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SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 30: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on July 30, 2023 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Belgian Grand Prix: Verstappen laughs his way to win ten

SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 30: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on July 30, 2023 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen turned P6 on the grid with another majestic drive to win the Belgian Grand Prix, Round 12 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship at Spa-Francorchamps, having a laugh along the way to his tenth victory of the season.

From P6 on a dry track, Verstappen was majestic as he scythed his way through the field. On lap 15 he was glued to the rear wing of Perez’s Red Bull, stalking his teammate patiently for almost a full lap, Max pounced to take the lead where he stayed for 44 laps. Controlling the race, in another stellar display of superiority justified his Betway F1 betting odds as outright favourite.

Once in the lead, Verstappen set about destroying the opposition with delightful ease if you are part of his booming Orange Army that were out in force. Driver of the Day was obvious. But pure agony for the other 19 drivers and nine teams, after other impressive points haul this weekend in his mother Sophie Kumpen’s homeland.

Late in the race he even had a laugh, romping to victory he even suggested to his RBR engineer Gianpiero Lambiase he goes faster and makes a pitstop for practice! And because he could.

A little bit of pitstop training?

SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 30: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on July 30, 2023 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Verstappen piped up with a laugh: “I could also push on and we do another stop? A little bit of pit stop training.”
Lambiase replied: “No, not this time.”

Three Spa victories in a row for Max, his eighth in a row and now the 2023 F1 World Champion trophy can be mailed to his address.

Verstappen said in parc ferme on the occasion of his 45th F1 victory: “It’s a new spot (winning from) P6. I knew that we had a great car and it was just about surviving Turn One. I could see it getting really tight so I was just going to stay out of that and it worked out.

“From there onwards we made the right overtakes and moves. I got a bit stuck in a DRS train at the start but once that cleared I could do my own pace. Again, really enjoyable.

“I did slow down (after GP’s radio message). We look at the numbers, we look at the wear of the tyre and this track is super hard on the tyre so you don’t want to do any unnecessary things and that’s what we did until the end.”

Verstappen: I had a little sideways moment

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“Eau Rouge is the worst corner to have a moment. It was tricky in those laps where it was raining because you could see it was raining but no how much so I had a little sideways moment, luckily nothing happened but it’s certainly not a corner you want it to happen,” explained the World Champ.

Perez did what he had to do, finish second at least. But the gap of 22 seconds showed that he simply had no ammo to fight his teammate at any stage in the race, But he is finally delivering what he is expected to do. Anything less than second place in the mighty RB19 for him is a failure.

The Mexican summed up his race: “It was a good race for the team.  We had a great start and managed to get through Charles, which was one of the targets of today. From then on, I was just doing my own race.

“Max came through in the second stint pretty fast. There was nothing I could have done there. Afterwards, it was just about making sure we brought it home safely without too much damage to the car.

“It’s been a bit of a rough patch, but we overcome and today we managed to score great points for the team. I really need the summer break. It’s been really intense for the last few races. I look forward to it and will come back very strong,” added Perez.

Charles Leclerc was third for Ferrari who proved to have the second-best car on the day, but simply no match for Red Bull, let alone Verstappen.

Leclerc: If you look at Red Bull we still have a lot of work to do

Leclerc: If you look at Red Bull we still have a lot of work to do belgian grand prix

The Ferrari driver held station, unchallenged from behind but unable to challenge ahead despite starting from pole position. His teammate Carlos Sainz had a woeful day, a DNF after a coming together with Oscar Piastri on the opening lap.

Leclerc reflected after the race: “We’ve had quite a positive weekend on our side in terms of pace. In the race it went well on my side but a shame for Carlos as we had good pace. If you look at the Red Bull we still have a lot of work to do especially in terms of race pace as degradation and everything they are quite far ahead.

“I was told to do some fuel saving and this was quite big at the end so I was struggling a bit more. But the pace was there to keep Lewis behind and then he pitted for the fastest lap which made my life a bit easier,” explained Leclerc.

Mercedes had a solid day but will wince at the gap of nearly 50-seconds between Verstappen in P1 and Lewis Hamilton in P4, the seven-time F1 World Champion giving it all for the result but simply lacking the ammo to fight Leclerc who was 17 seconds up the road.

Piastri and Sainz were lap one turn one casualties

Piastri and Sainz were lap one turn one casualties

George Russell had a strong race too, finishing sixth, the Black Arrows split by a resurgent Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin in fifth. A good result amid a lean patch for Lawrence Stroll’s team. His son Lance was ninth. A handy double points score for Team Green at the Belgian Grand Prix.

McLaren did not live up to the expectations they set on Friday and Saturday at Spa. Piastri’s race lasted a lap, which was a shame as the F1 world were braced for more magic from the 22-year-old. But that lasted one corner, as he found out that two into one does not go, when Sainz in the Ferrari had similar ideas.

Another harsh welcome to F1 moment for a rookie. But as our editor Jad Mallak wrote recently: “His day will come.” Indeed it shall, but not this Sunday.

While it was not quite the kind of day he enjoyed at Silverstone and Hungaroring, Norris had a yo-yo race with a car that was clearly set up for high downforce aka rain, which never really came. But some smart strategy moves and another gutsy performance by Lando meant seventh place at the end of a tough day for McLaren.

Esteban Ocon turned P14 to eighth place after another strong performance, on a weekend his Alpine team need as much morale boosting as possible amid upheavals within the organisation. Pierre Gasly was unlucky not to score p[points, running strongly but compromised by a pitstop slip-up by the French team.

Gasly finished 11th, denied a point by his former AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda late in the race who delivered another good result, while comeback man Daniel Ricciardo, in the sister car was never in it after a poor Qualifying. He was 16th.

