58.056
- Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Ferrari 1: 58.137
- Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1: 58.205
- Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1: 58.231
- Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 2: 02.306
- Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 2: 02.413
- Mick Schumacher (Ger) Haas F1 2: 03.973
- Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 2: 04.452
- Nikita Mazepin (Raf) Haas F1 2: 04.939
NB Norris and Bottas both take five-place grid penalties
Good afternoon F1 fans
And welcome to our coverage for the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix from Spa-Francorchamps. Formula One has finally resumed after the summer break and that qualifying session yesterday was really worth waiting for, wasn’t it? Here’s Phil Duncan with a brief recap on what happened.
George Russell left Lewis Hamilton in his shade as he produced a remarkable performance in qualifying to put his Williams on the front row for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Only Red Bull’s Max Verstappen could deny Russell Formula One’s greatest pole position of the modern era as Hamilton’s championship rival claimed the spoils on a dramatic afternoon at a rain-hit Spa-Francorchamps.
Hamilton, eight points ahead of Verstappen, had to settle for third.
Lando Norris, Britain’s other rising star, was fortunate to walk away from a terrifying 185mph crash at the fearsome Eau Rouge.
A 43-minute delay ensued as Norris’ wrecked McLaren was taken away, while the winded Briton was sent to the on-track medical centre, and latterly hospital for an x-ray on his wounded elbow.
Verstappen on pole, yes, but no doubt that Russell was the star of the day. Even for a man who has earned a reputation as being superb on Saturday, this was exceptional.
“I don’t know what to say to be honest,” said Russell after. “We are standing here on the front row.”
“We were in Q3 which is not a norm for us. We had to go for it. We took the full maximum engine mode for the last lap and I am buzzing, absolutely buzzing, but tomorrow is the important one.”
What can we expect from the race? That will very much depend on the weather, which is predicted to be varying levels of damp, though with fewer slots of dryness that we saw over the weekend so far. Might it be a race that is persistently wet? Or damp race that gets wet and then dry again? Or variations on them all? It will be fascinating to find out. It would be a big ask for Russell to convert his front row into a podium but in unpredictable conditions you never know. It might just fall for him.
And let us not forget the Verstappen vs Hamilton battle again, that has the potential to reignite today, too. Hamilton currently leads the Dutchman by eight points. Can he hold onto that lead today? Or even extend it?
The race gets under way at 2pm BST but I will be here for all the build-up, all-important weather updates, live updates and reaction.