Formula 1 completed the shortest race in the history of the sport at the Belgian Grand Prix. After just three laps and eight minutes, all behind the safety car at Spa-Francorchamps, Max Verstappen was declared the winner for Red Bull with George Russell in second for Williams and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in third.
However, in what must be seen as a completely ridiculous determination on F1’s part to declare a result no matter what, none of the drivers actually raced. With rain persisting throughout the morning the track was very wet and the start was first delayed four times by 25 minutes, then after two training laps behind the safety car conditions were deemed too bad to continue and the departure was officially suspended. The rain quickly started to fall harder.
After a delay of three hours and 17 minutes and although the rain was apparently not much lighter, the race was deemed fit to start with the cars leaving the pit lane behind the safety car, potentially with an hour of racing. remaining but having completed the two compulsory laps which meant that a race result could be declared and half of the points awarded the race was stopped once more and barely 20 minutes later declared finished.
In just eight minutes of “racing”, the order was decided exactly as it had been in qualifying. For George Russell, who had brilliantly placed his car in second place on Saturday, it was his first podium in F1, but probably not as he imagined taking it. This means Hamilton’s lead over Verstappen in the championship has been reduced to three points.
There had seemed to be almost a desperation in trying to conclude some form of outcome. FIA regulations state that the maximum time during which the race can take place is three hours. The countdown began when the race was due to start at 3 p.m.
However, at 5 p.m., the FIA announced that it had stopped the clock citing “Force Majeure” questioning whether they were able to do so, why they had instituted a three-hour race limit in first place. In the end with their two rounds of F1, the FIA and the promoter can state that technically the race has taken place and have therefore fulfilled their obligations towards broadcasters and ticket holders.
Hamilton scorned what had happened, saying: “I really hope the fans get their money back. [from] today. “
The conditions were very bad, with rain, fog and standing water, it had to be taken into account the accidents that occurred in wet conditions during the Eau Rouge-Raidillon turn sequence this weekend . On Saturday, during qualifying, Lando Norris had a major accident on the corner in similar conditions. The W-Series had a six-car pile-up in one spot in the rain on Friday and several weeks earlier Williams development driver Jack Aitken had been seriously injured after a major accident at the 24 Hours of Spa.
In 2019, Anthoine Hubert was killed and Juan Manuel Correa was seriously injured in an accident at the top of Raidillon hill. The turn’s barriers and runoff are expected to be reconfigured next year, but it appears that under these circumstances the particular danger it presented was exacerbated by the unsafe driving conditions.
There was also a general consensus in the paddock that conditions were not conducive to racing. Verstappen had said he thought it was okay to take the start during both training laps, but the majority of the riders said they lacked grip and the visibility made this untenable. Norris reported he was aquaplaning and Hamilton posted on social media: “This rain just won’t stop. It’s far too dangerous for us to go out. Put everyone in danger. Safety must come first ”.
Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff said unequivocally that it was the right decision. “I have the same information as everyone else and in my personal opinion if it continues like this you can’t start,” he said. “It’s just too dangerous, through Raidillon, Eau Rouge and in the straight line. From the second or third car, you have virtually no visibility. As much as I love running and I also love the risk of running, it’s a step too much. “
Ferrari team manager Mattia Binotto agreed. “It is very important that if we start we start in safe conditions,” he said as the teams took shelter from the rain in the paddock. “It is important that the pilots know that we are setting off in safe conditions. “
No F1 race was abandoned before the start in the 71-year history of the championship and F1 has done just enough to prevent this. The Malaysian GP in 2009 was canceled after 31 of 56 laps due to torrential rains and the Australian GP in 1991 in Adelaide was stopped, again due to rain, after only 16 of the 81 laps scheduled.
There were 75,000 fans, about half the capacity of the circuit, and they had spent the day in temperatures as low as 13 ° C and in persistent, freezing wind and rain since the morning. They did it in a good mood and perhaps deserved more than this low fare to be declared a race.