Max Verstappen wins 3-lap Belgian Grand Prix held entirely behind safety car


A washed-out 2021 Belgian Grand Prix saw most cars finishing in qualifying order after running behind the safety car for just three laps, in F1's shortest ever race

Session suspended sign over the grid at Spa Francorchamps

Most of the Belgian GP looked like this for trackside fans

Dan Istitene/ F1 via Getty Images

Max Verstappen has won a washed-out Belgian Grand Prix after completing just three racing laps behind the safety car.

George Russell was classified second for a career-first podium, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, as the field finished largely in grid order, without a single moment of full racing.

Half points were awarded for the shortest race (distance) in F1 history, which lasted three hours and 44 minutes between the scheduled start and eventual abandonment, with the cars sat in the pitlane for the vast majority of the time.

The race eventually got underway more than three hours later than planned, as the field was led out of the pitlane by the safety car.

But standing water on the track and clouds of murky spray led race officials to bring the field back in three laps later. The race was then stopped for good at 5.44pm (BST).

Cars in spray behind safety car at Spa in 2021 Belgian GP

Poor visibility meant that the race got no more exciting than this picture

Lars Baron/Getty Images

The wet weather that deluged Spa for most of the race weekend remained in force on Sunday afternoon, delaying the original 2pm start time by 25 minutes.

The cars left the grid behind the safety car, soon followed by a stream of radio messages from drivers, relaying the treacherous conditions, even at safety car speeds.

Lewis Hamilton said that he couldn’t see anything behind him and Lando Norris said he could barely see anything in front.

Antonio Giovinazzi described the conditions as “undriveable” and George Russell said that there was “no visibility” — the second-paced qualifier not even able to see the red rain light on Max Verstappen’s car ahead.

Verstappen himself said that he was having to keep further behind the safety car than usual in an attempt to see through the spray but then said that he was happy to race.

That view was overruled as the red flag was waved and the cars returned to the pits.

Daniel Ricciardo pokes his bottom lip out during 2021 Belgian Grand Prix rain delay

Drivers spent their Sunday afternoon dodging raindrops in the pits

John Thys/Getty Images

What followed was more than an hour of classic F1 confusion as teams wondered whether the race had started; how many laps were remaining; and whether Red Bull could repair Sergio Perez’s car, which had crashed out on the way to the grid and was thought to be out of the race.

Mechanics were already working apace on the recovered car when news came through that the Mexican would be able to take the restart from the pitlane.

The delayed starts and safety car laps had reduced the notional race length to 39 laps, and the race had not officially started, even though the race window clock had already begun ticking. Grands prix must be completed within three hours (inclusive of stoppages), which is a time limit that was reduced by an hour at the end of last year.

With an hour to go on the clock, the countdown was stopped, with officials citing force majeure to give the rainclouds more time to pass. Race director Michael Masi told Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows that he was looking for a gap in the weather.

But the rain continued to fall on the resilient packed crowds, their spirits mildly lifted by a Daniel Ricciardo-initiated Mexican wave on the start/finish straight.

Elsewhere, Sebastian Vettel played football with Mick Schumacher in the Haas garage, marshals played boules in a gravel trap, as sweeping lorries brushed surface water off the track.

By this time, Perez’s car was ready to go, but it would be more than an hour before the race restarted.

News that the cars would finally return to the track was swiftly followed by Lewis Hamilton racing back into the pitlane on a scooter.

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At 5.18pm, the pitlane light went green, marking the race start, and Bernd Maylander led the field away in the safety car.

But drivers were once again complaining of the conditions and the red flag was waved after two laps; the cars returning to the pitlane for good.

As the second safety car procession counted as part of the race and at least two laps were completed, the result was declared. Half points were awarded because less than 75% of the race distance was completed.

With most finishing as they qualified, Daniel Ricciardo recorded his best McLaren finish in fourth. Nicholas Latifi finished ninth to make Williams one of only two teams to score double points.

But Perez dropped to the back from seventh on the grid after his early crash. Lando Norris lost out on points after incurring a grid penalty after his crash in qualifying; as did Valtteri Bottas who was penalised after causing one of the opening lap crashes at the Hungarian Grand Prix.


2021 Belgian Grand Prix race results

Results were taken after lap 1: the penultimate lap before the race was suspended

Position Driver Team Time
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 3min 27.071sec
2 George Russell Williams +1.995sec
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +2.601sec
4 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +4.496sec
5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +7.479sec
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +10.177sec
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine +11.579sec
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +12.608sec
9 Nicholas Latifi Williams +15.485sec
10 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +16.166sec
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine +20.590sec
12 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +22.414sec
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +24.163sec
14 Lando Norris McLaren +27.110sec
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +28.329sec
16 Mick Schumacher Haas +29.507sec
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas +31.993sec
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +34.108sec
19 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo +36.054sec
20 Sergio Perez Red Bull +38.205sec