Belgian Grand Prix abandoned due to rain as Max Verstappen is handed victory

Farcical scenes at Spa-Francorchamps that saw only two laps completed behind a safety car

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Max Verstappen was awarded victory of the Belgian Grand Prix after a farcical day that saw only two laps were completed behind a safety car.

The 12th round of the Formula One campaign at a rain-soaked Spa-Francorchamps circuit finished three hours and 44 minutes after it was due to begin.

George Russell finished second for Williams, his first F1 podium, with seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton third for Mercedes in the shortest race in F1 history — all 14 kilometres of it.

Hamilton's lead over Verstappen was cut from eight points to three in the drivers' championship.

After the race, the British driver said: “I'm really disappointed for the fans, obviously we can't control the weather and I love racing in the rain — but today was something else.

“The fans stayed out, they still had energy but they were robbed of a race today and deserve their money back.

“Money talks. And the two laps was a money scenario. Everyone gets their money back — and I think the fans should too. It's a shame we couldn't do the race tomorrow.

“Today wasn't a race. I think the sport made a bad choice today. This minimum of two laps you need to have a race, in the gap [between the 'race' stopping and resuming] it rained consistently. There was only one reason why they sent us out today.”

Verstappen added: “It's a win but not how you want to win. Credit to the fans to stay here all day. In the cold and rain. They are the bigger winners today.

“The visibility was very low. If we had started at 3pm [local time], we would have had a better chance.

“Now, in hindsight, it was important to get the pole position — but it was a shame not to do proper laps.”

Seventy-five thousand fans stood in the persistent drizzle for a race due to start at 3pm, pushed back to 3:10pm, 3:15pm and 3:25pm. The safety car took the field away on a formation lap but after eight minutes the race was stopped.

The signs were ominous from the start of the afternoon when Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez aquaplaned out of contention on his way to the original start at Les Combes.

After the safety car gingerly led the 19 remaining cars on a formation lap with the spray flying and drivers like McLaren's Lando Norris complaining of lack of visibility, the red flag was raised signalling a suspension of the start procedure.

“It's pretty awful. I can barely see the car in front at the minute,” Norris said over the team radio.

“There's no way. We can't race,” Alpine's Fernando Alonso said.

Approaching two hours after the scheduled start the rain had still not relented as the three hour deadline for the race to be completed loomed.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff commented: “In my opinion if it [the weather] doesn't change it's too dangerous. As much as I love racing, this is maybe a step too far.”

Following two hours and 47 minutes without any action, the FIA’s race director Michael Masi then gave the green light for the race to resume.

The sodden spectators, those who remained in the hope of a race, pumped their fists in delight, with Verstappen’s fans lighting orange flares on the Kemmel Straight.

But after just two laps completed of the rain-drenched 4.35-mile circuit, the race was red-flagged. The sport’s bosses were facing accusations of a cynical manoeuvre with two laps ensuring a classification could be granted.

Updated: August 29, 2021, 6:10 PM