Max Verstappen wins historic red-flagged race in Spa

Max Verstappen scored his first Belgian Grand Prix win and handed the Team its first since 2014 at Spa-Francorchamps.

The race at the Ardennes circuit was red flagged after just three laps behind the Safety Car due to heavy rain that had delayed the race start for more than three hours.

The barely drivable conditions at Spa were in evidence in the build-up to the race as Sergio Pérez lost control of his RB16B at Les Combes. The Mexican’s car slid into the barriers on the right side of the track breaking the suspension on the front right of the car.

The formation lap was then delayed for 25 minutes and when it eventually got underway the red flags were swiftly shown as drivers throughout the order declared the conditions undriveable.

Discussing the race win Max Verstappen commented “It is always good to win and the points are important but today is not how anyone wants to do it, especially on our 50th start with Honda. In hindsight it was very important to get pole yesterday and although it’s a big shame not to do some proper racing laps, as I really love coming to this track, it was just impossible in these conditions. I thought maybe at 15:30 the conditions were a bit better than just now when we tried to re-start but the visibility was still very low and I understand why we couldn’t race today.

“For me in the lead the visibility was a lot better, even with the Safety Car ahead, but the guys behind me couldn’t see a single thing and if someone went off at Eau Rouge and bounced back onto the track they could have been T-boned at high speed which we do not want. It was also extremely low grip and because it kept raining all afternoon it just didn’t improve.

“I think today the big credit goes to the fans around the track who stayed here the whole day in the rain, wind and cold. It must have been horrible to sit in those conditions so a big thanks goes to them and they should be the real winners from today. Now we have to keep on pushing and trying to regain the championship lead. I’m confident we have a good car and there is a long way to go so we just need to make sure we get the best performance out of it for the rest of the season.”

There followed an almost three-hour delay as officials waited for the conditions to improve. In that period, the Team delved into the sporting regulations and established that if they were able to repair Checo’s car he could start the race from the pit lane.

Just as in Hungary last year when Max crashed on his lap to grid and the mechanics got him repaired in 20 minutes, the crew dived into the work and though the damage to Checo’s car was more severe they managed to get the #11 car readied the eventually confirmed re-start at 18:17 local time.

The cars flowed out of the pit lane to follow the Safety Car around the circuit as race control prepared for a rolling start, but with the rain beginning to fall more heavily, the race was again quickly red flagged.

Discussing the wet-weather chaos Sergio Perez commented “It was a strange afternoon and I have to say thank you to the fans, they were incredible for staying with us in the rain and cold. It’s a shame we couldn’t put on a good race for them today but we as a sport tried our best to race but it just wasn’t possible. The lap to grid was my mistake, the conditions and visibility were extremely poor and I just went on the kerb and lost it.

“I always knew there was a small chance we could get the car back out, the Team was pushing hard and really showing the spirit of Red Bull Racing which was nice to see. My team did what they do best and they repaired the car so quickly it was incredible. I really wanted to repay them for their hard work during the race but that didn’t happen, luckily we are racing again in a few days and we all look forward to Zandvoort now!”

Back in the pit lane, the drivers and the heroic and sodden fans in the grandstands waited for an update, but 19 minutes later, with heavy rain still falling, Race Director Michael Masi sent out the message that the race would not be resumed.

The abandonment of the race means it goes down as the shortest in Formula One history, on countback recorded at a single lap. The record was previously held by the 1991 Australian Grand Prix at 14 laps.

The last time F1 had a half points race was in 2009 at the end of a Malaysian Grand Prix also halted by rain. Max was declared the winner scoring 12.5 points, with Williams’ George Russell being awarded nine and his first F1 podium finish. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was classified third, scoring 7.5 points.

Max therefore closes the gap to Hamilton to just three, with the Red Bull driver now on 199.5 points. The Team now sits on 303.5 points, seven behind Mercedes.

Commenting on the historic race Team Principle Christian Horner said “It’s frustrating for the teams, drivers and especially the fans that we could not race today, but unfortunately the conditions meant that no matter how long we waited it was not safe to do so. Everybody did their best to try and put a race on and credit must go to the FIA and Liberty who did everything within their power and waited until it became impossible. Ultimately, Max's great work in very difficult qualifying conditions yesterday earned him the win and the maximum half points on offer, which importantly enabled us to close the gap in both championships.

“Following Checo’s unfortunate trip into the barrier on the initial out lap it was incredible to see our mechanics in action under pressure once again, fixing his car in the time they did, giving him every opportunity to race should we have been able to get out from behind the Safety Car. It was a massive job as both sides of the suspension and the steering rack were damaged but it was very rewarding to see the teamwork with both sides of the garage working together to get it fixed.

“We are all feeling a little cold and wet but huge credit has to go to the fans who continued to pack the grandstands today. We truly appreciate the loyalty and I’m just sorry that we couldn’t deliver the track action they came for, but hopefully everyone will tune in for next weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix so we can provide a great weekend of racing.”
Formula 1 now heads to Max's home GP at Zandvoort for the second race of the triple-header at the Dutch GP.