Verstappen and Russell lead two-lap Belgian GP parade

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B. 29.08.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa
© XPB 

Red Bull's Max Verstappen emerged from a bizarre two-lap Belgian Grand Prix with nominal victory but only half points due to the truncated running, while George Russell secured his first Formula 1 career podium for Williams.

Heavy rain and poor visibility forced race control to suspend the start of the race for three hours, and when the drivers did eventually take to the track for a tentative rolling start behind the safety car, conditions were still deemed to be too treacherous to continue.

It meant that after one lap the cars finished in the same order was as they started, with Lewis Hamilton picking up the final podium place for Mercedes ahead of McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo who was taking part in what was his 200th - and surely strangest - Grand Prix appearance.

After a thrilling rain-hit qualifying the day before, it was time to rinse and repeat as the drivers braced themselves to do battle with the elements once again at a comprehensively soaked Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. As proof of the challenge ahead, the rain had already claimed the scalp of Sergio Perez after the Red Bull aquaplaned into the barrier at Les Combes on the initial out-lap to the grid. "Obviously very disappointing," commented team principal Christian Horner. "Just shows how tricky conditions are out there."

The rain picked up intensity just before the scheduled start time, and race director Michael Masi was forced to declare what proved to be the first of several incremental delays. When the cars did finally pull away from the grid for a formation lap behind the safety car, Max Verstappen - with the best seat in the house on pole position - was the only driver advocating for the start to go ahead while everyone behind complained of zero visibility and aquaplaning in parts. The start procedure was duly suspended and the cars returned to pit lane to wait it out.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B leaves the grid. 29.08.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa

The ensuing delay was so long that the FIA was forced to use a force majeure clause in the sporting regulations to stop the event countdown clock that would have mandated a hard cut-off time in which the race had to be completed. Only Red Bull found reason to be cheerful as they completed repairs to Perez' damaged RB16B and got approval from race control for him to start the race from pit lane, when - three hours later - the rain abated sufficiently to hustle the cars out on track.

The show finally got back on track with the safety car leading a rolling start consisting of Verstappen ahead of George Russell, and Lewis Hamilton lining up alongside David Ricciardo who was making his 200th race start. The drivers tentatively tackled another single lap to try out the conditions, but their feedback was adamantly negative as the rain started to pick up once more. Race control reimposed the red flags for the second time, and with the race clock now down to 49 minutes it was clear that any remaining hopes of a proper race breaking out had been well and truly dashed. The official announcement that the race would not resume followed 25 minutes later.

The damaged Red Bull Racing RB16B of Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing. 29.08.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa

The silver lining was that this brief resumption together with the earlier false start meant that the result could be officially declared rather than the event abandoned outright. With the race far from reaching three quarters of the scheduled distance, only half points were awarded with Verstappen earning 12.5pts, Russell picking up nine points thanks to his superb Saturday qualifying performance, and Hamilton adding 7.5pts to his tally to keep him narrowly ahead of Verstappen in the drivers championship.

Ricciardo was classified in fourth place ahead of Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel and AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, while Alpine's Esteban Ocon had been promoted to seventh due to Perez' pre-race misfortune. The final points went to Charles Leclerc, Nicholas Latifi and Carlos Sainz meaning that Fernando Alonso missed out in 11th followed by Valtteri Bottas and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Alpine F1 Team A521. 29.08.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa

Lando Norris had been able to make the start of the race despite the damage to his McLaren sustained in the final round of qualifying, although a gearbox change had dropped him down to 14th place before the start. Yuki Tsunoda was classified in 15th ahead of Mick Schumacher, while his Haas team mate Nikita Mazepin was the nominal winner of the fastest lap of the race although he was not eligible for the actual bonus point due to finishing outside the top ten.

Lance Stroll was shown in 18th place after serving his five place grid drop for causing an accident in Hungary, and Kimi Raikkonen in 19th ahead of Perez after Alfa Romeo changed the Finn's downforce settings in parc ferme before the race in response to the track conditions.

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