Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc, Lance Stroll and Lando Norris were eliminated in a pair of incidents at the first corner. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo also sustained damage in the carnage.
The race began on a wet circuit. The 19 drivers on the grid started on intermediates tyres, while Antonio Giovinazzi pitted on the formation lap to fit slicks.
While Hamilton led the field down to turn one from pole position, team mate Bottas got away poorly and was passed by the Red Bull drivers and Norris, who started sixth. Bottas ran into the back of Norris at the first corner, knocking the McLaren into Verstappen, while Bottas ricocheted off the other Red Bull of Perez.
A further incident unfolded behind them as Stroll also arrived at the first corner too quickly. He took to the grass on the inside of the corner but was unable to avoid Leclerc’s Ferrari, which in turn hit Ricciardo.
“Nice bowling game,” fumed Leclerc in a post on social media. “So frustrating.”
The Safety Car was initially deployed to deal with the situation, but on the second lap the red flag was thrown and the race suspended. It is due to restart at 3:32pm local time.
Hamilton will lead the restarted race followed by Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen will restart in 13th place.