ax Verstappen was proclaimed as the winner of a farcical Belgian Grand Prix after only two laps were completed behind a safety car.
The 12th round of the Formula One campaign at a rain-soaked Spa-Francorchamps circuit finished three hours and 44 minutes after it was due to begin when the clock finally stopped on an embarrassing afternoon for the sport.
Hamilton’s championship advantage over Verstappen has been reduced to three points.
Seventy-five thousand fans stood in the persistent drizzle for a race due to start at 3pm, pushed back to 3:10pm, 3:15pm and 3:25pm. The safety car took the field away on a formation lap but after eight minutes the race was stopped.
Following two hours and 47 minutes without any action, the FIA’s race director Michael Masi then gave the green light for the race to resume.
The sodden spectators, those who remained in the hope of a race, pumped their fists in delight, with Verstappen’s fans lighting orange flares on the Kemmel Straight.
But after just two laps completed of the rain-drenched 4.35-mile circuit, the race was red-flagged. The sport’s bosses were facing accusations of a cynical manoeuvre with two laps ensuring a classification could be granted.
“I feel really sorry for the fans,” Hamilton said. “They have been incredible to stick with us and hold out for a potential race.
“They knew when they sent us out at the end there that the track wasn’t any better and they did it just so that we could have two laps behind the safety car which is the minimum requirement for a race. I hope the fans get their money back.”
Hamilton added: “You couldn’t really see five metres in front of you, and you could not go flat out. It is a shame because it could have been a a good race if it didn’t rain as much.”
Verstappen, who declared the conditions as “fine to race” after it was stopped the first time around, added: “I said at 3:30, ‘Let’s go’.
“The conditions were decent but the visibility was low. If we started at 3, we stood a better chance. It is a win but it is not how you want to win.”
It is the first time in F1’s 71-year history when such few laps have been completed for a classified result. Indeed, it is only the sixth time half-points have been awarded.
The abandoned affair came just 24 hours after British driver Lando Norris was fortunate to emerge unscathed from a terrifying 185mph crash at Eau Rouge in qualifying.
The Spa-Francorchamps venue is considered to be one of the most dangerous tracks on the F1 calendar, with 23 drivers perishing here. Two years ago, French Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert lost his life after a multi-car collision.
Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, tweeted: “Brave decision by Michael Masi. If the race had gone ahead and there had been a serious accident, we’d be asking why he started the race. Tough. But ultimately a mature thing to do. Spa has claimed a lot of drivers.”
The remainder of the grid finished where they started with Daniel Ricciardo fourth for McLaren ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and the AlphaTauri driver of Pierre Gasly.
Sergio Perez crashed on the way to the grid but took part in the second restart from the pit lane after Red Bull fixed his damaged machine.