F1 Belgian GP: Verstappen wins shortened sprint race from Piastri, Gasly

Max Verstappen beat early leader Oscar Piastri to win the delayed wet-to-dry sprint race at Formula 1’s 2023 Belgian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton penalised for clashing with Sergio Perez.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

After spots of rain had fallen sporadically as the cars initially lined up on the grid 20 minutes ahead of the scheduled start time – already pushed back by 35 minutes thanks to the similar delay to the start of sprint shootout qualifying – it began coming down heavily 10 minutes later. 

This led the FIA to officially delay the start before it announced the formation lap would begin at 17.12 – a postponement of just seven minutes - but continuing rainfall resulted in an indefinite extension to the pre-race pause. 

As it had eased by 5:20pm and the marshals and track vehicles working to clear as much standing water as possible, it was again announced the formation lap would be attempted at 5:35pm. 

This was then clarified as being run behind the safety car, which mandated that all the cars started the race on full wet tyres. 

They were sent around for five formation tours, which was originally announced as four before one more was added in a bid to clear more water by the cars running at reduced speed. 

This meant when the action did get going the distance was reduced from 15 to 11 laps, with several drivers including polesitter Verstappen reporting conditions were already good enough for intermediate tyres early in the initial formational lap procession. 

When the safety car finally peeled in, nearly 20 minutes after the race should have finished per the timetable before the sprint shootout qualifying delay was enacted, plenty of drivers opted to pit. 

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

This included Piastri from just behind Verstappen and the Australian driver was joined in making the final formation lap call by Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton – with the Alpine racer emerging behind Piastri as several teams had to hold their cars as others pitted around them. 

Verstappen did not complete lap one on the track as he too came in for inters, joined by Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris behind – two drivers that could not stop on the final formation lap as they were running behind their team-mates and facing a potentially very long double-stack stop. 

Leclerc got a long hold anyway as Ferrari had to wait for several cars to come by in the pitlane, with Verstappen slightly delayed waiting for Norris to come past. 

When he re-emerged from the pits, Piastri had already swept away from La Source and was in the lead with a 1.5s advantage early in lap two. 

Verstappen had halved that one lap later, but then the race was suspended by a safety car period after Fernando Alonso spun off while running behind Nico Hulkenberg.

A separate incident involving that pair was investigated after the race, with Alonso receiving a warning for drifting across Hulkenberg's path and causing the German to take avoiding action, as the Aston exited the pits following Alonso's lap one stop, which was initially labelled as an impeding incident by race control."

The race resumed at the start of lap six, with Verstappen sticking right with Piastri as they powered back up to speed and then immediately blasting ahead on the first time they ran back onto the Kemmel Straight having shot through the Eau Rouge/Raidillon sequence with the McLaren fractionally ahead. 

Verstappen then ran clear to an easy win, ending up with a 6.6s final margin of victory over Piastri. 

Gasly had come out of his final formation lap stop for inters ahead of Perez and Hamilton, with Sainz also behind the pair. 

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

This became their order behind Verstappen under the safety car, with Leclerc’s long stop meaning he was running adrift of Sainz at that point with Norris one place further back. 

Upon the restart, Gasly dropped Perez with the Mexican's attention on Hamilton behind.

After getting great drive out of the first part of the Stavelot sequence, Turn 14, Hamilton drew alongside Perez as they went through the next part, another fast right. 

When making his move, Hamilton appeared to drift slightly left and his left front made contact with Perez’s right-side sidepod – punching a hole in the Red Bull - forcing the seven-time champion to drop back.

At the start of lap seven, Hamilton powered around Perez’s outside at La Source, with Sainz then out-dragging him to Eau Rouge and thrillingly getting ahead at the left-hand kink at the foot of the hill. 

Leclerc then closed in on Perez and drew alongside on the outside line running down the Kemmel straight, with a tow from Sainz’s aiding the second Ferrari to pull ahead of the Red Bull at Les Combes. 

Perez then slid into the gravel when the pack reached Stavelot, with Norris by then close behind, and at the end of lap seven, he retired in the pits. 

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The incident with Hamilton was swiftly placed under investigation and the Mercedes driver was given a five-second penalty for causing it in the eyes of the stewards. 

As Hamilton could not find a way by Gasly by the end and with the short sprint distance offering little chance for gaps to form, he fell to seventh behind Sainz, Leclerc and Norris in the final order at the flag. 

George Russell sealed the final point on lap 10 when he outdragged Daniel Ricciardo on the outside run to La Source having seen off the close attentions of Esteban Ocon after the restart.

F1 Belgian Grand sprint race result: 

cla driver chassis engine laps time gap pits pts
1 HOL Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull 11 24'58.433   1 8
2 AUS Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 11 25'05.110 6.677 1 7
3 FRA Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 11 25'09.166 10.733 1 6
4 ESP Carlos Sainz Jr Ferrari Ferrari 11 25'11.081 12.648 1 5
5 MON Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 11 25'13.449 15.016 1 4
6 GBR Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 11 25'14.485 16.052 1 3
7 GBR Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 11 25'15.190 16.757 1 2
8 GBR George Russell Mercedes Mercedes 11 25'15.255 16.822 1 1
9 FRA Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 11 25'20.843 22.410 1  
10 AUS Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri Red Bull 11 25'21.239 22.806 1  
11 CAN Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 11 25'23.440 25.007 1  
12 THA Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 11 25'24.736 26.303 1  
13 FIN Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 11 25'25.439 27.006 1  
14 DEN Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 11 25'31.419 32.986 1  
15 CHN Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 11 25'34.775 36.342 1  
16 USA Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 11 25'36.004 37.571 1  
17 GER Nicolas Hülkenberg Haas Ferrari 11 25'36.260 37.827 1  
18 JPN Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Red Bull 11 25'37.700 39.267 1  
  MEX Sergio Perez Red Bull Red Bull 8     2  
  ESP Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes 2     1  
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