Sunday 29th August 2021
Rain chaos in Belgium
Formula 1 race in Spa canceled – and counted
Nothing goes in Spa. The Formula 1 race is only interrupted after an introductory lap, after three hours the drivers do three laps behind the safety car. Then they drive back into the pit lane. The race is canceled but counted. Max Verstappen wins.
After an XXL waiting time in the rain chaos of Spa, Max Verstappen has won one of the bizarre Formula 1 races in history. The Red Bull Pole man won the first Grand Prix after the summer break at slow pace behind the safety car. More than three and a half hours after the originally scheduled start of the race, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was classified in third place and defended the championship lead.
In the Ardennes shower, George Russell gave the Williams team an almost forgotten sense of achievement after his sensational second place in the qualification. Since only a minimum number of laps could be completed behind the safety car, only half the number of points was awarded. Thus, Hamilton (202.5 points) leads the world championship ranking by a wafer ahead of Verstappen (199.5). Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel cornered the finish line in fifth place in the spray of Belgium, Mick Schumacher finished 16th in the Haas.
There was a comparable mini version of a Grand Prix in Adelaide in 1991, when it was over after 14 laps, also due to rain. In the Belgian standstill, the Formula 1 staff passed the waiting time with social media activities, card games or light fitness and coordination exercises.
Cheers broke out among the 75,000 persevering fans when the race was finally scheduled to start at 6:17 p.m. Only nine minutes later, however, red flags were waved again. Verstappen & Co. no longer drove on the asphalt. The Dutchman celebrated his 16th Grand Prix success.
The weather caused huge confusion. Not just on race day. In qualifying, McLaren driver Lando Norris crashed into the barriers after the legendary Eau Rouge corner. The British car was badly damaged, and the 21-year-old only suffered a bruise on his elbow. After a gear change and a penalty transfer, Norris wanted to start the race in 14th place.
Verstappen’s pole reaches victory
In the pouring rain, Verstappen raced to his ninth pole position to the cheers of thousands of Dutch fans. Hamilton even had to line up behind the sensational runner-up Russell in the Williams, who should become his new teammate in 2022 and thus replace the Finn Valtteri Bottas.
Vettel secured his best starting position of the season with fifth place. After the deprivation of second place before the summer break in Hungary due to insufficient fuel in the tank, the Hessian was determined to improve his points account.
The rain fell incessantly and it got darker and darker. Canada is rated as the longest race in Formula 1 history. 4: 04: 39.537 hours is in the official result lists of the motorsport premier class. Happened on June 12, 2011 in Montreal, Canada, when the race was interrupted for more than two hours due to rain.
The start is postponed
Even before the planned start of the race in Spa at 3 p.m., it hit Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez. The Mexican demolished the front suspension of his Red Bull in an impact. Since the start was delayed so severely, he was still able to start from the pit lane after the repair.
“I really can’t see anything,” said Hamilton after the 25-minute wait when the drivers behind the safety car went on the formation lap. At 3:31 p.m., however, red flags were shown and the cars returned to the pits because of dangerous track conditions. Now it was time to wait again.
Postponing to Monday – as has already happened in the history of Formula 1 – was out of the question, as the next Grand Prix is scheduled for next Sunday in Zandvoort in the Netherlands and the entourage has to move on.
The clock is ticking
The question now was: Can the Grand Prix meet its three-hour deadline, within which the event must take place in order to be at least partially rated? The clock was ticking. “At the moment it looks really bad, simply because it rains so much,” said Haas driver Schumacher, whose father Michael made his Formula 1 debut in Belgium 30 years ago.
The race stewards finally suspended the three-hour period due to force majeure in order to gain room for maneuver and allow at least 60 minutes to drive. A full score for the drivers was no longer an option. Half points are awarded if the leader completes more than two laps but less than 75 percent of the race distance. In Spa, 44 laps of 7.004 kilometers are driven regularly.
“The track is actually not that bad, but when you drive behind someone you simply can’t see anything”, said Alan van der Merwe, driver of the ambulance, describing the crux of the matter. Then sweepers came on the asphalt to remove the standing water. And it actually started! But it was quickly over again – with the best result for Verstappen.