Max Verstappen wins rain-marred Belgian GP after four laps behind the safety car

Verstappen shortened Spa
Lars Baron/Getty Images
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SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — Max Verstappen won a rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix when it massively was shortened Sunday after restarting under a safety car nearly three hours later than its scheduled time.

The race was shortened to one hour with only half points awarded to the winner, who needed to complete only two laps to win.

There were no green-flag laps as the race was called under yellow with Red Bull driver Verstappen leading Williams driver George Russell and Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton on Lap 4. The restarted race ended after roughly 10 minutes with rain still lashing down.

“Of course it’s a win but not how you want to win,” Verstappen said. “Credit to all the fans who stayed here for so long. They are the real winners today.”

Verstappen’s sixth win of the season was the 16th of his career and stopped Lewis Hamilton earning a record-extending 100th win, while also trimming his overall lead from eight points to three.

Verstappen collected 12.5 points instead of 25, with Russell (who qualified an impressive second) getting nine for his second career podium and Hamilton picking up 7.5.

Fans cheered loudly from the stands and the hills around the track when it was announced the race would start again at 6:17 p.m. local time (1617 GMT) – 3 hours, 17 minutes after it normally would have.

But after just 10 minutes of Verstappen rolling cautiously behind the safety car, the race was suspended for a second time at just before 6:30 p.m.

“I really hope the fans get their money back today,” Hamilton said. “They were incredible.”

The first time the race was suspended was shortly after 3:30 p.m. local time following a formation lap.

The 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) Spa-Francorchamps circuit was totally drenched. Soaked fans huddled under large umbrellas on muddy banks as they waited for the worst of the rain to pass. The thick clouds and mist hanging over the Ardennes Forest also gave the circuit a daunting look and made for poor visibility.

When the drivers embarked on their formation laps the first time around, several complained.

“I really can’t see anything,” Hamilton said.

The decision to suspend the start was made a few moments later.

“It’s wet, but I think it’s fine to race,” said Verstappen who started from pole position.

His teammate Sergio Perez appeared to be out of the race before it even started, sliding off the track during the warmup lap at around 2:30 p.m. and damaging his front suspension.

Red Bull asked race control if Perez could start the race if they repaired his car in time. The FIA said it was considering the request and later announced Perez would be allowed to start from the pit lane.

At 5 p.m. a further delay was announced.

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo entertained the fans waiting in the grandstand from the pit lane. In his 200th F1 race, the popular Australian made extravagant hand gestures and waved to them as they chanted “Daniel, Daniel.”

“I obviously feel for them,” Ricciardo said. “We’re in it together but circumstances are out of our control.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.