Competition blown away as Verstappen wins Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Belgium, Circuit de Spa-Francorchampsbe

Max Verstappen removed all doubt that he is on his path to win this year's championship. Blowing away everyone he came back from 16th to first by lap 12 and stayed there until the end. Sergio Perez completed Red Bull's party as Carlos Sainz finished third for Ferrari.

When the lights went out under fantastic conditions, Carlos Sainz had no problem maintaining his first position. The battle happened behind with Perez losing two positions as both Alonso and Hamilton chose the inside on the approach to La Source and ended up closely behind each other.

Hamilton then slipstreamed behind the Alpine of Alonso and was side by side of the Spaniard as they approached the end of the straight. Hamilton was on the outside and slightly ahead so he turned in, sadly leaving little to no room for the Alpine, meaning he jumped over the front left with his right rear, launching him in the air and eventually causing Hamilton to retire half a lap later. Alonso wasn't all too pleased with that move, fuming on the radio that "this guy only really knows how to start from the front".

As Bottas also retired due to a contact in Les Combes, two stricken cars along the track was a bit too much so a safety car was brought out. As Leclerc reported a problem they called him in on lap 3, enabling them to remove a tear-off that was blocking the right front brake duct. Without a stop this would surely have resulted in a retirement.

On lap 5 the race got going again with Sainz ahead, followed by Perez, Russell, Alonso, Vettel, Ricciardo, Albon, Verstappen, Stroll and Magnussen. Ocon was 11th and Leclerc 17th, ahead only of Latifi who stopped during the SC as well.

The restart saw Russell and Alonso challenge Perez, but as Russell backed out, Alonso looked to threaten the Mercedes at Les Combes before deciding not do try what Hamilton had tried on lap 1.

By the end of lap 5, Verstappen had moved up into 6th, obviously helped by the soft tyres and great top speed on his Red Bull. At the end of lap 6 the Dutchman made an easy pass on Vettel at the Busstop chicane even before DRS was enabled. Of course, with that system enabled as they crossed the finish line, Verstappen breezed past Alonso at Kemmel straight on lap 7 to move up to 4th. One lap later, the same fate befell Russel as Verstappen completed a lap that was more than a second faster than Perez and 0.8s faster than Sainz.

Leclerc meanwhile, having switched to medium tyres on his early stop ended up being blocked in a huge DRS train spanning Magnussen in 11th to Latifi in 17th.

Verstappen had more trouble getting past Perez when he joined him soon complaining he was losing a lot of time behind his teammate. When Sainz pitted on lap 10 as degradation turned out to be higher across the field, Verstappen swooped past to take the lead on the Kemmel straight.

Alonso pitted one lap later and Perez another 2 laps later while Verstappen seemingly continued without trouble on softs. The Dutchman finally pitted on lap 15. As he changed to medium tyres, Sainz crossed the finish line and returned to lead the race, 4.3s ahead of Max Verstappen and 5.5s ahead of Sergio Perez.

2 laps later Verstappen had closed the gap and taken back the lead on the back of a fastest lap that was 2.4s faster than Carlons Sainz and a full second faster than what Perez managed. Clearly the Red Bulls are quite a bit ahead, but Verstappen adds another layer on top of that. Sergio Perez passed Sainz on lap 21.

As Verstappen pulled away, Tsunoda was the last man to pit after a longer stint on hard tyres. Sadly for the Japanese, he was at a halt for 9.7 seconds in the pitlane, effectively dropping him down from a top 10 position to 17th, just behind Schumacher and ahead of Latifi.

On lap 26 it was time for the Ferraris and Alonso to make their second stops. Sainz switched to new hard tyes and rejoined in 4th. Leclerc took mediums and dropped to 7th while Alonso ended up 13th with a fresh set of hard tyres. Many stops followed while those on fresh tyres had no problem gaining back positions from others.

Verstappen pitted on lap 31 and returned in the lead with an 8s margin over his teammate. Sainz followed another 8s further down but had Russell coming closer on 4-lap fresher hard tyres. Sainz was pushing hard but pondered the possibility of a 3-stopper which according to his race engineer would mean a 4th place finish behind Russell.

Meanwhile Alonso hade moved up back into 6th thanks to lots of overtakes and later pitstops for Vettel and Ocon. The latter then pulled off a great move by passing both Gasly and Vettel on the Kemmel straight, reminiscent of a pass that Hakkinen once managed on Schumacher, although this time it wasn't for the lead and Vettel was on the same lap, contrary to Zonta back in 1998.

Ocon's medium tyres also seemed to work quite a lot better than Alonso's 7-lap older hards, slowly bringing the Alpines closer together towards the end of the race. With 4 laps left, they were 4 seconds apart.

Russell's progress on the other hand stalled at around 2s despite Ferrari asking Sainz repeatedly to avoid bumps around the track. Leclerc in 5th was in no man's land and floated with 20s of empty track in front and behind him. Crucially he also ended up more than 50s behind Verstappen.

The gaps triggered Ferrari to pit Leclerc to switch to softs but as their driver left the pits Alonso was right on his back and soon seized his chance to take 5th place. On the final lap though Leclerc returned to 5th but missed out on securing the fastest lap. Difficult to say if Ferrari calculated this, but it really seemed like risky business to drop behind Alonso on the penultimate lap to then rely on Leclerc to sort it out again. After the race it would end up even more painful as a 5s penalty for speeding in the pitlane did cost Leclerc 5th in favour of Fernando Alonso.

In any case, Verstappen wins the Belgian Grand Prix in utter domination, reducing all competitors to also-rans. Sergio Perez finished a whopping 17 seconds behind someone in the same car that started 14 positions further down the grid.


11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Rbpt441:25:52.89426
211Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Rbpt44+17.841s18
355Carlos SainzFerrari44+26.886s15
463George RussellMercedes44+29.140s12
514Fernando AlonsoAlpine Renault44+73.256s10
616Charles LeclercFerrari44+74.936s8
731Esteban OconAlpine Renault44+75.640s6
85Sebastian VettelAston Martin Aramco Mercedes44+78.107s4
910Pierre GaslyAlphatauri Rbpt44+92.181s2
1023Alexander AlbonWilliams Mercedes44+101.900s1
1118Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes44+103.078s0
124Lando NorrisMclaren Mercedes44+104.739s0
1322Yuki TsunodaAlphatauri Rbpt44+105.217s0
1424Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo Ferrari44+106.252s0
153Daniel RicciardoMclaren Mercedes44+107.163s0
1620Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari43+1 lap0
1747Mick SchumacherHaas Ferrari43+1 lap0
186Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes43+1 lap0
NC77Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo Ferrari1DNF0
NC44Lewis HamiltonMercedes0DNF0

Note - Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Leclerc received a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.