SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium—Max Verstappen won a rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix when it was finally called off Sunday after it restarted under a safety car nearly three hours later than its scheduled time.
The race was shortened to last one hour with only half points awarded to the winner, who needed to complete only two laps to win.
Red Bull driver Verstappen was leading from Williams driver George Russell and Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton on Lap 4 when the restarted race ended after roughly 10 minutes with rain still lashing down.
“Of course it’s a win but not how you want to win,” Verstappen said. “Credit to all the fans who stayed here for so long. They are the real winners today.”
Verstappen’s sixth win of the season was the 16th of his career and stopped Lewis Hamilton earning a record-extending 100th win, while also trimming his overall lead from eight points to three.
Verstappen collected 12.5 points instead of 25, with Russell getting nine for his second career podium and Hamilton picking up 7.5.
Fans cheered loudly from the stands and the hills around the track when it was announced the race would start again at 6:17 p.m. local time (1617 GMT)—3 hours, 17 minutes after it normally would have.
But after just 10 minutes of Verstappen rolling cautiously behind the safety car it was suspended for a second time at just before 6:30 p.m.
“I really hope the fans get their money back today,” Hamilton said. “They were incredible.”
The first time the race was suspended was shortly after 3:30 p.m. local time following a formation lap.
The 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) Spa-Francorchamps circuit was totally drenched. Soaked fans huddled under large umbrellas on muddy banks as they waited for the worst of the rain to pass. The thick clouds and mist hanging over the Ardennes forest also gave the circuit a daunting look and made for poor visibility.
When the drivers embarked on their formation laps the first time around, several complained.
“I really can’t see anything,” said Hamilton.
The decision to suspend the start was made a few moments later.
“It’s wet, but I think it’s fine to race,” said Verstappen who started from pole position.
His teammate Sergio Perez appeared to be out of the race before it even started, sliding off the track during the warmup lap at around 2:30 p.m. and damaging his front suspension.
Red Bull asked race control if Perez could start the race if they repaired his car in time. The FIA said it was considering the request and later announced Perez would be allowed to start from the pit lane.
At 5 p.m. a further delay was announced.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo entertained the fans waiting in the grandstand from the pit lane. In his 200th F1 race, the popular Australian made extravagant hand gestures and waved to them as they chanted “Daniel, Daniel.”
“I obviously feel for them,” Ricciardo said. “We’re in it together but circumstances are out of our control.”
By Jerome Pugmire