Start, Australian Grand Prix, Adelaide, 1991

F1 breaks 30-year-old record for shortest-ever race

2021 Belgian Grand Prix stats and facts

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Formula 1’s farcical ‘race’ at Spa-Francorchamps yesterday created several unusual new lines in the history book.

The record for the shortest grand prix of all time, which has stood for nearly 30 years, finally fell. It was set at the Australian Grand Prix in 1991.

That race was started, red-flagged, and never resumed. It ran for 14 laps, at the end of which the track was littered with debris and winner Ayrton Senna was waving angrily as he passed the pits, urging the officials to stop proceedings.

The Safety Car wasn’t in use then, whereas yesterday the drivers spent the entire ‘race’ behind it. The decision on how the race was classified was complicated: The drivers did a formation lap and a lap behind the Safety Car, only for the start procedure to be aborted. They then returned to the track and completed two further laps behind the Safety Car.

Verstappen’s one-lap win was a bizarre outcome
Without the latter, the race result wouldn’t have counted. As the race result has to be taken from the lap before the suspension, per the rules, the final classification was based on a single lap of running.

The 2021 Belgian Grand Prix is therefore now the shortest F1 race of all time at a length of one lap. But strictly speaking, it’s even less than that.

The official race classification document states the final race distance was less than the length of a lap – 6.88 kilometres instead of 7.004km. This is because there is a 124 metre offset between the start and finish line which has to be accounted for. So this was the race which last less than a lap.

Nonetheless, contentiously, points were awarded. As the race did not reach 75% distance (it fell 32 laps short) half-points were awarded. This was only the sixth time this has happened in the 1,047 world championship rounds held so far.

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The first two of these occured in 1975. That year’s Spanish Grand Prix was halted when Rolf Stommelen’s car hit several spectators, and four people were killed. Later in the year heavy rain forced an early end to the Austrian Grand Prix, and rain has been the reason for every other such instance since.

Remarkably, of the six so far, half were won by McLaren. Had Lando Norris pulled off his audacious bid for pole position on Saturday, we could well have had a fourth.

RaceCircuitLapsDistanceWinning driverWinning teamPoints
1975 Spanish Grand PrixMontjuich Park29109.91kmJochen MassMcLaren4.5
1975 Austrian Grand PrixOsterreichring29171.419kmVittorio BrambillaMarch4.5
1984 Monaco Grand PrixMonaco31102.672kmAlain ProstMcLaren4.5
1991 Australian Grand PrixAdelaide1452.92kmAyrton SennaMcLaren5
2009 Malaysian Grand PrixSepang International Circuit31171.833kmJenson ButtonBrawn GP5
2021 Belgian Grand PrixSpa-Francorchamps16.88kmMax VerstappenRed Bull12.5

Niki Lauda won the 1984 world championship by the smallest-ever margin of half a point, due to the points his team mate scored in Monaco. However yesterday’s race does not make that possible this year, as both Verstappen and Hamilton took half a point in their scores.

Report: Button wins again but rain stops play at Sepang
Formula 1 has not officially credited any driver with the fastest lap. This is likely because the only lap which was officially completed commenced in the pits, and ran behind the Safety Car. There has never previously been an F1 race where no driver set the fastest lap.

Verstappen’s 16th win puts him level with Stirling Moss, the two now sharing the record for most grand prix victories without a world championship title. Verstappen also took his ninth pole position, giving him the same number as Charles Leclerc.

George Russell put Williams on the front row of the grid for the first time since 2017 and, in the strange conditions of the race, also ended their four-year wait for a podium finish.

Have you spotted any other interesting stats and facts from the Belgian Grand Prix? Share them in the comments.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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61 comments on “F1 breaks 30-year-old record for shortest-ever race”

  1. The 1st FLAP for Haas since 2019 Singapore GP (and 3rd ever), albeit a 5th occasion, no one received the bonus point since reintroduction.
    Yes, unofficial, as mentioned in the article, but still.

    The 1st race in which everyone finished since the 2019 Austrian GP.

    Nearly the 1st DNS for Perez since 2014 Malaysian GP, but not, after all.
    Also, the 2nd time he’s finished last (either overall or last finisher) this season.

    1. The 1st FLAP for Haas since 2019 Singapore GP (and 3rd ever), albeit a 5th occasion, no one received the bonus point since reintroduction.

      As per the article there was no FLAP as there was no full lap which counted towards the race.

      1. @jff I indeed mentioned that in case you didn’t notice.

