Ross Brawn has defended the FIA's handling of the Belgian Grand Prix and insisted drivers deserved to be awarded points from the shortest race in Formula One history.

Torrential rain prevented any competitive racing at the Spa-Francorchamps track on Sunday, with Max Verstappen awarded the victory when the red flag was raised after just two laps were completed behind the safety car.

Lewis Hamilton, who was third behind George Russell, branded the event a "farce" and claimed the drivers were only sent out for financial reasons.

Regulations ensured only half the usual points were awarded, but Fernando Alonso stated it was "shocking" that any were given out on a "terrible day”.

F1 managing director of motorsport Brawn knows the outcome was "not ideal" but did not see any alternative.

"I feel terrible for the fans, who turned out in their thousands and braved consistently wet conditions in the grandstands to support their heroes," said Brawn in his column. "They showed such dedication and will never forget this weekend.

"Unfortunately, the weather worked against us. It was relentless. The FIA tried everything they could, sending the cars out twice behind the safety car to assess the conditions. It wasn't so much the intensity of the rain that was the problem, more that it was consistent which led to very poor visibility.

"It's pretty rare to see a weekend where the weather has been so intense, so consistently. Every effort was made to get the race under way safely and normally, there is a window when you can bring the safety car in, but that wasn't possible.

"At the end of the day, safety comes first. And it wasn't safe enough to continue the race. So the FIA did the best they could in what have been very challenging circumstances, of which we've not seen in decades.

"Half points were awarded. It's not ideal but if you can't reward someone for the race, reward them for the bravery in qualifying.

"A lap like George Russell did in qualifying in the absence of a full race should be rewarded. As I say, it's not ideal, but it's where we are. The weather just wasn't in our corner on Sunday."

Lewis Hamilton hit out at Formula One bosses as he claimed "money talks" after a farcical Belgian Grand Prix was aborted after only two laps.

Heavy downpours prevented any competitive racing from taking place in the shortest F1 race in history at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Sunday.

Following an initial delay of half an hour due to the poor conditions, the start was eventually put back by over three hours, with two failed attempts to get under way after Sergio Perez had crashed while making his way out onto the grid.

The crowd were not rewarded for their patience, as a red flag was flown after only two and a half laps with the drivers behind the safety car.

Max Verstappen was declared the winner ahead of George Russell, with Hamilton third – the positions they started on the grid.

With only half points awarded due to F1 regulations, Red Bull's Verstappen cut Hamilton's championship lead to only three points.

The seven-time F1 world champion felt the drivers were only sent out for financial reasons and fans should be given refunds.

"Money talks, and literally the two laps to start the race was all a money scenario," Hamilton told Sky Sports.

"Everyone gets their money – and I think the fans should get theirs back too. Unfortunately, they didn't get to see what they paid for.

"It's a shame we couldn't do the race tomorrow. I love this track as well, so [I am] sad we couldn't do this. Today wasn't a race. I think the sport made a bad choice today.

"Of course, we wanted to race but this minimum of two laps you need to do to count as a race, between the gap [between the race stopping and resuming] it rained consistently.

"There was only one reason why they sent us out. That's why I feel more bad for the fans."

George Russell rejoiced in achieving a maiden Formula One podium finish, even if the circumstances of his second place at the Belgian Grand Prix were a little unorthodox.

The race was called off at a rain-soaked Spa after just two laps behind a safety car, with pole-sitter Max Verstappen declared the winner as British duo Russell and Lewis Hamilton completed the top three.

Heavy rain had delayed the start by over three hours as Sergio Perez had crashed while making his way out onto the grid.

The conditions ultimately made competitive racing impossible, but a two-lap procession was enough to declare a result, with half points awarded.

Williams driver Russell, who performed wonders to qualify second on the grid, felt it was a suitable reward.

"We don't often get rewarded for great qualifyings, but we absolutely did today," said the 23-year-old.

"It was a shame we did not get the race under way but, from my side, and the team's side it's an amazing result.

"The whole team deserve it because there has been so much hard work going into work over the last few years and there has been nothing to show for it, but we absolutely nailed it yesterday."

