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September 23, 2021
September 23, 2021
Red Bull now seem hopeful of getting Perez back into the race. Can they do that given that the formation lap has already happened…? We’ll soon see.
Will the race go ahead? Certainly opinion seems split among the drivers. “It’s really not that bad” huffed Max Verstappen upon hearing about the red flag. Daniel Ricciardo said it was “the right call” and Fernando Alonso says “no way, we can’t race” according to Alpine engineer Marcin Budkowski.
… that the word from the organisers. How long for, we don’t yet know. The red flags are out and the cars are back in the pit lane.
“I really can’t see anything behind,” says Hamilton on his radio. “It’s pretty awful,” says Norris. “I can barely see the car in front. Quite a bit of aquaplaining as well.” Verstappen: “I have to leave a little bit more space from the safety car than normal as I can’t see anything.” And the driving on this lap is as tentative as you’d expect.
Right then. We’re in business. The safety car trundles away from the grid – and the formation lap is under way.
Will all these delays mean a reinstatement for Sergio Perez? His team have been working on his car but there’s no indication he’ll be back on the grid. Perhaps this is the more pertinent question:
McLaren CEO Zack Brown: “I think the race is going to be total chaos. Hopefully we’re not part of it. But it’ll be good for the viewers … and some of the teams.”
“I would imagine we might get more of a delay,” says David Nostradamus Croft on Sky. He’s not wrong: the organisers immediately add five minutes to the delay, then another five. So that’s the formation lap at 14:20 as it stands.
We’ll have a delayed start – the formation lap will start in 10 minutes – because the rain has just got heavier. “The rain intensity has got much too strong,” says race director Michael Masi.
“Come on Sebastian,” rites Ger Nugent. “Its horrible conditions, prove that you were always the better driver than that other guy.” Well, it is his highest start since Hungary last year. Meanwhile the midfield have as good a chance to spring a surprise as they ever will: watch this space.
“Difficult and dangerous” is the verdict of George Russell on the outlook for today. Meanwhile it’s been confirmed that the formation lap with go ahead with the cars behind a safety car.
A remainder of how they start:
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. George Russell (Williams)
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
5. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
6. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri)
OUT. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
8. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
9. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
10. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
11. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
12. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
13. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes – five-place grid penalty)
14. Lando Norris (McLaren – five-place grid penalty)
15. Antonio Giovianzzi (Alfa Romeo)
16. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri)
17. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
19. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)
20. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin – five-place grid penalty, qualified 15th).
Pit lane start – Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo, qualified 18th
In Spa the sky is grey, the ground is wet and it’s umbrellas wherever you look. Hamilton has already reported via the team radio that “there’s no grip out here” and Russell said “visibility is very poor”. We’ll likely see a safety car start. But should they even be racing in these conditions…?
Here’s Williams principal Jost Capito: “I just told him [Russell] to enjoy every single lap he can. It’s important to react quickly. The whole grid could be upside down before the end of the race. With these conditions it’s so unpredictable.”
Oh dear. It’s tipping it down in Spa and the wet conditions have claimed their first victim before the race has even started. On the lap to the grid, Perez slides around Les Combes and ploughs into the barriers. His team report suspension damage – too much of it to repair in time for lights out: “That’s us done. Kill the engine.”
George Russell gatecrashed the party yesterday. The simmering rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen was rendered secondary in the Belgian GP qualifying session by the Williams driver who steamed into the front row ahead of his countryman – and came close to securing pole but for an almighty lap from Verstappen, completed in a near-perfect 1:59.765s.
The conditions in Spa were treacherous to say the least, with torrential rain throughout and Lando Norris suffering a huge accident at the high-speed Eau Rouge corner. Crucially, the wet weather that clearly favoured Russell’s Williams has also been forecast for this afternoon.
Hamilton, a three-time winner of the Belgian GP, holds an eight-point advantage over Verstappen heading into today’s race but has Hamilton has described the current campaign as the most tightly contested since 2016. He returns from F1’s summer break after pulling off a remarkable turnaround in Hungary, dropping to last place to finish third before being promoted to second.
Verstappen finished a lowly ninth on that day after collision with Norris compromised his race and, on the evidence of yesterday, appears on a mission to banish that memory as soon as possible. Whether he succeeds in doing so could, to an extent, be in the hands of the gods: today’s conditions may well dictate the race. “There are always things to fine-tune,” he said yesterday, “in the wet it’s never easy, it’s always moving around.”
One thing is certain: yesterday’s display has given Russell the confidence that he can spring a surprise. Asked about overtaking Verstappen on lap one, his response was hardly cryptic: “That’s the plan”