Verstappen cruises to Belgian GP victory from 14th

Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Verstappen cruises to Belgian GP victory from 14th

Formula 1

Verstappen cruises to Belgian GP victory from 14th


Max Verstappen landed a major boost to his championship campaign with a peerless drive to victory in the Belgian Grand Prix.

Verstappen started the race from 14th on the grid but made scintillating progress from lights out. He made five positions up on the first lap alone and continued scything through the field after a brief safety car intervention to clear the stricken cars of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

By the end of lap 8 – just five racing laps into the race – he was up to third and had victory in his sights.

Polesitter Carlos Sainz had held the lead from Sergio Perez, at the start, but with Verstappen in his mirrors, Ferrari called him in for his first stop on lap 12 to protect the lead.

Verstappen, despite starting on the more delicate soft tire, stayed out and, after breezing past his teammate at Les Combes, inherited the lead until lap 15 when he took his first service. He dropped to second but only 4.5s short of Sainz. By lap 18 he was through into the lead thanks to a slipstream down the Kemmel Straight, assuring his victory with another easy move.

The Dutchman kept the hammer down for the next 26 laps to record the fastest lap of the race and claim victory by a comprehensive 17.8s in one of the most dominant drives of his career and the team’s best of the season.

“It was quite a hectic first lap to try and stay out of trouble,” he said. “But once we settled in after the safety, the car was really on rails.

“I picked the right places to pass people and we could look after our tires. That’s how we made our way forward. This whole weekend has been incredible.”

The dominant victory stretches his championship lead to 92 points and puts him within sight of the title at the Singapore-Japan doubleheader in October. Red Bull Racing is atop the constructors table with a 118-point lead.

Perez made quick work of Sainz in the second lap courtesy of his three-lap-fresher tires and far superior car, cruising into second place on lap 21, but he never had pace to match his teammate, leaving him runner-up.

“I really hoped for more today,” Perez said. “It was a good opportunity, but Max was just flying. He was on another planet. He was untouchable. But it was a quite strong result for the team. We managed to get a lot of points today, which is important.”

Sainz held onto third despite a late charge by George Russell to snatch the place; the Briton’s challenge petering out as the race wore on.

“Unfortunately it was harder than expected,” Sainz said. “The pace was just not there.

“We had a lot of overheating on the tires; we were sliding around a lot. We will hope to learn why at this track we were not so competitive.”

Russell finished fourth ahead of Charles Leclerc on the road, but the Monegasque’s wretched weekend ended with a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, dropping him to sixth behind Fernando Alonso.

Leclerc’s recovery from 15th on the grid was hampered by an early pit stop to clear a visor tear-off from his front-right brake duct. Things got worse when Ferrari pulled him in on the penultimate lap for a new set of softs to vie for the fastest lap. He slipped behind Alonso, and recovering position from the Spaniard meant he could only set a pair of personal best sectors on the final tour.

Even that was in vain given his penalty, promoting Alonso to fifth after a strong race – and a somewhat fortuitous one, having emerged unscathed from wheel-to-wheel contact with Hamilton on the first lap that put the Mercedes out of the race with terminal damage.

Esteban Ocon was the race’s highlight generator as he made his superb recovery from 16th on the grid. His progress was highlighted by a pair daring double overtakes into Les Combes, the first on Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly for 10th and the second around Sebastian Vettel and Gasly to snatch seventh.

Vettel clung to eighth for Aston Martin after a brief but fiery battle with teammate Lance Stroll, who ended up on the gravel, early in the race.

Gasly was another standout, finishing ninth thanks to a gutsy three-stop strategy after starting from pit lane with electrical issues on the formation lap.

Alex Albon scored his fourth point for Williams with 10th, completing the points-paying places.

Stroll finished 11th ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda in the second AlphaTauri, the Japanese driver also starting from pit lane after an overnight engine change.

Zhou Guanyu was 14th for Alfa Romeo, up from 18th on the grid, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in 15th.

Kevin Magnussen, Mick Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi finished a lap down and the last of the classified runners, the last-named surviving a clumsy spin on the second lap that cleaned up Valtteri Bottas, who retired on the spot.

1 1 Max Verstappen RED BULL 44 1:25:52.894 26
2 11 Sergio Perez RED BULL 44 +17.841s 18
3 55 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 44 +26.886s 15
4 63 George Russell MERCEDES 44 +29.140s 12
5 14 Fernando Alonso ALPINE RENAULT 44 +73.256s 10
6 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 44 +74.936s 8
7 31 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 44 +75.640s 6
8 5 Sebastian Vettel ASTON MARTIN
44 +78.107s 4
9 10 Pierre Gasly ALPHATAURI 44 +92.181s 2
10 23 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS
44 +101.900s 1
11 18 Lance Stroll ASTON MARTIN
44 +103.078s 0
12 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN
44 +104.739s 0
13 22 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI 44 +105.217s 0
14 24 Zhou Guanyu ALFA ROMEO
44 +106.252s 0
15 3 Daniel Ricciardo MCLAREN
44 +107.163s 0
16 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 43 +1 lap 0
17 47 Mick Schumacher HAAS FERRARI 43 +1 lap 0
18 6 Nicholas Latifi WILLIAMS
43 +1 lap 0
NC 77 Valtteri Bottas ALFA ROMEO
1 DNF 0
NC 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 0 DNF 0

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