Red Bull's Verstappen is now just three points behind defending champion Hamilton and he reflected on a crucial performance in Saturday's qualifying, which also took place on a sodden track.

He said: "Now, in hindsight, it was very important to get that pole position. It's a shame to not get proper laps, but the conditions were very tricky.

"At 3.30pm the conditions were decent but the visibility was very low. I think if we'd started at 3pm we would have had a decent chance.

"Big credit to the fans for staying here all day."

Hamilton added: "They knew, at the end, the track wasn't any better and they did it just so they could do two laps and declare a race. I really hope the fans get their money back.

"You couldn't see even five metres in front of you on the straight. You couldn't even see the flashing light in front of you."

The Belgian Grand Prix was called off at a rain-soaked Spa after just two laps, though that was still enough racing for Max Verstappen to claim a victory that cuts Lewis Hamilton's championship lead.

Heavy downpours ruined Formula One's return after the mid-season break, with the start delayed by over three hours after Sergio Perez had crashed while making his way out onto the grid.

Eventually the cars did get out onto the track with the plan to stage a one-hour race amid time constraints, only for the red flag to again be waved after the field had tip-toed around behind the safety car.

However, having managed to successfully get around the circuit twice, a final result was declared with half points awarded.

Having claimed pole position in qualifying on Saturday, Verstappen was awarded the victory, his sixth of a hugely impressive 2021 campaign for Red Bull.

Hamilton, meanwhile, had to settle for third place, behind fellow Briton George Russell. It means the reigning world champion leads the driver standings by just three points with 10 rounds to go.

"It's a win but not how you want to win. Today a big credit goes to all the fans around the track for staying here the whole day in the rain, the cold, windy conditions. They are actually the bigger winners today," Verstappen said.

Racing had already been pushed back from the scheduled start of 15:00 local time (14:00 BST) when Perez provided a further complication. The Red Bull driver lost control in the tricky conditions and skidded into a barrier. Unable to reverse out, he climbed out and appeared set to be out of the race.

But, with his team having time to work on the damage amid the lengthy stoppage, the Mexican was cleared by race director Michael Masi to resume from the pit lane.

In the end, the entire grid returned from the pits behind the safety car to try and get under way, only for the red flag to be waved again. Not long after, it was confirmed racing had been stopped, bringing a rather damp and disappointing end to proceedings.

 

George Russell earned a front-row spot for the Belgian Grand Prix as it was revealed Mercedes have decided whether to recruit him for next season.

The young British driver defied expectations of what the Williams car could achieve by producing a stunning qualifying lap in the rain at Spa.

Only a last-ditch effort by title hopeful Max Verstappen denied Russell a first career pole, while Lewis Hamilton took third place on the grid.

It may be that Hamilton and Russell become team-mates next season, if Mercedes decide to part ways with Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff revealed on Saturday that the team have chosen their line-up for 2022, but that they will keep it private for now.

According to multiple reports, Wolff twice replied "Yes" in a media call when asked if that big call had already been made.

"Today doesn't make any difference," Wolff said. "We know what we have with George."

Russell is a part of Mercedes' young driver programme and was recalled to his parent team to replace a COVID-19 affected Hamilton for the Sakhir Grand Prix last season, an indication of Wolff's high regard for his ability.

Wolff said of Mercedes' recent quandary over Bottas and Russell: "If it would have been an easy decision, we would have made it earlier, because we know what we have with Valtteri and we know what we have with George.

"Both of them deserve being looked after. Both deserve to be looked after in the best possible way, because both of them are part of the family, and we hold them up high."

Russell said there "probably should be" points awarded for qualifying performance, as he reflected on the fact he has taken no such reward yet this weekend. But the 23-year-old believes he can be a force in Sunday's race, particularly if the track is again wet.

He said: "We've obviously got to be realistic, we've got incredibly fast cars behind us, but if the conditions stay the same, we've got a car that's probably quick enough on merit in the top 10.

"But if we're starting from the front row, there's no reason why we can't try to hold that position for the majority of the race. I don't think I’m going to do anything stupid with the cars around me that are clearly going to be faster than us – but there's no reason why we can’t finish, if conditions are like this, top five, and just maximise it. Points is an absolute minimum."

