We’ve got a LOT to review for a race that LITERALLY lasted 3 and a half minutes. Formula 1 has had some pretty INSANE Grands Prix in recent years. But I don’t think there’s been a race as crazy and as disappointing as the 2021 Belgian GP. The race only went on for 3 laps, with the total race distance being 6.88 kilometres. The running time and the completed distance combined make this race the shortest race in F1 history.
But why was the race so short? Why did it ‘start’ over 3 hours after the original start time? These are the questions we’ll answer in this 2021 Belgian GP Race Review. We’ll also address some of the juicy and controversial matters from this race, including why the FIA awarded half points for such a short race. We’ll look at what was going on with the messy management of the situation, and what the FIA need to do if something like this happens in the future.
And to end the post, we’ll be looking at George Russell‘s podium, and how a stellar qualifying performance had never been more rewarding to a driver than it was to George Russell at the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix. Speaking of qualifying, I think it’s safe to say that qualifying REALLY delivered this weekend. The race is always the main feature in an F1 weekend. However, this weekend, qualifying was incredibly exciting and unpredictable because of the changing weather. It seems that the ‘F1 Gods’ spent all of the excitement on qualifying, ’cause the race was the complete opposite.
Why Was The 2021 Belgian GP Was So Short And Unorganized?
To be honest, I don’t think we can call the 2021 Belgian GP a ‘race’. All of the drivers spent the entire 3 and a half minutes racing behind the Safety Car, meaning that this race wasn’t actually a race. A race includes the drivers fighting for position and speeding around the circuit at full pace. But on Sunday, we saw none of that. As I said, it was very disappointing. But why didn’t we see any racing, and why was the race so short? Let’s take a look at what happened on Sunday.
In the F1 community, fans often wish for a rainy F1 race. Rain NEVER fails to make a race more exciting, as proven at the 2021 Imola and Hungarian Grands Prix. Sadly, their wishes don’t often come true. And at the Belgian GP, we were all happy that the so-called ‘F1 Gods’ finally brought some rain at the circuit. But it seems they went a little overboard. All jokes aside, the rain was RELENTLESS on Sunday. There was no way the drivers could race in the conditions that were there when the race was supposed to start.
The FIA delayed the race start by 10 minutes, and then by a further 15 minutes. For all of this time, the drivers were still sitting there on the grid, waiting for news. Sergio Perez was the only driver not on the grid since he crashed on the way to the grid. The race was set to start at 3 p.m. local time. But after the delays, the race director allowed the drivers to go for a couple of formation laps behind the safety car. The formation laps began at 3:25 p.m. local time.
Every driver, except for leader Max Verstappen, reported zero visibility with massive amounts of spray coming from the cars. The spray was from the wet-weather tires expelling the water from the track. Cars that were following other cars were right in the thick spray, meaning there was almost no visibility for the drivers. After, the FIA red-flagged the race and the marshalls waved the Red Flag to show that the FIA had suspended the race. All of the cars pulled into the pitlane and followed the Red Flag procedure.
Now, this is the unfortunate part. The drivers got out of their cars and were waiting in the garages. F1 fans both at home and at the circuit were waiting to hear when the race would resume, or if the race would resume at all. The fans didn’t know what was going to happen. Fans at the circuit were getting drenched in the rain and the mud since many fans were sitting in the grassy areas beside the track. They didn’t know whether to leave or to stay, because the FIA and the teams seemed to know as much about the situation as the fans did.
Karun Chandhok was commentating for Sky Sports F1, and he asked 6 different teams about what was happening with the race. Shockingly, he got 6 different answers, because nobody was sure as to what was going on. The weather wasn’t getting any better, and the Red Flag was lasting really long. 2 hours after the scheduled race start, the FIA had to stop the race clock. The F1 Sporting Regulations say that the race has to finish within 3 hours of the scheduled starting time. So 2 hours into the 3-hour clock, the race stewards decided to stop the clock. This was to allow for at least 1 hour of racing if and when the race resumed.
