Race Report: Verstappen wins Belgian GP

CIRCUIT DE SPA FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM - JULY 30: Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, and Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, 3rd position, on the podium during the Belgian GP at Circuit de Spa Francorchamps on Sunday July 30, 2023 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Andy Hone / LAT Images)

The Belgian F1 Grand Prix weekend was a rain-impacted affair but Sunday, hope sprung eternal that a dry race was on the offering. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the race did have a brief moment of drizzle that did add some salt to an otherwise bland dish.

Max Verstappen didn’t make as quick work of it as some thought. It took several laps to haul himself up into the lead passing his teammate, Sergio Perez, and pulling out a significant gap to win the Belgian Grand Prix.

Max was followed by Sergio and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for the podium while Lewis Hamilton made a late stop from 4th to get a fresh set of Medium compounds and snag fastest lap away from Max.

Win

A big win for Max Verstappen and Red Bull who have secured their 12th consecutive win of the season, a record-breaking feat, and Max his 10th win of the season and 8th in a row. Sergio also had a good race, passing pole-sitter Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari early on for the lead and scoring a very important 2nd place both for the team and for himself. The win puts a stake in the ground on the first half of the season with an exceptionally performing team.

A win for Ferrari and Charles Leclerc who needed to convert their seemingly decent pace in Belgium to a good result. That manifest itself in a very good P3 result and that’s a good sign given their history of chewing up tires and the nature of the Spa Francorchamps circuit.

A win for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton in P4 and George Russell recovering to P6. Sure, Lewis wants to win the race but the Mercedes pace isn’t there yet. Despite that, they’ve made significant gains this year and they have to take stock in the hard work they’ve performed to move them into a real best-of-the-rest battle. A bit of a lonely race for Lewis but he did say the bouncing was back.

A win for Aston Martin with both Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll in the points. Fernando’s P5 and Lance’s P9 is a good point shall but perhaps it also shows that the rumors of their spiraling pace deficit is not as bad as all that.

A win for Yuki Tsunoda who is facing stiff competition from Daniel Ricciardo coming into the team and his 10th place is a good answer with Daniel languishing down in P16.

Fail

A fail for both Oscar Piastri and Carlos Sainz who both tried to take the apex at turn 1 ending both their races. To be fair, it was a racing incident at best and contextually you could see how both of them were really not at much fault. I was a bit surprised Ferrari chose to keep Carlos out as long as they did when there was no sign of hope given the extent of his damage. Save the engine!

A fail for McLaren who had made such gains over the last three races but trimming the car out for a higher downforce may have been a gamble for rain that didn’t pan out but it left them off the pace of the Mercedes and Aston Martins. Lando said he couldn’t pass a single car down he straight given their lack of straight-line pace.

WTH

Don’t ask me about the national anthem, I am not sure what was going on there but that was one of the longest capes I’ve seen. I assume that is a popular singer of some note in Belgium but I’m not familiar with the artist.

Just FYI Sky Sports, Carlos Sainz’s race wasn’t more impacted than Piastri’s after the collision. They were both out. Just throw it to Martin or Ant if you would like to get a clear insight to what’s going on in the race please.

The track evolution was interesting given the soft compounds at the beginning of the race were struggling but by the end of the race, the softs did very well with Lando running until the end on Softs.

Pirelli Tire Story:

Medium and Soft were the most used compounds during the race, with the Hard only used by Norris for 12 laps in his second stint. 13 drivers opted to start on Softs, seven on Medium. The softest of the three compounds Pirelli brought here proved to be very competitive, also giving the teams greater flexibility in terms of strategy, with seven drivers opting to push right from the start, stopping before lap 10 (Sainz also pitted having sustained car damage) while others extended the stint as much as possible, like Gasly for example, who pitted after 23 laps. Those who started on Mediums also adopted different strategies: Russell managed to do 22 laps, Stroll just two fewer, while Tsunoda stopped on lap 9 and Alonso on 10. This compound was the out and out choice for the second stint, with much more similar stint lengths, in a window between 15 and 20 laps.

The most critical moment of this phase came shortly after half-distance when, for around ten minutes, it rained slightly. Lap times rapidly increased, reaching the limit for the crossover point to intermediates, but then the rain stopped and the track dried quickly. For the final stages, based partly on what had been learned in the first part of the race, the Soft was back in favour with the teams and drivers. Here too the stint lengths varied: the first three finishers completed a similar distance (Verstappen 14, Perez 15 and Leclerc 16), Norris did 27, while Ocon and Zhou ran for 19 while Tsunoda and Hulkenberg did 20.

Three drivers did just one stop – Russell, Stroll and Gasly – the first two of these finishing in the points, while the Frenchman was just outside in 11th. Another trio, the two Williams drivers and Lewis Hamilton, made three stops. In the case of the Williams pair it was for strategic reasons, while the seven times world champion came in for a set of new Mediums to secure the extra point for fastest race lap.

Belgian Grand Prix Results:

POSNODRIVERCARLAPSTIME/RETIREDPTS
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

* Provisional results. Note – Hamilton scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall Race
race-report-verstappen-wins-belgian-gpA good race with a few sprinkles to mix things up and the outside passes were terrific! I LOVE Spa!
5 1 vote
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Chris R

Red Bull also add to their unbroken record of broken trophies two races in a row. Exciting times for F1.

Fred

Despite McLaren’s high downforce setup fail, Norris in 7th was decent considering.

Worthless Opinion

I didn’t really understand how that wasn’t a penalty for Carlos given some of the penalties last week. But then that’s always the question and no two incidents are exactly the same. But when you slide on locked tires because you misjudged the whole thing, across the track and knock an innocent victim into a dnf, i mean if that’s not a penalty what do you have to do get out and club him one of those big podium champagnes? Some weeks it’s ‘anything goes in turn one’ and some weeks it’s not.