        1. Indeed, didn’t notice; my bad.
          But I found the FLAP stat mention a bit pointless.

    2. @jerejj Possibly the most inconsequential thing imaginable, but I don’t think Perez finished last as Stroll had a ten second time penalty to serve at the finish.

      1. Mark McCubbin
        31st August 2021, 9:59

        Perez never actually got a chance to unlap himself. If the safety car was going to come in and let them race, they would have had to let Perez through first to unlap himself. But he never go that chance, so he should have finished a lap down – which I guess means in a race that only lasted one lap, he is the only person ever to have finished a race without actually starting… or something like that (there’s definitely a stat somewhere in there).

        As you say, pretty inconsequential, but the fight for last is one of the most interesting things from that race!

        1. @Mark McCubbin, He was never a lap down as the race hadn’t begun yet.

      2. @bernasaurus Yes, my bad. I forgot Stroll’s penalty dropped him last after finishing P18 on track.

  2. As the race did not reach 75% distance (it fell 32 laps short)

    Thanks for showing your working out here, I was confused whether they’d completed 75% or not ;P

    1. The comments section on this site has really gone downhill of late. I realise I’m adding to the snark with my comment but still, it’s a big shame there’s so many pointless arguments.

  3. Only one team has scored points with both cars in the last two races. It’s Williams!

    Quite extraordinary.

    1. 🥳 Williams 🥳

      Why is there a 124 metre offset between the start and finish line (at Spa, as quoted above)?

      Especially when:
      | finish line >>>>>>>>>> | pole position

      if the pole position holder wins the race, they haven’t completed the complete last lap?

      1. Because the start finish line is opposite race control, goes back to when they used to manually time and count laps

  4. Joint most red flags in a race at 2, and most red flags per racing lap by far.
    2021 has had 6 red flags so far, a new record. 1984, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1995 and 2020 all had 4. Interestingly, the last 2 years have seen as many red flags as the 9 previous years combined.
    The top 6 drivers finished where they started. I don’t know if this has ever happened before.

    1. At 1817 local, the latest start (or re-start) time for a European race too?

  5. Is Perez is the only driver to lose places in a race in which no overtaking is allowed?

    1. Stroll has got a penalty for changing the rear wing. He should be classified P20 with Perez now on P19.

    2. When taking into account race finishes relative to starting grid positions (Perez’s 7th place on the grid left vacant), then yes, only he lost positions. But Stroll was classified last aftr finishing 18th on track due to post-race 10-second penalty.

      Reply moderated
  6. Thinking about Perez, has there ever been anyone else who has retired on the formation lap but then finished the race? That’s certainly an odd one. I know Max almost did it in Hungary a while ago, but he drove it to the grid and never left the car.

    1. That’s a good one, and I think it depends if drivers counted as retiring back in the days of sprinting back to the pits to hop into the spare car – presumably the car retired but not the driver back then but I wonder if that’s never been changed

      1. someone or something
        30th August 2021, 17:21

        Yeah, I think in the era of spare cars, this has probably happened a few times. On the reconaissance lap, mind you, not the formation lap.

        In recent(-ish) times, there was a somewhat similar incident involving Pedro de la Rosa at Magny-Cours, whose car stalled on the formation lap. Before he had even reached 0 laps, he was already a lap down. But he managed to keep going eventually, leading to brief confusion about which lap he was on.

        There’s another respect in which Pérez’s (pointless) adventure stands out: He was classified on the lead lap despite only being on the track for 2 out of the 4 laps that were run behind the Safety Car.

        1. I can recall two occasions where driver retired on the initial warm-up lap, then starting (and finishing) the restarted race after initial red flag: Riccardo Patrese in France 1989 and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in Australia 1996.

          1. someone or something
            30th August 2021, 22:41

            I stand corrected.

  7. Niki Lauda won the 1984 world championship by the smallest-ever margin of half a point, due to the points his team mate scored in Monaco. However yesterday’s race does not make that possible this year, as both Verstappen and Hamilton took half a point in their scores.

    Half points deficit can also happen this year, we just need another Spa like GP w/ on of Max or Lewis earning scoring points that, in a normal GP would grant an even and odd number of points.

    Reply moderated
    1. someone or something
      30th August 2021, 17:24

      Yeah, but as the article states, in that case it won’t be because of Spa. “Yesterday’s race dies not make that possible”, but another one still might.

