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

Valtteri Bottas and George Russell on Thursday stated there was "no news" of who will partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next year.

Silver Arrows boss Toto Wolff this week affirmed his desire to finalise his driver line-up for 2022 in September.

Williams driver Russell stepped in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year after the seven-time Formula One world champion tested positive for coronavirus.

The 23-year-old Brit also conducted a Pirelli tyre test for Mercedes ahead of the mid-season break, adding further fuel to suggestions he could take Bottas' seat.

Bottas and Russell were paired for media conference duties ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, with neither driving giving much away over their futures.

"There's no news to share yet,” said Bottas. "Maybe I know something, maybe I don't but like I said there's no news to share."

 

Russell said: "No news to share at this stage.

"There's obviously been discussions over the summer break, but there's nothing to announce one way or another this weekend, and probably not next weekend either to be honest, which I think is no problem. Do things right, rather than quickly, let's say.

"I think we're both fortunate that we're both looked after in ways by Mercedes and we both trust them to look after our futures, one way or another.

"From my side, speaking for myself, there's no real problems and whether it's tomorrow, whether it's after Abu Dhabi, I guess you have to trust the people that are looking out for you."

Fernando Alonso has secured a second season with Alpine after the two-time Formula One champion impressed team bosses on his return to the cockpit.

After two years out of F1, Alonso has had eight top-10 finishes in 11 races of this season to date.

His and the team's best results came in the Hungarian Grand Prix last time out, where Alonso took fourth place and Esteban Ocon won the race.

Alpine, who previously competed as Renault, said in a statement on Thursday: "Alpine is pleased to announce that two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso will continue in its colours for the 2022 season alongside Esteban Ocon.

"The extension of Fernando’s contract signals the continuation of an already strong collaboration, fresh off the back of its historic maiden victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, in which Fernando played a pivotal role."

Alonso believes the 2022 season can be particularly fruitful for Alpine, when a host of technical regulations are introduced that may lead to closer competition between the teams.

 

The 40-year-old Spanish driver said: "I'm very happy to confirm the contract extension with Alpine into 2022. I felt at home the moment I returned to this team and have been welcomed back with open arms.

"It's been a tricky season for everyone, but we've shown progress as a team and the result in Hungary serves as a good example of this progression. We're targeting more positive memories for the rest of this season but also crucially from next year onwards with the new regulation changes coming into Formula One.

"I have been a big supporter of the need for a level playing field and change in the sport and the 2022 season will be a great opportunity for that. I am looking forward to the rest of this year and racing alongside Esteban in 2022 for Alpine."

Alonso has competed in 322 F1 races across his career, winning 32 times and finishing on the podium on 97 occasions.

His F1 titles came as a Renault driver in 2005 and 2006, and Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said: "He is just as hungry as we are for success and is putting in every effort to translate it to performance.

"For now, however, we need to focus on delivering a strong second half of the year, extract the maximum at every race and ensure we finish as high up in the constructors' standings as possible. This will put us in a golden position for next year and the significant opportunity it brings."

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

It is 30 years since the great Michael Schumacher's first race in an incredible Formula One career.

The legendary German driver made his debut at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, a track where his son will showcase his talents this weekend.

Schumacher went on to claim his maiden F1 victory at the same circuit in 1992 and retired with a staggering 91 victories to his name, having claimed seven world titles.

To mark the anniversary of his bow in Belgium, Stats Perform picks out some of the standout numbers Schumacher racked up in an astonishing 19 F1 seasons. 

 

JORDAN'S LOSS IS BENETTON'S GAIN

Schumacher stepped in for his first F1 race for Jordan and impressively qualified in seventh before retiring on the first lap due to clutch problems.

He spent the rest of the season driving for Benetton, picking up four points from six races.

Schumacher won once in each of the next two seasons, then won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995 before making a lucrative move to Ferrari.

 

UNPRECEDENTED DOMINANCE

Schumacher established himself as one of the all-time greats during his decade with Ferrari, claiming his third world title in 2000.

That was the start of an unprecedented period of dominance, as he claimed a record five consecutive world titles.

Schumacher broke Juan Manuel Fangio's all-time record of being crowned world champion five times as he went from strength to strength before Fernando Alonso dethroned him in 2005.

 

 

SCALING NEW HEIGHTS TO SEVENTH HEAVEN

The 2004 season was Schumacher's most dominant as he won 13 of 18 races and was on the podium 15 times.

No driver has bettered that tally of victories for a season, but Lewis Hamilton last year matched Schumacher's haul of seven world titles.

Schumacher amassed an incredible 148 points in 2004 and that was the last time he won the championship.

 

RACKING UP THE RECORDS

Schumacher broke the record for F1 victories and finished with 91, a total Mercedes great Hamilton has gone on to surpass.

The 77 fastest laps set by Schumacher is a record, as is his 15 seasons with a victory and his 17 podium finishes in a season, set in 2002.

His 19 consecutive top-three finishes has never been bettered and nor has his 15 top-two finishes in a row, along with the most hat-tricks (pole, win and fastest lap) achieved by a driver with 22.

Schumacher's 181 races with Ferrari is the record for driving with the same constructor.

 

 

THRIVING IN FRANCE

The French Grand Prix was the race where Schumacher had the most victories, taking the top step of the podium eight times – another record.

He won at Magny-Cours for the first time in 1994 and his final win at the circuit came 12 years later.

Schumacher also holds the record for most poles at the same race with eight in Japan.

The 2021 Japanese Grand Prix has been cancelled due to "ongoing complexities" related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Race organisers on Wednesday announced that the event at the Suzuka circuit will not take place for a second successive year.

