On one of the strangest afternoons in Formula 1 history, Max Verstappen was declared the winner of the Belgian Grand Prix after just a handful of laps behind the Safety Car, with heavy rain curtailing the long-delayed race at Spa.
Verstappen led the field around two formation laps behind the Safety Car 25 minutes after the originally scheduled start time, before the race start was postponed.
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Some three hours later it finally got under way, though again, only behind the Safety Car and at much reduced speed. And with the rain still falling heavily and visibility still poor, it was red flagged again, this time for good. Verstappen was thus declared the winner, and after two races where he only scored three points, the Dutchman said he “needed the result” for the title race, even if it didn’t come the way he would have liked.
“Of course, it’s a win but it’s not how you want to win. We had two races of course where we didn’t really score so we needed the result, [but it’s] not how you want the result,” he said.
The Red Bull racer was heard on the radio appealing to Race Director Michael Masi to start the race on the initial formation laps, but conceded afterwards that the cars following him would have had problems with visibility in the spray.
2021 Belgian Grand Prix: Race starts and stops again after three-hour rain delay
“Now in hindsight it was very important to get that pole position but of course it’s a big shame to not do proper laps, but the conditions were very tricky out there. I said it at 1530 like, ‘let’s go’ – I think the conditions were decent, but the visibility was very low.
“After that it just stayed really wet and it kept raining. The conditions were just very difficult out there – even worse of course for the guys behind me – even though my visibility wasn’t that bad.”
Verstappen was awarded half points for his win, given the race was well short of the 75 percent of full distance required for full points, but that still means he cuts the gap to championship leader Lewis Hamilton from eight points to three, ahead of his home race – the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort next weekend.
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“Still a long way to go of course,” he said. “We closed the gap a little bit but we’ll see in Zandvoort again how competitive we’ll be. We have to keep on pushing, keep on trying of course to close it [the gap] and I’m confident that we have a good car; we just need to keep on trying to get a bit more performance out of it.”
He also had a word for the fans on a day when they stayed in their thousands despite the rain and the lack of track action.
“I think for today big credit goes to all the fans around the track to stay here. The whole day in the rain, in the cold, windy conditions, so I think they’re actually the bigger winners today,” Verstappen said.