    2. Or if Bottas, Perez, Norris or even someone else has an amazing second half, while the top two falter.

      1. someone or something
        31st August 2021, 10:23

        @talcumpowder
        Neither Bottas, Pérez, nor Norris scored half-points in Spa (or any points for that matter).
        In order for the championship to be decided by a half-point awarded at Spa, Sainz would have to get involved, as well as another driver who isn’t Hamilton or Verstappen. Hamilton, Verstappen, and Sainz are the only drivers whose score isn’t an integer.

  8. Random notes:
    – Hamilton, Vettel, Räikkönen, and Alonso also competed in the previous race that awarded only half-points (2009 Malaysia), though only Hamilton scored points (or rather a point) that time.
    – And thus Hamilton joins the “elite clube” of Jochen Mass, Vittorio Brambilla, and Ayrton Senna as drivers who have scored in twice in races that award half points.
    – The previous time a driver won the Belgian GP on consecutive years was Kimi Räikkönen in 2004-2005 (and 2007, as there was no race in 2006). After that, no one has managed to win the race back-to-back.
    – Even though the “race” finished behind the safety car, the 2019 race still had a smaller gap between the top two positions (0.981s between Leclerc and Hamilton vs 1.995s between Verstappen and Russell)
    – Sixth win for Verstappen this year. The previous times someone won this many races (or more) in a season and failed to win the championship was Hamilton in 2016 (10 wins in total), Rosberg in 2015 (6 wins).

    And finally, not exactly sure about this, but this was most likely the first ever wet race where everyone finished.

    1. @(@kaiie)
      I do not get this one.

      The previous time a driver won the Belgian GP on consecutive years was Kimi Räikkönen in 2004-2005 (and 2007, as there was no race in 2006). After that, no one has managed to win the race back-to-back.

      How does this relate to 2021?

      1. Ah, I seem to have deleted a sentence from this “fact”. The point was that this race has had a different winner every year for a very long time, and continued the trend this year.

  9. In this race the top 8 positions were held by drivers from different teams.
    The first team where a team repeats is Williams.

    All thanks to Perez crashing on the formation lap!

  10. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
    30th August 2021, 15:02

    I have a question that I’m hoping someone here might be able to answer:

    The Williams FW43B has now scored 20 points and a podium after its predecessor, the FW43, scored a grand total of zero points.

    Has there ever been another case of a car scoring zero points, and a slightly upgraded version of that same car getting a podium the following year?

    1. Its very hard to justify slightly upgraded

    2. Well, on the top of my head + quick searching, you might argue that the 1983 McLaren MP4/E and the following year’s MP4/2 fit this criteria. Then again, the MP4/E was just a test car at the end of 1983 (and thus not raced at all the races), but the following year’s model was based on it (and went on to dominate the 1984 season).

  11. 2021 Belgian GP will be known as Spa-Farcical-champs

  12. There was no race. No driver was allowed to improve his position. How can that be called a race? And if there was no race how could points be awarded? Total farce, total sham.

    1. There are a lot of topics, you can go mad with this statement.
      Not this one please.

      Reply moderated
  13. With Hamilton losing five points in hes lead over Max this is the second time he has been screwed over at Spa by the FIA.

    1. @f1-plossl LOL. 2008, yes, but not this time. I wonder what would people have said if he qualified on pole and consequently won because of yesterday’s circumstances? Probably that FIA helped him again.

      1. They wouldn’t of awarded any points after a press release along the lines of “As a mix up on lap count back no points will be given, but the race result stands as the ‘race’ had happened, sorry no refunds given, jog on” ;-)

      2. And Hamilton to win his 100th race like this :)

    2. @f1-plossl

      With Hamilton losing five points in hes lead over Max this is the second time he has been screwed over at Spa by the FIA.

      FIA is allowed to “help” your idol only, isn’t it? Lewis benefitted so much from the red flag and there was a fuss when Dieter suggested to make all cars repaired during race suspensions start from the back. LH44 troops had to take it personal, but now FIA supposedly have robbed their god-on-earth because of a preexisting rule for such extreme scenarios was applied and it took 5 points away from him. Double standards all over the place!

      Reply moderated
  14. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Although he might subsequently have been screwed over by an arbitrary FIA ruling, at the most challenging circuit of them all, and in conditions which really sorted the men from the boys, Nikita Mazepin laid down a marker with fastest lap.

    And he’s still mathematically in with a chance of being WDC this year…..

