Monday, June 24, 2024

Verstappen Leads Red Bull 1-2 At Spa

Max Verstappen secured his tenth win of the season at the 2023 Belgium Grand Prix, ahead of Sergio Pérez with Oracle Red Bull Racing securing their first 1-2 since the Miami Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc came home third to finish on the podium for Scuderia Ferrari and there were multiple interesting and exciting battles further down the order.

What Happened in the Race?

Leclerc had a strong start, successfully fending off Pérez at Turn One, while Piastri got entangled with Sainz, resulting in a broken front wing for Oscar Piastri and damage for Carlos Sainz Jr. Despite the clear loss of pace, Sainz was instructed to continue racing with the damaged car. Pérez eventually overtook Leclerc on the Kemmel Straight, with Hamilton and Verstappen closing in on him.

Piastri became the first retirement from the race due to suspension damage, ending his chances after a promising sprint race. Sainz, with a damaged SF-23 and a hole in the sidepod, struggled to hold his position, allowing Fernando Alonso to pass him. A train of drivers, including Yuki Tsunoda and Alex Albon, formed behind Sainz, while Lance Stroll and George Russell managed to overtake Lando Norris to enter the points-paying positions, with the Briton struggling and later having a slow pit stop, dropping him to seventeenth.

As Lewis Hamilton complained about Leclerc’s track limit violations at Turn Nine, he had his own troubles, with Verstappen overtaking him at La Source to take third place. Sainz’s woes continued, with Williams Racing rookie Logan Sargeant pushing him out of the top-ten, prompting a pit stop for the Ferrari driver, who continued racing despite the issues.

Norris also faced a challenging race, as a tyre change from mediums to hards did not improve his pace, leading to overtakes by Albon and Esteban Ocon, and eventually his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Verstappen managed to secure a Red Bull 1-2 on lap nine, using the slipstream and his car’s straight-line speed to pass Leclerc at Les Combes and move up to second place, three seconds behind Pérez at that point.

Credit: Peter Fox/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Hamilton was the first among the leading drivers to pit on lap thirteen, opting for medium tyres. Perez followed suit a lap later, giving up the lead, and Leclerc also pitted. Verstappen made his pit stop on lap fifteen and rejoined the race just 1.8 seconds behind his teammate.

Just a few laps later, Verstappen closed in on his teammate and seized the lead on lap seventeen, effortlessly overtaking him on the Kemmel Straight. Within just two laps, the reigning World Champion had built an almost a three second gap. Behind the Red Bull duo, Russell made a move on Stroll, while Pierre Gasly closely followed on the back of the Aston Martin. These three drivers were the only ones yet to make their pit stops, as their teams warned them about the approaching rain.

Soon after, the rain arrived as Verstappen informed his team on lap twenty one about the worsening conditions. Despite the rain, Aston Martin Armaco Cognizant F1 Team took a gamble and brought Stroll in for soft tyres. Other drivers were struggling in the rain, including Verstappen who had a big snap. However, Norris found his rhythm and performed his first overtake of the race, passing Sargeant around the outside. Russell also pitted for soft tires, and Gasly made his pit stop as the last driver to do so.

The rain persisted for a few laps, benefiting Verstappen, who managed to maintain his lead despite his lap times dropping into the 1:51s. Norris, on the other hand, lost a position to fellow countryman Russell. As the second round of pit stops unfolded, Verstappen comfortably held a nine-second lead over Perez, with Leclerc in third, under pressure from Hamilton, who was twenty-three seconds ahead of Alonso.

In the final ten laps, Gasly and Albon engaged in a battle for eleventh place, with Gasly ultimately passing Albon. Valtteri Bottas also joined the fight, as Albon later pitted, taking him out of contention. Ocon made a move on Tsunoda, diving up the inside of the Scuderia AlphaTauri, while further back, Ricciardo was involved in a tussle with the Haas drivers for thirteen place.

Verstappen’s race engineer expressed concern about his tyre management, but the Dutchman preferred to push hard and pit again if necessary, though the team ruled that out. Despite the tension, Verstappen cruised through the closing laps and secured his victory, the tenth of the season and eighth in a row. Pérez’s second-place finish marked Red Bull’s first 1-2 since the Miami Grand Prix, and Leclerc achieved Ferrari’s second podium result of the season. Hamilton finished fourth, and his late pit stop earned him the fastest lap point, crossing the line ahead of Alonso and Russell.

Norris managed to recover from a difficult first half of the race, securing points with a seventh-place finish. Ocon, Stroll, and Tsunoda completed the points-scoring positions.

1 1 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 44 1:22:30.450 25
2 11 Sergio Perez RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 44 +22.305s 18
3 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 44 +32.259s 15
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 44 +49.671s 13 (FL)
5 14 Fernando Alonso ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 44 +56.184s 10
6 63 George Russell MERCEDES 44 +63.101s 8
7 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES 44 +73.719s 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 44 +74.719s 4
9 18 Lance Stroll ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 44 +79.340s 2
10 22 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 44 +80.221s 1
11 10 Pierre Gasly ALPINE RENAULT 44 +83.084s 0
12 77 Valtteri Bottas ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 44 +85.191s 0
13 24 Zhou Guanyu ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 44 +95.441s 0
14 23 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS MERCEDES 44 +96.184s 0
15 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 44 +101.754s 0
16 3 Daniel Ricciardo ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 44 +103.071s 0
17 2 Logan Sargeant WILLIAMS MERCEDES 44 +104.476s 0
18 27 Nico Hulkenberg HAAS FERRARI 44 +110.450s 0
NC 55 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 23 DNF 0
NC 81 Oscar Piastri MCLAREN MERCEDES 0 DNF 0