Red Bull driver Max Verstappen converted pole position into victory during Saturday’s Sprint race at the Belgian Grand Prix
The Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won Saturday’s Sprint race at the Belgian Grand Prix, taking the lead back from McLaren rival Oscar Piastri after the two drivers adopted different strategies in a captivating wet race.
In a race that saw plenty of action on the slippery Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly rounded out the podium, while Lewis Hamilton was demoted to seventh after clashing with Sergio Perez’s Red Bull and receiving a penalty for the incident.
After a brief respite following the Shootout, the heavens opened again just before the 1705 local time scheduled start of the Sprint – officials deciding to push it back 30 minutes to allow for the latest storm to pass.
Once the formation lap began on mandated full wet tyres behind the Safety Car (which turned into several laps), the sun had peeked through the clouds and lit up the track, promising an early switch to intermediates and possibly slick rubber as the race progressed.
When the Safety Car peeled into the pits, with the race now at 11 laps, several cars immediately boxed to swap wets for intermediates – Piastri, Carlos Sainz, Gasly, Hamilton, Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon, Lance Stroll, Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg.
Meanwhile, having stayed out and taken the rolling start, pole-sitter Verstappen held on to P1 ahead of Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon and George Russell, radioing that he needed to box this lap as he struggled to get his wet tyres to work in the ever-drying conditions.
After the first lap, Verstappen and the rest of the wet runners pitted, and Piastri’s rapid pace on the intermediate gave him the lead when Verstappen rejoined – setting up a thrilling race.
With a host of near-misses in the pit lane, Gasly finished third behind Piastri and Verstappen, with Perez fourth, Hamilton fifth, and Sainz rounding out the top six from Leclerc and Norris.
On Lap 4, Fernando Alonso spun his Aston Martin into the gravel after losing control of his car in the dirty air of a Haas, triggering a Safety Car just before Verstappen thought about passing Piastri, forcing him to restart again.
In response, Verstappen said he was “not surprised” since the McLaren had been drifting everywhere. The Red Bull pit wall sent Verstappen an intriguing radio message, saying: “Intel is Piastri left-hand tyre is already suffering.
Alonso’s car was cleared at the end of Lap 5, and Piastri led the restart for the first time, only to be overtaken by Verstappen down the Kemmel Straight.
As Hamilton and Perez battled for fourth position, Gasly held third, while the seven-time world champion made his way through around the outside of La Source.
With damage to his sidepod, Perez became a sitting duck, lost positions to Sainz and Leclerc shortly thereafter, then hit gravel at Stavelot and tumbled down the order, promoting Norris to seventh and Ricciardo to sixth.
As Verstappen cleared Piastri, he unleashed the raw power of his RB19 to surge into the distance, taking the chequered flag six seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
Hamilton came home fourth but then dropped all the way down to seventh after being penalized for causing a collision with Perez, who retired from racing. Gasly kept his composure to give the reshuffled Alpine team a morale-boosting podium.
Sainz moved up to fourth, Leclerc to fifth and Norris to sixth, with Russell making late moves on Ocon and Ricciardo to secure the final point, just missing out on a reward as he continues to impress in F1.
A five-second penalty for Logan Sargeant for speeding in the pit lane allowed Kevin Magnussen and Zhou Guanyu to gain spots after Stroll recovered from his Shootout crash to finish 11th, ahead of Albon and Bottas. While Perez and Alonso watched from the sidelines, Hulkenberg and Yuki Tsunoda finished second and third.