Pundits wouldn’t bet against Max Verstappen winning the Belgian GP

Michelle Foster
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Max Verstappen before the Hungarian GP. Hungaroring July 2022.

Red Bull's Christian Horner and Max Verstappen talk on the grid before the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hungaroring July 2022.

Max Verstappen could come from 15th on the grid to win the Belgian Grand Prix such is the “efficiency” of his RB18 at the Spa circuit.

That’s according to former F1 driver turned pundit Nico Hulkenberg.

After losing FP1 to Ferrari on Friday, Red Bull hit their stride in the day’s second practice and have dominated since.

Verstappen was eight-tenths up on Charles Leclerc in FP2, the team claimed the 1-2 in the weekend’s final practice with an advantage of six-tenths to Ferrari, and then blitzed them again in qualifying where Verstappen was 0.6s up.

The reigning World Champion laid down a 1:43.665 to beat Carlos Sainz to the fastest lap time but will start the grand prix down in 15th place due to engine penalties.

Red Bull made the call to fit Verstappen’s RB18 with a fresh power unit as Spa is a track where overtaking is possible.

But given his pace throughout the weekend, Hulkenberg reckons he could easily fight his way to third place or even win Sunday’s 44-lap grand prix.

The German told ServusTV: “Max can still do almost anything. The podium is realistic, with a Safety Car later in the race he could even win.”

The Aston Martin reserve driver shared his thoughts on why Verstappen and the Red Bull are so powerful around the Spa circuit.

“It’s the efficiency,” he said. “The Red Bull simply works very well here, the relationship between downforce, drag and the balance with the long corners on this track, it just fits like a glove.”

Paul di Resta was also impressed.

The Sky Sports pundit said: “It’s a statement from Red Bull. An incredible job and quite a hit to come out of the summer break like this – especially since they hardly brought any updates with them, they just fine-tuned the car.

“For the first time this year, Red Bull has more downforce than Ferrari, which is where their good times come from in the middle sector.”

The Scot reckons Verstappen will have an easier time working his way through the field than Charles Leclerc, the Ferrari driver also hit with engine penalties.

“Nevertheless, Red Bull still has a strong top speed,” he added. “Ferrari, on the other hand, has gone fully to top speed here, they have a similar package as in Canada, for example, because they have to overtake a lot again because of the penalty.”