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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Verstappen defends "safer" Red Bull pit call in Spa F1 sprint

Max Verstappen has defended Red Bull’s “safer call” to not pit at the earliest opportunity in Formula 1’s Belgian Grand Prix sprint race, a move which cost him the lead.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

To reduce spray after a late downpour, five formation laps were run behind the safety car ahead of a rolling start.

Although drivers reported conditions were clear for intermediate tyres, half the field stayed put for an extra lap on full wets. This was to avoid losing time to a double-stack pitstop and a delayed release in a congested pit-lane.

Polesitter Verstappen remained on circuit while second-starting Oscar Piastri dived into the pits. Red Bull called in Verstappen a lap later but held the double-world champion for a slower 3.2 seconds to avoid a collision with McLaren’s Lando Norris.

This left Verstappen to resume 1.7s behind Piastri. However, he reclaimed the lead thanks to a powerful tow down the Kemmel Straight on lap six, following another safety car period.

Verstappen defended the strategy, saying it was better to err on the side of caution. He said: “I think it was just a safer call.

“I could come in first, but then I might be blocked by other cars; there might be a safety car and then you lose out massively. So, I didn't mind to stay out.

“We lost one position, but we know that we are quick, and I think you could see that when we put the inter tyres on, we were flying. So, it was OK.”

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

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

Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

Verstappen claimed victory an eventual 6.6s over Piastri, albeit the Red Bull driver had complained about being unable to “wake” his brakes in the cooler conditions late on.

Explaining his radio call, Verstappen said: “We were just trying to get an even split on the brakes, but it was all under control.
“The car was quick; the tyres were holding on - just tiny little issues.”

While Verstappen also ran fastest in qualifying for the full Sunday GP with a lap that was 0.82s quicker than Charles Leclerc, he will start sixth owing to a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

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Verstappen reckoned this leaves the first corner of lap one as the critical point to his race, so long as he avoids any incidents.

“I need to pass a few cars,” said Verstappen. “So, I think the biggest risk is just lap one, Turn 1 - all these kinds of things.

“Everything is always very tricky there. So, as long as we stay out of trouble, I think we'll have a quick car.”

Verstappen won the 2022 Belgian GP from 14th on the grid - a legacy of power unit component changes. The Dutch driver recovered to first place by lap 12 of 44.

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