  15. This is the first time I can recall that a driver has been mentally scared even before the race started…

    https://youtu.be/GYATt15t0lc

  16. Someone mentioned it yesterday on this site, but there were nineteen starters and twenty finishers.

  17. Amazingly every time there has been a half points race McLaren have always scored points, Ferrari didn’t score any points at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix but have at every half points race since

  18. Technically speaking was in every race except Abu Dhabi in 2014 a 1/2 points race?

    1. *Wasn’t Every race except Abu Dhabi in 2014 a points race

  19. 3rd race in a row that Tsunoda has started 16th.

    Vettel has scored more points in 2021 than he managed in 2020.

    First time Russell has scored more points than his team-mate in a race.

    The drivers currently 3rd, 4th and 5th in the standings all finished outside the points having all failed to finish at all in Hungary.

    Alonso’s first no-score since Monaco. Hamilton now has the longest streak with 6 (last no-score was Azerbaijan).

    First time since Canada 2011 (a race that finished over 4 hours after the scheduled start time) that the race winner officially only led 1 lap.

    5th different race to be red-flagged in 2021 – a new record for one season.

    2nd consecutive Belgian GP in which the drivers who started 1-2-3 spent the whole race in those positions.

    Red Bull’s 12th win with Honda power – equals the total number of hybrid-era wins they managed with Renault power.

    Sainz has only completed 2 official laps in the last 3 Belgian GPs.

    Thanks to the official F1 site for some of these.

  20. Also, second race in succession that none of the three drivers fighting for third in the championship have scored points (Norris, Bottas, Perez).

  21. According to the official result the race had one lap and Max had the highest top speed; therefore fastest lap, pole postion and win while leading every lap. – Kind of a Grand Slam.

    1. Top speed is not the same as FLAP. If the FLAP was awarded at all, it would be Nikita’s. Who needs it most btw. He will probably end his career without a podium, pole or FLAP. Ok, a FLAP under SC conditions is mostly random and makes little sense (and would not have given him any points even if awarded), but still it is better than nothing.

      1. My mistake, highest “average speed” during the 1 lap race

  22. Someone mentioned yesterday (sorry I can’t remember who) that Max Verstappen equalled Stirling Moss’ record of most F1 victories (16) without a WDC title. I expect Max to surpass the record along this year, and then give it back to the great Moss by getting his first WDC.

    1. A certain British driver will help Max to beat Sir Stirling’s record of most victories without a WDC title.

      1. Lando Norris pretty much deserves this season’s WDC but is highly unlikely to get it

        1. George Russel too, but there’s another one you must have forgotten…

  23. Farcical indeed. The fact points were awarded made this a bigger debacle than the last US GP at Indy. It should have been another cancelled race.

  24. A subjective one perhaps, but I’d bet the Williams on the podium is probably the least competitive car to be on a podium where all cars finished the race. Sorry, I should say “race”…

  25. Despite the fact that we’ve been presented with a puppet show of a race in which overtaking was not allowed, no real pit stops were performed, every driver used the same tyre strategy, and only one lap was counted from the dull 120-130km/h procession behind a Safety Car, we still had a considerable amount of gains and losses of position, especially when contrasting with qualifying order. No need to tell who lost the bigger amount of places, the only one to endure that on track (despite not being in the race proper, but in an unsuccessful formation lap), the currently super fragile Mexican driver for Red Bull, who’s in a serious competition with Bottas to see who’s the worst of the frontrunners. He lost 13 places from quali to race finish and gained one back with post-race penalty for Stroll.
    The drivers who gained the most positions from quali to the chequered flag are less obvious: Leclerc (qualified 11th – finished 8th), Latifi (qualified 12th – finished 9th), Sainz (qualified 13th – finished 10th), Alonso (qualified 14th – finished 11th), Giovinazzi (qualified 16th – finished 13th) and Mazepin (qualified 17th – finished 20th) all improved 3 places. At first it looks like they teleported themselves to gain places in a race that discarded entirely even the possibility of a pass and made any position change unfeasible, but putting aside Perez’s accident any other position change happened through the big amount of penalties, it was what got the trick done.
    The 2021 Belgian GP was a farcical race deserved to be forgotten in both competition and entertainment aspects, no doubt, but at the same time it’s one that will be remembered for years to come due to the many quirks and regulations’ loopholes exposed.

    Reply moderated
    1. *Mazepin (qualified 20th – finished 17th)
      Due respect to the unrecognised fastest driver of the race. ;)

      Reply moderated

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