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Race report
Formula 1 Belgian GP

F1 Belgian GP: Verstappen dominates despite grid drop to lead Red Bull 1-2

Max Verstappen easily carved through the pack to win Formula 1’s Belgian Grand Prix from his sixth-place grid penalty start place, finishing ahead of Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, celebrates on the podium with Champagne

The reigning world champion launched from sixth due to a gearbox penalty, but surged into the lead on lap 15 and ran unchallenged to the chequered flag to score Red Bull's 12th-consecutive win of the season.

When the lights went out, polesitter Leclerc swung across Perez’s bows to maintain the lead at La Source, where Carlos Sainz, starting fourth, locked up and then collided with Oscar Piastri running just behind from fifth on the grid on the inside.

The McLaren was pinched against the inside wall, damaging its suspension and ripping the side of the Ferrari’s right-side sidepod, with Piastri slowing on the run downhill to Eau Rouge and later stopping on the first lap of 44.

Up ahead, Perez used his RB19’s straightline speed to blast by Leclerc into the lead the first time they ran up the Kemmel straight and he quickly built a DRS-breaking lead.

Verstappen was fourth by the end of lap one, where he remained behind MercedesLewis Hamilton, who had started third, and Leclerc over the first phase of the race as Perez continued to pull clear ahead.

But when Hamilton lost DRS to Leclerc on lap six, Verstappen pounced going up the Kemmel straight and, with DRS himself, had enough to make a move to the inside and seal third place.

He then pursued Leclerc, who’s gap to the lead had stabilised somewhat at just over two seconds, but as the end of the opening 10 laps approached it had eked out again to three seconds.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

On lap nine, Verstappen shot to Leclerc’s outside as the pair traversed the Kemmel straight, with the Ferrari defending the inside, but it was an unsuccessful defence as Verstappen braked later and swept ahead at the first part of Les Combes.

Perez’s gap to his team-mate was still the same margin he had over Leclerc at the start of lap 10, but over the next stage of the race Verstappen gradually ate into that advantage.

On lap 13, with Perez’s lead down to 2.4s, he came into the pits – just after Verstappen and his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase had another team radio spat, this time apparently about the times the Red Bull drivers were being asked to do, with the Dutchman concerned both cars would do the same.

When Perez pitted, his stop nearly a second longer with a lot of sparks coming off his left-rear wheel and with Leclerc coming by as he pitted from third at the same time, as they switched to mediums from softs.

Verstappen was brought in at the end of the following tour having been asked if he could make it staying out on his softs until predicted rain arrived around half-distance, which he dismissed.

The second Red Bull stop was a second quicker than the first and that all added up to Perez’s lead being down to 1.5s on Verstappen’s outlap and that was down to 1.1s on lap later, with the chaser soon getting DRS on the Kemmel straight for the first time.

Inevitably, the next time by at the same spot, Verstappen powered into the lead with an outside line DRS-run heading on the straight – easily surging ahead of Perez, who tucked in behind his team-mate.

Verstappen stayed on it to snap Perez’s DRS threat on the same lap, then shot to a near four-second lead by the time the rain arrived on the 20th tour.

It stayed light initially, but times went up by nearly three seconds for the leaders and Verstappen almost dropped his car running through Eau Rouge one lap later.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

That did not dim his momentum, however, as he was soon over five-seconds clear of Perez, as the rain remained light compared to the deluges that delayed Saturday's sessions.

It eased off completely around half-distance, with Verstappen then ploughing on to extend his lead to near 10s by the time the leaders prepared for a second round of stops.

As the leaders had made a longer stint on the softs work better than many in the pack behind on full tanks, the red-walled rubber was the compound of choice for the final run to the flag.

Hamilton, who started to close in on Leclerc in fourth during their stint on the mediums before dropping back again as it wore on, was the first to come in on lap 27.

Leclerc was brought in the next time by to cover the Mercedes, which had to fight by Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin as the Ferrari rejoined.

This phase cut Leclerc’s advantage, such as the undercut’s power, that Hamilton was the closest he had been to the Monegasque driver since Verstappen came by in the early laps, but again the Ferrari was able to pull away.

Red Bull made the same strategy call with Perez coming in on lap 29 and Verstappen on lap 30, after which the leader set a fastest lap nearly two-second’s quicker than the personal best Perez had just pumped in.

This earned a rebuke from Lambiase, who asked Verstappen to “use your head a bit more” as his pace immediately on his outlap and then on the flier being deemed “not very sensible” with the soft still showing “reasonable deg”.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, collide at the start

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, collide at the start

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Verstappen suggested pushing on and stopping again a la Austria, but this was given short shrift as the lead rose to 12.4s by lap 34.

From there, Verstappen continued pulling away and eventually won with a crushing victory of 22.3s over Perez, who was 9.9s ahead of Leclerc.

Hamilton had been running a few seconds adrift of the final podium spot when he was pitted with two laps to go to switch back to the mediums for a final stint, which he used to deprive Verstappen of the fastest lap as the Briton set that on the final tour, with a 1m47.305s against the Red Bull driver’s 1m48.922s set during that initial period after his second stop.

Hamilton was able to stop for a third time because Alonso was more than a pitstop adrift in fifth, having edged clear of various pack battles during the two pitstop phases.

George Russell took sixth having started on the contra-strategy with mediums for the opening stint, which meant he ran long and also had to put in several passes to rise from his eighth place starting spot.

That included a late pass on Lando Norris, who was one of the first to stop as McLaren struggled for pace early-on – his machine’s added downforce from its big rear wing being a boon during the brief rain shower and a hinderance when defending against rivals.

Norris eventually finished seventh, while behind Esteban Ocon put in a series of bold late passes to move up to eighth – including a forceful move through the first part of the Les Combes chicane on AlphTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, who eventually came home behind Lance Stroll in 10th.

Sainz was the race’s other retirement – the Spaniard stopped in the Ferrari garage just before half-distance as he ran at the rear of the pack showing little pace in his damaged car.

F1 Belgian GP - race results

Cla   Driver   Car / Engine   Time   Gap 
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1hr22m30.450s  
2 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1hr22m52.755s 22.305s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1hr23m02.709s 32.259s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1hr23m20.121s 49.671s
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 1hr23m26.634s 56.184s
6 George Russell Mercedes 1hr23m33.551s 1m03.101s
7 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1hr23m44.169s 1m13.719s
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1hr23m45.169s 1m14.719s
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1hr23m49.790s 1m19.340s
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT 1hr23m50.671s 1m20.221s
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 1hr23m53.534s 1m23.084s
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1hr23m55.641s 1m25.191s
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1hr24m05.891s 1m35.441s
14 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1hr24m06.634s 1m36.184s
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1hr24m12.204s 1m41.754s
16 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT 1hr24m13.521s 1m43.071s
17 Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes 1hr24m14.926s 1m44.476s
18 Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 1hr24m20.900s 1m50.450s
 
  Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari   Accident damage
  Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes - Accident damage

 

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