Since they stopped the clock, they could finally resume the race at 6:17 p.m. local time. Yeah, it was over 3 hours after the start time. I didn’t even know that stopping the race clock was allowed in the FIA Sporting Regulations. After going through the regulations, it seems that there is no clause on whether or not the race stewards can stop the clock like this. Again, we can see that there is a lack of clarity with the FIA and the regulations.
I’m being very harsh here, so I want to take a moment to remind you guys that we are all human beings. True, I don’t think anyone would expect this level of chaos in the top tier of motorsports. But human beings run F1, and people make mistakes. People aren’t always ready for bizarre circumstances like the circumstances at the Belgian GP, especially since this has never happened before in over 1000 F1 races But now the FIA know that they need to be ready to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. They need to have new rules and new procedures in place to prevent a chaotic situation.
Going back to the race itself, the race resumed behind the safety car. And after 2 laps and 3 and a half minutes of racing, the FIA red-flagged the race again. The weather hadn’t improved at all, so the FIA eventually confirmed that the race wouldn’t resume. That was the end of the race for us, but for many, there was a much bigger struggle after that. The race was fully suspended so late that it became very difficult for fans who went to the circuit to get back home at a reasonable time.
It’s very unfortunate, and I wish this wasn’t the truth, but the FIA just didn’t handle this situation properly. I think they need to review this and update the regulation and be prepared for this kind of situation. The circuit and the public transport around the circuit need to be able to get people back home after the race. And F1 and the race organisers should give F1 fans that came to the circuit at least some of their money. The dedicated fans didn’t get what they paid for, and thankfully, F1 and the organisers are working on a solution.
OPINION: Half Points or No Points?
The points that the drivers scored at the 2021 Belgian GP were pretty much rewards for their qualifying performances. And that’s why I think that the FIA’s 2-lap rule makes no sense. Article 6.5 of the FIA 2021 F1 Sporting Regulations states that “half points will be awarded if the leader has completed more than two laps but less than 75% of the original sprint qualifying session or race distance”.
The race leader completed 2 laps in this race, and the FIA deducted 1 lap from the race because of the delay regulations. Hence, as per the rules, the drivers scored half points. They scored points for driving around the circuit behind the safety car for a couple of laps. I know, it sounds quite ridiculous.
As I said earlier, they were pretty much rewarded for their quali performance. That’s why I think the FIA shouldn’t give them those points. I think that the race is the race, and that’s what the drivers earn points for. At the moment, there are no points up for grabs in quali in F1. So awarding points for this race seems unfair and doesn’t seem to make sense. The race and qualifying are completely different.
Let’s take a look at George Russell, a.k.a. Mr Saturday. Russell has consistently out-performed his teammate and his car in quali this season, and he pulled off a remarkable performance in qualifying for the 2021 Belgian GP. He qualifying in 2nd place, with Max Verstappen being the only driver able to beat Russell.
It was sensational, shocking, and led to the F1 world erupting in joy. And because of that qualifying performance, George got P2 in the race. There’s no overtaking behind the Safety Car, so Russell just took the podium easily. That’s a fantastic achievement and a historical moment for Williams. But I can’t help but think that Russell could’ve finished in 3rd or even off the podium in the race.
Russell is called Mr Saturday because of his quali performances, but he struggles to make things work in the race. He was looking strong in Spa, so he could’ve performed better than usual in the race. But still, anything can happen in F1, and George would’ve pulled off an unbelievable performance if he would’ve managed to finish on the podium after some proper racing.
So I think that the FIA need to change the 2-lap rule, and award half points after the drivers have completed 25% or 50% of the race. That is a fairer solution, and it makes more sense. It works better for circumstances where there is little to no actual racing so that the drivers can fully earn their points.
This is the end of this race review. This race review has been far more opinion-based rather than the analysis-based race review that I usually write since there was no racing to analyse from the 2021 Belgian GP. I hope you enjoyed reading the 2021 Belgian GP Race Review! Let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree with some of my opinions on the shenanigans that took place at the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix.