Lewis Hamilton says he feels “sorry” for the fans at the Belgian Grand Prix and believes they should get a refund after no racing laps were completed.
Max Verstappen was declared the winner of a rain-hit race at Spa that featured just three laps behind the safety car and around three hours of waiting in the pits for the miserable conditions to improve.
The F1 stewards used special powers to “temporarily” stop the race in an unprecedented move “on the grounds of force majeure” to buy more time, but no racing was able to take place.
Instead, three laps were completed behind the safety car, ensuring that half points could be awarded to the top 10 finishers – the race was then inevitably red-flagged and the call to not restart the race was made shortly after that.
It left Verstappen as the winner with George Russell earning his first F1 podium for Williams in second place, ahead of championship leader Hamilton.
“Firstly, I feel really sorry for the fans today,” Hamilton said in parc ferme after the race.
“Obviously it’s no one’s fault. It’s [the] weather but the fans have been incredible today, just to stick with us this whole time and hold out for a potential race.
“They knew when they sent us out at the end there that the track wasn’t any better and they did it just so that we could start two laps behind the safety car which is the minimum requirement for a race.
“I really hope the fans get their money back today.”
He was subsequently firmer when talking to Sky Sports F1, expressing his belief that the eventual laps under safety car were run only to make the race official for financial reasons.
“Money talks. Literally, the two laps to start the race was all a money scenario. So everyone gets their money, and I think the fans should get theirs back, too.
“I think the sport made a bad choice today. There was a minimum of two laps you need to do to count as a race, and between that gap of stopping the first time to the second time it had rained consistently. There’s only one reason they sent us out. That’s why I feel more bad for the fans.”
FIA race director Michael Masi subsequently refuted that suggestion, saying the safety car laps were done to assess the track conditions with the hope of getting a race in after all.
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Hamilton said the conditions were so bad that he “couldn’t really see five meters in front” of his car and admitted he couldn’t even go flat-out on the straights.
Hamilton’s points lead has been slashed to three points after Verstappen’s sixth victory of the year.
Verstappen said F1 missed its best chance to start the race at the initial start time (3pm local time) – instead, the race start was delayed for 25 minutes before a couple of formation laps were run prior to the first red flag.
“It’s a big shame to not do proper laps but the conditions were very tricky out there,” Verstappen said.
“I said at 3.30pm let’s go. I think the conditions were decent but of course the visibility was very low.
“So I think if we had started at 3pm we would have had a better chance but nevertheless after that it just stayed really wet and it kept raining.
“It is a win, but that’s not how you want to win. but I think for today big credit goes to all the fans around the track, to stay here.
“[They spent the] whole day in the rain, in the cold windy conditions so I think they are actually the bigger winners today.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who picked up half a point for being classified 10th, said he hoped there was a genuine intention to see if the second attempt behind the safety car could lead to some racing taking place.
“If it was done with just the intention to get points then I think it’s absolute nonsense,” said Sainz.
“I don’t think we should do any kind of laps to alter the final result of a race. If it was done with the intention of actually running and restarting the race then fine.
“How, if there was actually no race laps, no competition, why should points be given or any result be given, because there was no race.
“I didn’t race so I don’t know why I get half a point.”