Sunday, November 28

Max Verstappen declared winner of the absurd Belgian GP as the rain rages | Formula One

The record books will record the Belgian Grand Prix as a race, and the honors were duly awarded, but there was little dignity in the way Formula One did on a rain-soaked afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps. It was the shortest race in the history of the sport, in just three laps and eight minutes, all behind the safety car.

Max Verstappen was declared the winner for Red Bull, with George Russell in second place for Williams and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in third. However, in what must count as an absurd determination by F1 to declare a result, come what may, none of the drivers participated in any races.

Hamilton, the world champion, scorned what had happened, convinced that F1 had simply been trying to meet its financial obligations. “Money talks. And it was literally the two laps to start the race, everything is a money scenario,” he said. “So everyone gets their money and I think the fans should get their money back, because unfortunately, they couldn’t see what they came and paid for.

“There was no point where we could race, so there was no race. But there is a rule that says that to get to a legal race it takes two laps. So we did two laps behind a safety car. That activates a lot of things. My biggest concern is that the fans should get their money back, I think, and I don’t know if doing those two laps means they won’t. We have better values ​​than that as a sport. “

With persistent rain throughout the morning, the circuit was very wet and the start was formally suspended after two laps of exploratory training. The rain began to fall harder and a waiting game began. It was clear that the weather was not improving, but where other sports do not avoid announcing “abandoned match”, F1 would not do such a thing.

After a delay of three hours and 17 minutes and despite the rain apparently not being significantly lighter, the race was considered to be a good start, with the cars exiting the pit lane behind the safety car. With the mandatory two laps meaning a race result could be declared and half the points awarded in full, the race was stopped once more and just 20 minutes later it was declared finished.

In eight minutes of “race”, the order was decided exactly the same as in qualifying. For George Russell, who brilliantly put his car in second place on Saturday, this was his first F1 podium, but certainly not how he imagined it would take it. It means Hamilton’s championship lead over Verstappen has been reduced to three points.

There seemed to be a desperation to try to achieve some kind of result. The FIA ​​regulations establish that the maximum time in which the race can be carried out is three hours. The clock started counting down when the race was scheduled to start at 3pm.

However, at 5pm, the FIA ​​announced that it had stopped the clock, citing “Force Majeure”, questioning why they had instigated a three-hour race limit in the first place if they were capable of doing that. At the end, with their two F1 laps done, the FIA ​​and the promoter can declare that a race has technically been run and that they have fulfilled their obligations to broadcasters and ticket holders.

There is no doubt that conditions were very bad. With rain, fog and standing water, accidents that have taken place in wet conditions during the Eau Rouge-Raidillon cornering sequence this weekend should also have been taken into account. On Saturday in qualifying, Lando Norris had a big accident around the corner in similar conditions. On Friday, the W Series had a six-car crash in the same spot in the wet and several weeks earlier, Williams development driver Jack Aitken suffered serious injuries after a major accident at the 24 Hours of Spa.

In 2019, Anthoine Hubert died and Juan Manuel Correa was seriously injured in a hilltop accident at Raidillon. The barriers and the exit of the curve will be reconfigured next year, but it seems that in these circumstances the particular danger that it presented was compounded by the treacherous driving conditions.

There was also a general consensus in the paddock that conditions were not suitable for jogging. Verstappen had said that he thought it was okay to start during the two formation laps, but most drivers reported that the lack of grip and visibility made it untenable. McLaren’s Lando Norris said he was hydroplaning and Hamilton posted on social media: “This rain will not stop. It is too dangerous for us to go out. It puts everyone at risk. Safety has to come first ”.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was unequivocal that conditions were unsustainable. “If it continues like this, it can’t start,” he said. “It’s too dangerous, through Raidillon, Eau Rouge and down the straight. From the second or third car you have almost no visibility. As much as I love running and I also love the risk of running, this is a step too far. “

No F1 races have been abandoned before the start in the championship’s 71-year history, but as much as there was agreement that they could not compete in F1 at Spa, they did enough to prevent that.

Trapped in the mud, there were 75,000 fans on the banks of the circuit in the mountains of the Ardennes. They had endured the day with temperatures no higher than 13 ° C and with wind and rain that had been persistent and cold since early in the morning. His lighthearted stoicism won’t go down in the record books, but perhaps he deserves to be more than the ruthless expediency of F1.

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