Verstappen eases to third consecutive win at Spa-Francorchamps

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

Starting from 6th was the least of Max Verstappen's problems as he soon returned to the front and built a lead that made winning look easy once again. Sergio Perez was no match to his teammate and finished second while Charles Leclerc had a good race for Ferrari to complete the podium.

Following a series of wet to damp sessions on Friday and Saturday the sun greeted the F1 circus for the Belgian Grand Prix. Rain was still a possibility but not in the minds of the drivers when they took their positions for the start of the race.

The top 4 (Leclec, Perez, Hamilton and Sainz) plus Verstappen started on softs, the rest of the top 10 on medium. All others also went for soft tyres while Hulkenberg started from the pitlane on mediums.

When the lights went out Leclerc comfortable held on to the lead into La Source but the slipstream at the Kemmel straight was too powerful to hold back the Red Bull leading to Perez taking over P1. Hamilton held on to P3 while Verstappen rapidly passed Piastri and then also Sainz before Les Combes.

Piastri incurred damage due to contact with Sainz at Turn 1 and fall back quickly before parking his car at the Pif Paf chicane to retire. Piastri was simply squeezed between the Ferrari and the barriers and couldn't prevent the damage.

Alonso behind had a solid start and gained three positions to 6th while Tsunoda moved up from 11th to 7th. Norris followed in 8, Albon gained 6 places to 9th with Stroll holding on to 10th.

Sainz also incurred some damage from the Turn 1 incident and soon had Alonso right behind him. A hole in his sidepod allowed Alonso to make an easy pass on the Kemmel straight on lap 4 while son more cars were eager to take on the Ferrari. Tsunoda passed Sainz at Les Combes the next lap followed by Albon at Bus Stop.

Moments later Hamilton lost DRS from Leclerc ahead and immediately saw Verstappen breeze past on the straight to move up into third place, immediately resulting in the fastest lap thus far for the Dutchman. By then, Perez had pulled a 2.2s advantage over the Ferrari driver.

As Sainz continued to drop behind and pitted without the crew even attempting to patch the hole in the sidepod, Verstappen passed the leading Ferrari of Leclerc for second place, then 2.8s behind his Mexican teammate.

Of the top runners, Alonso was the first to pit. The Aston Martin driver pitted on lap 11 and took on a fresh set of medium tyres, following up his medium stint since the start. The Spaniard rejoined ahead of Hulkenberg but the Haas driver got ahead and then held him up for a lap.

Hamilton was more lucky with his stop 2 laps later. The Mercedes driver emerged ahead of Stroll and Russell and managed to emerge and stay ahead of Stroll and Russell. Perez and Leclerc pitted another lap later, followed by Verstappen the next lap. Verstappen was asked if he wanted to stay out since rain was expected in 9 minutes but pitted nonetheless, saying "I can't see the weather forecast, I don't know".

As Hamilton ran away from Stroll and Russell, the two fighters soon got company by Alonso who had just passed Gasly. Alonso pushed hard and whipped up some gravel at Stavelot before getting past Russell at Bus Stop and being allowed to pass by Stroll to take 5th again.

In front, Verstappen had taken the lead after getting up to speed with the medium tyres much quicker than Perez did. Verstappen seemed more at ease on the medium tyres and once past Perez put in two consecutive fastest laps to rapidly build a gap.

36 minutes into the race the rain returned! First only a few drops here and there but 5 minutes later Verstappen reported "quite a lot of rain". At that time, Stroll seemed to hit a cliff with his tyres and opted to pit, changing medium to softs. Russell did the same a minute later while it really rained properly at the pitlane and at the Raidillon, leading to Verstappen to have a bit of a moment there.

Other parts of the track remained dry and when the rain stopped about 5 minutes later the intermediates were ready to be returned to Pirelli.

Positions in the top 5 were pretty much fixed until Hamilton pitted on lap 28, trying to undercut Leclerc. The Mercedes driver ended up behind Alonso bit cleared him quickly. Leclerc covered Hamilton by pitting the next lap and sort of anulled the stops as the gap pretty much remained the same between them.

Perez, Alonso and Verstappen pitted soon after, bringing them back in the same positions, all on soft tyres. The only thing that really changed was for Alonso as he now had Russell at 2s and seemingly slightly quicker despite having 6 lap older tyres. Norris followed 3s further down the road with Stroll, Tsunoda and Ocon completing the top 10 with 11 laps remaining.

Nothing much happened anymore in front, except for some banter between Verstappen and his engineer. The latter first suggested to "use your head a bit more. The tyre you're on had quite a bit of deg in the first stint", but Verstappen was quick to respond: "I could also just go faster and we can do some pitstop practice".

Battling on track was more for the final points scoring positions. Ocon made some progress by passing Tsunoda with a magnificent more on the outside through Les Combes and then chased and passed Stroll for 8th.

At the end of lap 42 Hamilton opted to pit and take on brand new medium tyres. He could do so without losing a position to Alonso and went on to take fastest lap, snatching it away from Max Verstappen.


11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt441:22:30.45025
211Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt44+22.305s18
316Charles LeclercFerrari44+32.259s15
444Lewis HamiltonMercedes44+49.671s13
514Fernando AlonsoAston Martin Aramco Mercedes44+56.184s10
663George RussellMercedes44+63.101s8
74Lando NorrisMclaren Mercedes44+73.719s6
831Esteban OconAlpine Renault44+74.719s4
918Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes44+79.340s2
1022Yuki TsunodaAlphatauri Honda Rbpt44+80.221s1
1110Pierre GaslyAlpine Renault44+83.084s0
1277Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo Ferrari44+85.191s0
1324Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo Ferrari44+95.441s0
1423Alexander AlbonWilliams Mercedes44+96.184s0
1520Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari44+101.754s0
163Daniel RicciardoAlphatauri Honda Rbpt44+103.071s0
172Logan SargeantWilliams Mercedes44+104.476s0
1827Nico HulkenbergHaas Ferrari44+110.450s0
NC55Carlos SainzFerrari23DNF0
NC81Oscar PiastriMclaren Mercedes0DNF0