Verstappen said: "This track is amazing to drive in the dry and when you then have a wet qualifying, it's pretty ... I wouldn't say scary but it's really interesting and quite extreme in Q3 when you know that you have to push and try to go to the limit in the wet here."

Championship leader Hamilton said the Mercedes race pace "should be a little bit stronger" than in practice. "But I still think it's going to be a handful, particularly if it's going to be these conditions," he added.

 

The season broke for summer after the Hungarian Grand Prix at the start of August, and Saturday marked a return to the thrills and spills of the sport.

The conditions were particularly tough in the third and final stage of qualifying as heavy rain arrived at the circuit, with Lando Norris crashing out early and leaving his McLaren a heavily damaged heap.

Norris, who had shown excellent pace up to that point, was given the all-clear after an elbow X-ray in hospital and looks set to race.

He had complained of aquaplaning moments before crashing badly, his car sliding into the barrier on the left side of the track at Eau Rouge and spinning out of control across the track.

He said over the team radio: "I let you down, my bad."

However, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel had wanted the session red-flagged before the crash happened and told his team on hearing of the crash: "What did I say, red flag? It's unnecessary. Is he OK?"

Vettel was quickly on the scene and stopped to check Norris was safe before driving on past the damaged McLaren.

There was succour for McLaren as Daniel Ricciardo took fourth on the grid, just ahead of Vettel, but it was a shocker of a day for Ferrari as Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz qualified in 10th and 12th respectively. 

Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies said: "Our qualifying performance was well below our usual standard and so far this whole weekend has proved very difficult for us."

Lando Norris has been cleared to race in the Belgian Grand Prix after crashing during a wet qualifying session on Saturday.

Norris spun into the barriers at Raidillon in Q3 and was taken to a local hospital for a precautionary X-ray of his elbow.

McLaren later revealed the 21-year-old has been given the green light to get back behind the wheel at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Sunday.

The team posted on Twitter: "Following precautionary checks after an accident during qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix, Lando Norris has been cleared to compete in the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix by the trackside doctor and FIA medical delegate."

Norris had been quickest in each of the first two segments of qualifying before spinning off at high speed in challenging conditions.

Max Verstappen nipped in with a magnificent lap to take pole ahead of George Russell, who took a shock place on the front row with a stunning drive.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton will start the first race following the mid-summer break in third place.

Max Verstappen took pole position at a soggy Belgian Grand Prix – and incredibly it will be George Russell alongside him on the front row.

A stunning final lap from Russell looked set to give the Williams driver a first career pole, but Formula One title hopeful Verstappen pipped him in the closing seconds.

British 23-year-old Russell, who has been tipped for a move to join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season, said he was "absolutely buzzing" about his performance, defying the limitations of his car with a supreme drive.

Hamilton took third on the grid and saluted Russell's performance, with Daniel Ricciardo fourth.

The qualifying session was disrupted by heavy rain and a heavy crash for Lando Norris – Ricciardo's McLaren team-mate – which caused a hold-up in Q3 of close to 45 minutes.

Moments before smashing into the barriers, Norris complained about the conditions, and Sebastian Vettel had called for the session to be red-flagged before the crash made it an inevitability. Norris was taken to hospital for a precautionary elbow X-ray.

The drivers returned to the wet track eventually, with Hamilton quick to point out that spray remained a problem. He set an early target of 2:01.552 but Russell producing a stunning lap to go quicker.

Verstappen and Hamilton were both out on the track and chasing the new target as the clock ran down, with only the former able to achieve that.

After three weeks since the last race, the Hungarian Grand Prix, this was a return to the thrills and spills of the sport.

"I'm super happy to have a qualifying like this after the break and to have a pole position again," said Verstappen.

Russell has been on the front row once before, but that came in a Mercedes when he stood in for Hamilton last season at the Sakhir Grand Prix. He said getting out of Q1, the initial stage of the qualifying session, had been his primary target at Spa, with anything else a bonus.

"The car was feeling great and I had so much confidence," Russell said. "I was in a fortunate position where I had nothing to lose. We were in Q3 which is not the norm for us and we just had to go for it.

