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Formula 1: Rain forces suspension of Belgian Grand Prix start

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium :The start of the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix was suspended after torrential rain drenched the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Sunday and two hours later the race still looked unlikely to get underway.

The formation lap, which kicks off proceedings, was initially delayed by 25 minutes but after two laps behind the safety car in poor visibility, with the field kicking up plumes of spray even at that relatively slow speed, Formula One's race director Michael Masi decided to suspend the start procedure.

Drivers and teams milled about in the pitlane and as the rain continued to fall the focus turned to whether the race would get underway at all.

"In my personal opinion if it continues like that you can't start," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports F1.

"It's just too dangerous through Eau Rouge, Raidillon and on the straight. As much as I love racing and I love also the risk of racing, this is maybe a step too far."

Formula One has a three-hour window for a race to take place written into the rules.

But stewards, declaring "Force Majeure", stopped the clock counting down to that limit, buying them more time to get underway a race which otherwise would have been called off at 1800 local time (1600 GMT).

Two laps, even if they are run behind the safety car, will be enough for drivers to be handed half points.

Pole-sitter Max Verstappen, who trails championship leader Lewis Hamilton by eight points, would in that case be declared the winner and take home 12.5 points. 

George Russell, who starred in a wet qualifying on Saturday when he put his Williams on the front row, would finish second and get nine points, while Hamilton in third would score 7.5 points, which would see his championship lead reduced by five points to three.

The two formation laps initially run behind the safety car would not count.

Two-thirds of the race distance, or about 29 of the Belgian Grand Prix's 44 laps, must be completed for drivers to be eligible to score maximum points.

Postponing the race to Monday could pose logistical headaches, with Zandvoort scheduled to host the return of the Dutch Grand Prix next weekend.

"Postponing, let's see," said Wolff. "Yeah, I think it's going to be very difficult with Zandvoort. It's all very complex these days."

Conditions had deteriorated well before the start and Sergio Perez crashed out on a sighting lap before even lining up on the grid.

The Mexican, who has been given a contract extension for next year, appeared to be out on the spot, in a blow to Red Bull's hopes in their constructors' title battle with Mercedes.

However, the stewards said Perez would be allowed to start the race from the pitlane, with the former champions, who are 12 points behind Mercedes in the standings, taking advantage of the delay to complete repairs.

That could all be in vain, though, if the race is abandoned or called after two laps behind the safety car.

Source: Reuters

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