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Max Verstappen wins half points in rain-ravaged Belgian Grand Prix
Belgium’s notorious Spa-Francorchamps race track more than lived up to its reputation as treacherous weather halted the Formula One Grand Prix after a total of three laps on Sunday. It was the shortest race in the history of the sport and one of the most surrealist.
After an initial delayed start was suspended due to dangerous conditions, the race re-started three hours later from the pit lane behind the safety car. Following the mandatory two laps to award half points to the top ten, it was finally stopped, the persistent rain continuing to render the track too risky to race.
Pole position Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was declared the winner of the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix without racing a single lap. Celebrating his first F1 podium was George Russell in second place for Williams, while seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes. In the 12th race of the season, Hamilton’s overall lead over Verstappen was cut from eight points to three.
The historic and legendary race track in the Ardennes forest is renowned for testing drivers skills with its fast uphill turns as well as unpredictable weather conditions.
In Saturday’s qualifier, also beleaguered by rain, McLaren’s Lando Norris walked away relatively unscathed from a high-speed crash at the iconic Eau Rouge corner. He was declared fit to race after medical checks, but the incident led to further calls to improve the safety of this tricky section of the track.
The worsening conditions on Sunday claimed a victim before even the start of the race when Sergio Perez slid off the track on the lap to grid. The extensive damage to his Red Bull car marked the end of his day’s racing, except the delayed proceedings gave his racing stable time to put the car back together again.
For the 75,000 spectators, it was a more than disappointing day. Persistent rain drenching the track, resulting in dangerous spray and poor visibility, meant there was little chance of any racing taking place. But with the completion of the two laps behind the safety car, race organisers and promoters had officially met their obligations and there was no possibility of refunds for ticket holders.
Earlier, in the afternoon’s opening ceremony, tributes were paid to Spa-Francorchamps director Nathalie Maillet who was murdered two weeks ago, as well as the victims of Belgium’s July floods.
Photo: Belga © Benoît Doppagne