The COVID-19 crisis pandemic prevented the 2020 from being staged and a race due to be staged on October 10 has also been called off.

A statement from Formula One said: "Following ongoing discussions with the promoter and authorities in Japan the decision has been taken by the Japanese government to cancel the race this season due to ongoing complexities of the pandemic in the country.

"Formula One is now working on the details of the revised calendar and will announce the final details in the coming weeks.

"Formula One has proven this year, and in 2020, that we can adapt and find solutions to the ongoing uncertainties and is excited by the level of interest in locations to host Formula One events this year and beyond."

The F1 season resumes with the Belgium Grand Prix on August 29, with Lewis Hamilton holding an eight-point lead over Max Verstappen at the top of the driver standings.

George Russell will get behind the wheel of a Mercedes this week as speculation around a Formula One promotion persists.

Russell is widely considered to be vying with current Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas for a seat next season.

And the Williams man will get the opportunity to join the team in Hungary on Tuesday to test the 18-inch tyres that will be used in 2022.

Russell was part of Mercedes' junior driver programme before getting his F1 opportunity with Williams and has tested for the Silver Arrows previously.

The 23-year-old even stood in for Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix when the world champion had tested positive for coronavirus.

A pit-stop mix-up cost Russell the victory on that occasion, but a ninth-placed finish secured his first points.

The Bottas rivalry will draw extra attention to Russell's performance this week, though, coming straight after his best ever result at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Russell finished eighth, earning points with Williams for the first time.

Bottas had started from second after a record-equalling 80th qualifying one-two for Mercedes, but he crashed on lap one in a chaotic start.

Lando Norris saw his 15-race points streak end with a first-lap crash at the Hungarian Grand Prix, and he took no solace in an apology from the man who started the chain reaction. 

Valtteri Bottas failed to time his braking in Turn One and hit Norris, sending the McLaren driver into Max Verstappen as Bottas continued on to take out the other Red Bull car driven by Sergio Perez. 

While Norris was able to remain on the track and reach the pits, his team determined he had suffered too much damage to continue, leaving the Briton frustrated with his early exit. 

Bottas also was forced to retire, along with Perez, and the Finn apologised to Norris afterward. 

“I had a poor start,” Bottas said. “Wheelspin off the line, and lost places, and then braking into first corner I was right in the gearbox of Lando and I just locked the wheels.

"So probably being that close didn’t calculate quite right the braking point, locked two wheels, hit him, and then it was a mess.”

It was a mess that left the other two drivers knocked out of the race furious. Perez called it a "big mistake" on Bottas' part and feared another engine loss due to the damage incurred. 

Norris had no time for Bottas saying he was sorry for the wreck. 

“There’s not much to say is there?" Norris said. "It’s not my fault, like, to be honest he [Bottas] just came over to me then and apologised – but apologies are nice, but it doesn’t change the result or anything, so it’s Lap 1 of the race, no one has to do anything stupid but that’s what they did today. So just ruined it.”

With his pursuers Bottas and Perez also knocked out, Norris remained a distant third in the championship standings as leader Verstappen slipped into second behind Lewis Hamilton following a 10th-place finish. 

Lewis Hamilton explained that he is still feeling the after-effects of coronavirus after producing an incredible fightback at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who started on pole as he chased a 100th Formula One race win in his stellar career, had to charge up the field after a mistake following a restart – a red flag having come out after Valtteri Bottas caused an early crash.

Five drivers were forced to retire early, with Bottas handed a five-place grid penalty for the next grand prix in Belgium at the end of August, but by the time the remaining competitors had finished a formation lap, the rain which had been around at the start had cleared and the track was dry.

Hamilton, however, elected not to change his tyres, so started on his own from the grid while the others pitted. By the time he had rectified his mistake he was last, but a mighty effort saw him clinch third place behind Sebastian Vettel and unlikely winner Esteban Ocon.

The seven-time world champion now leads Max Verstappen, who finished 10th after suffering damage in the earlier crash, in the standings, though Hamilton was handed a further boost late on Sunday when Vettel was retrospectively disqualified for not having enough fuel left in his car at the end of the race. Aston Martin announced they plan to appeal that decision.

However, during the podium presentation, Hamilton looked visibly exhausted and even struggled to hold up the bottle of champagne handed to him. He then saw Mercedes' team doctor and missed some of his post-race media duties.

"I'm ok, had real big dizziness and everything got a bit blurry on the podium," Hamilton, who contracted COVID-19 in December last year, told a news conference.

"I've been fighting all year really with staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year and it's still a battle.

"I haven't spoken to anyone about it, but I think [the effects of covid are] lingering. I remember the effects of when I had it and training has been different since then. The level of fatigue you get is different and it's a real challenge.

"I continue to train and prepare the best way I can. Today, who knows what it is? Maybe it's hydration, I don't know, but I've definitely not had this experience. Had something similar at Silverstone but this is way worse."

When asked why he did not to pit at the end of the formation lap, Hamilton said: "Through the formation lap I was just giving the team information. I mean, it was dry through all the corners and I kept telling them 'it's dry, dry, dry, dry' but they said just to stay out.

"I don't really understand but I'm sure it's definitely a mistake from us all but we win and lose as a team and we bear the burden of the mistake together and we just keep fighting, so the team did an amazing job with the strategy, with pitstops, and I just had to make it work out there."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the team – who now lead the constructors' championship – made the right call, however.

"To be honest, I think we did absolutely the right thing," said Wolff. "As a leading car it's always difficult to take the decision.

"These things can happen – I stand absolutely behind the decision to stay out – and that's why I'm fine."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.