Max Verstappen was seemingly in cruise control at the front of the Belgian Grand Prix, and his radio message towards the end of the race showed just how much of an advantage he held over the rest of the field.
Opening up a significant advantage after overtaking Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez for the lead of the race on lap 17, Verstappen had pitted for soft tyres and was pushing to build up more of a gap.
Even though race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase was warning Verstappen against using up too much performance from his tyres so as to have enough grip at the end, the reigning World Champion joked that he could take an extra pit stop instead.
Max Verstappen: ‘A little bit of pit stop training’ towards the end?
Verstappen ended up crossing the line 22 seconds clear of team-mate Perez, but while the gap was below the time required to pit again and come out ahead, the Dutchman was warned about taking too much life out of his soft compound tyres.
But in a sign of supreme confidence behind the wheel, Verstappen added in the possibility of putting in another pit stop to give the well-oiled Red Bull crew a bit more practice before breaking up for summer.
The radio exchange went as follows…
Lambiase: “This tyre had reasonable degradation in the first stint. I’d ask you to use your head a bit more.”
Verstappen later responded: “I could also push on and we do another stop? A little bit of pit stop training.”
Lambiase replied: “No. Not this time.”
Even though Lewis Hamilton pitted on the penultimate lap of the race and took the bonus point for fastest lap at the last opportunity, Verstappen extended his commanding lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship to 125 points at the summer break – or the equivalent of five race victories’ worth of points.
Verstappen’s points tally on his own would see him lead the Constructors’ Championship in his own right, with his 314-point tally outnumbering the 247 combined by both Mercedes drivers.