"I'm buzzing, absolutely buzzing. Tomorrow's the important one but it's been mega today. I'm delighted for everyone. If the weather is the same and it's there for the taking tomorrow, we'll go for it."

Hamilton, who edged ahead of Verstappen in the drivers' standings by finishing second in Hungary, said it had been "a very difficult day for everyone" due to the inclement weather.

"Well done to Max and to George," Hamilton added. "If it's like this tomorrow it's going to be tricky to balance straight line speed and downforce."
 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:59.765
2. George Russell (Williams) +0.321secs
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.334
4. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1.099
5. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.170
6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.399
7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +2.347
8. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +2.737
9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +3.748
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) no complete lap in Q3

The 2021 Formula One title race was just hotting up as a four-week break frustratingly put the season on hold.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was trailing challenger Max Verstappen through nine races this year, the last three of which the Red Bull driver won.

But back-to-back dramatic races at Silverstone and the Hungaroring put Hamilton back in the ascendancy.

Verstappen crashed out in an incident involving Hamilton at the British Grand Prix and then could only finish ninth at the Hungarian GP following another early collision.

Tempers frayed between the two races, with the Dutchman furious with Hamilton's role at Silverstone.

A pause in the campaign might have allowed the pair to settle just a little, though, before the action resumes at the Belgian GP on Sunday.

Ahead of an event where Verstappen always enjoys significant support, he said: "I am of course excited to go back to Spa.

"It's my favourite track and it's really cool to drive with so many high-speed corners and elevation changes.

"I'm also looking forward to seeing all the fans who will be coming to support us, and it will be cool to see so much orange in the grandstands again as they couldn't be there last year.

"I also think it is a good place to reset our championship fight and I'm well prepared and feeling good ahead of the weekend."

LAST TIME OUT

Verstappen would have hoped to quickly put the British GP behind him in Hungary, still leading the championship as he lined up on the grid.

But another early flashpoint, this time involving Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas among a host of other drivers, took the Red Bull superstar out of contention.

Although the red flag was soon waved, Verstappen could only recover to finish ninth.

Hamilton's woes centred instead on team tactics, as an apparent error from Mercedes had him back in last place for a time.

Yet another stunning drive took the Briton to third, though, and Sebastian Vettel's disqualification from second boosted Hamilton further up the standings.

Esteban Ocon claimed an unlikely win, but much of the focus remained on the top two in the title race.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN BELGIUM

Fireworks, if the past two races are anything to go by.

Verstappen will surely hope just to get through the first few laps without contact on Sunday, with Red Bull's sensational race pace disrupted by his repeated involvement in crashes.

All this drama has suited Hamilton rather well, meanwhile, with the Mercedes man frustrated by the Silver Arrows' deficit to their rivals prior to those outings.

Perhaps the break will have allowed Mercedes to make up some of that gap, but Hamilton has not sounded hopeful for much of this year. He is on 99 F1 wins, bidding to become the first man to three figures.

The 36-year-old is not the only Mercedes man at the centre of attention, though, as Toto Wolff is yet to confirm their second driver for 2022.

Assuming no decision is made before Sunday, George Russell will hope to lay down a marker with a strong performance in a weak Williams, while Bottas also needs a result.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Successive successes? – Kimi Raikkonen was the last driver to win back-to-back Belgian GPs, with three between 2004 and 2007. Hamilton, who has a record six poles at Spa, was the most recent winner in 2020.

Quali so crucial – The past six winners at the Belgian GP have started from the front row of the grid, with five from pole and one from second. This is the longest such streak in the race's history.

Centurion in silver – This would not be Hamilton's first hundred. He was also the first to register 100 pole positions, with that total now 101 heading to Spa.

Finn to finish? – Bottas will aim to get back on track having failed to place in Hungary. Never in his F1 career has he not registered a position in consecutive races, unable to finish in Russia and the United States in 2015 but recording 12th place in the former.

No closer to Kimi – Fernando Alonso is on course to surpass Rubens Barrichello and move second with 323 grand prix appearances. However, Raikkonen's continued F1 career keeps him clear on 341.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 195
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 187
3. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 113
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 108
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 104

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 303
2. Red Bull – 291
3. McLaren – 163
3. Ferrari – 163
5. Alpine – 77

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