Max Verstappen came from sixth on the grid to overtake Sergio Perez on the track and win the Belgian Grand Prix, extending his streak to eight.
Losing his pole position through a grid penalty, Verstappen made short work of his rivals to run 1-2 behind Sergio Perez but any thought of the Dutchman gifting his team-mate a much-needed victory was quashed on lap 17 as he breezed past on the Kemmel Straight to lead at Spa.
Racing his way to the victory, his 10th of this season and eighth on the trot, with Perez P2 ahead of Charles Leclerc, it may not have been a thriller at the very front, but behind there was action and passes galore.
Sergio Perez leads the Belgian GP, problems for McLaren and Ferrari
Going into the race blind having had no dry running on high fuel, tyre choice for the opening stint saw a mix of softs and mediums with the first four on the grid; Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton, and Carlos Sainz, on the softs, Oscar Piastri on the mediums, Max Verstappen on the softs, and Lando Norris, George Russell, Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll on the mediums.
Leclerc made a good start as he was able to keep Perez behind him into Turn 1 while Piastri tangled with Sainz and was left with a broken front wing, Sainz too reporting “damage” but he was told to “carry on for now”. With Perez blasting past Leclerc on the Kemmel Straight, the pole-sitter then had Hamilton and Verstappen on his rear wing.
Piastri became the race’s first retirement as his suspension damage meant he stopped on the side of the track, Sprint race’s runner-up out of the grand prix.
With Sainz running in a damaged SF-23, a hole in the right side sidepod, Alonso made short work passing him as a train starting with Yuki Tsunoda formed up behind him, make that Alex Albon as the AlphaTauri overtook the Ferrari. Behind them Stroll and Russell overtook Norris to run in the points-paying positions. Norris pitted, a slow stop that dropped him to P17.
As Hamilton complained about the Ferrari of Leclerc going off at Turn 9, the Briton had problems of his own with Verstappen slipping up the inside at La Source to take third place. Sainz’s fall continued with Williams rookie Logan Sargeant the driver pushing him out of the top-ten with the Ferrari pitting the Spaniard… who continued.
Another driver having a bad afternoon was Norris who, despite swapping his mediums for hards, still had woeful pace and was overtaken by Albon and Ocon, one on the right and the other on the left. Losing a position to Daniel Ricciardo through Les Combes, Norris voiced his frustrations to his team.
Verstappen made it a Red Bull 1-2 on lap 9 as he used the slipstream, and his RB19’s superior straight-line speed, and went to the left of Leclerc heading toward the Les Combes chicane to move up to second. He was three seconds behind Perez at the time over the overtake.
Hamilton was the first of the frontrunners to pit, in on lap 13 for mediums, Perez was in a lap later as he relinquished the lead, Leclerc also in, and then Verstappen came in on lap 15 and come out 1.8s behind Perez. Team orders seemed to be in play at Red Bull, GP telling Verstappen to “use your head please” with the Dutchman asking his race engineer if it was the same for “both cars”.
Max Verstappen passes Sergio Perez for P1 at Spa
And then Verstappen closed right up, taking the lead on lap 17 as he breezed past his team-mate on the Kemmel Straight. Two laps later the reigning World Champion was already 2.8s ahead. Behind the Red Bull drivers Russell overtook Stroll with Pierre Gasly then on the Aston Martin’s rear wing, the trio the only three drivers yet to pit with their teams informing them rain is fast approaching.
And then the rain arrived. “It’s raining quite a lot,” Verstappen told Red Bull on lap 21. Aston Martin, though, brought Stroll in softs, a gamble given other drivers were starting to struggle in the conditions – even Verstappen had a big snap. But for Norris, his McLaren came to life with the Briton making his first overtake of the race as he took Sargeant around the outside. Russell also stopped for softs, and then in came the very last man to stop, Gasly.
The rain hung around for all of three laps, good news for Verstappen who dropped back into the 1:51s, bad news for Norris who lost a position to Russell. As the second round of pit stops played out, Verstappen retained a comfortable nine-second advantage over Perez with Leclerc in third but under pressure from Hamilton. The Mercedes driver was 23s up the road from Alonso.
Into the final 10 laps of the race and Gasly and Albon were racing for 11th place with Gasly passing Albon, the Williams driver trying to fight back, and Valtteri Bottas hounding them both before Albon exited the fight as he pitted. Ocon closed in on Tsunoda, diving up the inside of the AlphaTauri, while further back Ricciardo was tussling with the Haas drivers for 13th place.
Verstappen’s tense weekend with GP continued with the race engineer telling his driver to “use his head more” with tyre management, Verstappen saying he’d rather push hard and pit again, and GP letting him know that wasn’t an option. As the reigning World Champion cruised through the closing laps ahead of Perez, Ocon overtook Stroll for eighth, and the order of 13th to 17th, Zhou Guanyu to Nico Hulkenberg, changed almost lap after lap.
Verstappen clinched the victory, his 10th of this season and eighth in succession, with Perez recording Red Bull’s first 1-2 since the Miami Grand Prix, and Leclerc only Ferrari’s second podium result of the season. Hamilton was fourth with his late pit stop handing him the fastest lap point, the Mercedes driver crossing the line ahead of Alonso and Russell.
Norris recovered from a wretched first half of the race to score points in seventh place, Ocon, Stroll and Tsunoda completing the points.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +22.305
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +32.259
4 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +49.671
5 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +56.184
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes +63.101
7 Lando NORRIS McLaren +73.719
8 Esteban OCON Alpine +74.719
9 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +79.340
10 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +80.221
11 Pierre GASLY Alpine +83.084
12 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +85.191
13 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +95.509
14 Alexander ALBON Williams +96.188
15 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +101.583
16 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +102.978
17 Logan SARGEANT Williams +104.241
18 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +109.844
Did not finish
Carlos Sainz Ferrari – lap 23 – crash damage
Oscar Piastri McLaren – lap 1 – crash damage