F1 – Belgian GP – Race
Bonjour, MiniFans! Action started before the lights went out, with Pérez crashing out in the lap out of the pit lane and not being able to return due to the damage to the front suspension being too extensive to fix before the race start, despite it being a low-speed crash. This, added to the various penalties, shook up the norm even further and left a gap on the grid.
The rain came just as expected, deploying a sea of tents on the grid so that the cars wouldn’t get filled with water and delaying the start by ten minutes at first and a few five-minute intervals after that. This was to wait for the darkest patch of clouds to pass the circuit and try to start the race in the usual manner. It was twenty-five minutes after the scheduled time that the formation lap was taken behind the safety car before a final decision could be taken by Race Direction. In this first contact of the twenty cars as a whole with the track, even Verstappen’s radio came in with complaints about lack of visibility and needing to distance himself from the safety car. Some of them even complaining about aquaplaning, but Verstappen said it would be okay to race in the second lap behind the safety car, while even Russell, in second, complained about not being able to see Verstappen’s red lights in some parts of the circuit. The start procedure was eventually suspended during this second formation lap and the cars were led into the pit lane to line up.
The biggest entertainment was Red Bull fighting to get Pérez back in the race, arguing that the race hadn’t yet started when his car was helped to the boxes, with Race Direction eventually letting them start the race from the pit lane. In a previous radio message and answering to a question raised by Mercedes, it was confirmed that the three-hour time frame for the race had started at three o’clock, meaning the Grand Prix would be held today, but it didn’t mean the race would actually need to take place. It was clear everyone was reading the rulebook, as the questions about race distance and points given at the end of it poured into the FIA radio.
It was three hours and seventeen minutes after the scheduled time that the race was finally underway again, but it still wasn’t clear what would happen. Two laps behind the safety car were a given, in order for it to qualify as a race and give half points to the top 10, but it was obvious drivers’ opinion on the track conditions would be taken into account by Masi to take a final decision. Instead of seeing a countdown of laps, it was time that was perched at the top left corner of the screen. One hour was deemed to remain after the various rulebooks consulted by Race Direction and it started ticking down as soon as the lights turned green in the pit lane.
The train of cars led by the safety car started slowly running around the track but no radios were broadcasted, although we can be sure drivers were telling their teams and, subsequently, Race Direction about the conditions and visibility on track. The first one that popped up was Pérez’s, who was dead last and saying it was getting better. Despite this, the race was red flagged and the cars were directed to line up in the pit lane again, but this time the classification was set in stone in case the race could not be resumed due to the rain the low visibility or running out of the time that was still ticking down. At 18:45 it was announced that it would not resume, leading to booing from the grandstands and one very lackluster first podium for Russell.
It wasn’t the Sunday we expected in Spa. Rain tends to get fans excited for the race, as it opens up the realm of possibilities, but mostly when it’s interrupted with dry spells and it’s not heavy and continuous for hours, as was the case today. A few laps were the only delight for fans at the track that had been fighting the rain and the cold while dancing the Macarena or following Ricciardo’s instructions to do a stadium wave before it was finally declared as finished.