Horner: We’ve won 20 of the last 21 which is an incredible achievement

Horner: We’ve won 20 of the last 21 which is an incredible achievement

Final word to the Belgian Grand Prix winning Red Bull team principal Christian Horner: “We want to keep the momentum going, taking it one race at a time and great to see another 1-2. I never dreamed of getting to this point unbeaten.

“That’s never been achieved before and we’ll come back after the break and see if we can keep this amazing momentum rolling over as many races as we possibly can. We’ve won 20 of the last 21 which is an incredible achievement.

“It might not be popular with the fans because it’s predictable but we’re just focused on trying to extract the best that we can and it’s a very special moment for this team because it’s historic – 1988 was the last time anything like this was achieved.

“To think that we’ve been the team able to break that is something we could have only dreamt about,” declared Horner, who is the longest-serving F1 team principal with RBR since January 2005.

2023 Belgian Grand Prix Result

2023 Belgian Grand Prix f1 race result graphic

How the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix unfolded

The grid gathered under sunny skies for the 56th Belgian Grand Prix held at Spa-Franorchamps, but rain-laden clouds were heading to ‘watch’ the Grand Prix too. Apart from a handful of minutes where it rained without ambition, but largely the heavenly waters behaved.

Start top ten: LEC-PER-HAM-SAI-PIA-VER-NOR-RUS-ALO-STR with both McLarens on Mediums as well as the Aston Martins and Russell. Top four and Verstappen on Softs.

Clean start for all except Piastri who sustained damage after contact with Sainz. The rookie parked the McLaren, a DNF a sad bump back to earth after a stellar Saturday for the outstanding Aussie.

Perez got a good drive up the Kemmel straight to nip into the lead over Leclerc. Top 10 on Lap 2 PER-LEC-HAM-VER-SAI-ALO-NOR-TSU-ALB-STR

Albon is the highest climber up six places into P9. Verstappen on Hamilton’s tail and flying. Sainz is under attack from Alonso.

Perez at the front set the fastest lap on lap 4, as Alonso slipped by Sainz into fifth. Norris dropped out of the points as his high downforce McLaren was not working at Spa on Sunday.

Russell also got by into tenth at that point. But all eyes on Albon, chasing Sainz with intent. Ultra-fast Williams was thriving in the conditions. On Lap 6 Albon was seventh, stalking a fired-up Tsunoda in sixth.

At the end of the Kemmel straight, Verstappen made his move on Hamilton. The RBR driver into P3 with relative ease. Targeting Leclerc a little over a second but shrinking as Verstappen pumped the fastest laps for good measure.

On lap 8 a bunch of cars streamed into the pits to cover Norr who boxed for hards. But emerging from the pits he was ambushed and down in 14th. But the top ten had yet to stop at that point.

On Lap 9, another end of Kemmel straight Verstappen pass, this time on Leclerc to claim second place. Three seconds behind teammate Perez. A one-two on the Red Bull agenda.

Lap 10 the top ten were: PER-VER-LEC-HAM-ALO-STR-RUS-GAS-HUL-ALB

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Albon and Tsunoda were slugging it for the final point-paying position. While Hulkenberg on old tyres was holding up Alonso on fresher rubber fighting for eighth. On lap 12 the Aston slipped by at Kemmel’s end.

Hamilton pitted for Mediums a lap later, emerging ahead of Stroll for another fight. At the front, Perez had a 2.2s lead when he boxed from the lead, a tardy one by RBR standards.

At which point Verstappen got tetchy on the radio, as he questioned strategy. A lap later, Max went safe and pitted from the lead despite rain looming. Verstappen emerging 2.3s behind his teammate. Stalemate at the front and behind too. Except for Stroll, Russell and Alono feuding for sixth, as Hamilton popped the fastest lap, chasing Leclerc in third. The Aston got past the Mercedes.

On lap 16, Verstappen was under Perez’s wing. Patiently the #1 car stalked the #11, well placed onto the Kemmel straight Max cruised past to take the lead. And the win.

The rain started to spit on lap 18. Verstappen was now the fastest man on track, as those busy umbrellas began springing to life around the packed venue.

Lap 20 the order was VER-PER-LEC-HAM-ALO-RUS-GAS-STR-TSU-OCO

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Gasly, Stroll, Tsunoda and Ocon were in a humdinger of a battle for seventh. Russell and Gasly had yet to pit at this point. Things got interesting, as one section of the track was dry, while at Les Coombs the rain began.. Verstappen had a huge moment on lap 22.

Russell boxed finally, for Softs. Only Gasly remained on the Softs he started with. Notably, the man on the move was Norris who had dropped down the order. But as conditions demanded more grip, the McLaren came alive.

On Lap 24, Gasly pitted, but the stop was long and his hard first stint work was for nought. That meant Norris was up to eighth on Lap 25, until an even faster Russell eased past the McLaren to take P8.

At the front, Verstappen had gapped it to 6.7s over Perez, who had a similar margin over Leclerc, followed by Hamilton three seconds adrift. Then a big 14.0s gap to Alonso, who was 24 seconds ahead of Russell.

Lap 30 the top ten were: VER-PER-LEC-HAM-ALO-RUS-NOR-STR-TSU-ALB

At which point Perez boxed from second to cover a Leclerc undercut. A lap later Verstappen was in for fresh Softs. Emerging nine seconds ahead of Perez.

It was a stalemate among the top ten. But not at the front, as Verstappen set about destroying the opposition with delightful ease if you are part of his booming Orange Army.

Hamilton stole the fastest lap from Max with a late race effort.

Lap 40 was VER-PER-LEC-HAM-ALO-RUS-NOR-STR-OCO-TSU with no real changes in sight.

2023 Belgian Grand Prix Starting grid

2023 Belgian Grand Prix f1 starting grid