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Max Verstappen claims his eighth consecutive victory in 2023 at the Belgian Grand Prix

The teams headed to Belgium for round 13 of the 2023 Formula 1 season

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Max Verstappen took victory once again at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps Circuit, as the Dutchman moves one step closer to equalling Sebastian Vettel’s record. 

Max Verstappen
It took Verstappen just 17 laps to make his way into the lead of the race as he went on to win the Belgian Grand Prix. Credit: Mark Thompson via Getty Images

Verstappen fought back from P6 on the grid to win the Belgian Grand Prix as Red Bull make it another 1-2 finish this season with Perez taking second place. Charles Leclerc rounded out the podium places in third.

A recap of the weekend so far

F1 returned to its sprint format in Belgium. Heading into the weekend, Verstappen would have a five-place grid penalty to contend with for Sunday’s race after taking his fifth gearbox of the season.

The one and only practice session of the weekend saw Carlos Sainz top the timesheet with a 2:03.207. FP1 didn’t see too much running from the drivers due to the wet conditions. There was a Red Flag during the hour after Logan Sargeant hit the wall at Les Combes.

However, the big news coming out of first practice was that Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer and Sporting Director Alan Permane would be leaving the team following the conclusion of the Belgian Grand Prix. Szafnauer will be replaced by Bruno Famin on an interim basis before the summer break. Silly season may have just begun.

In Qualifying, the flying Dutchman took pole position for the Grand Prix with a 1:46.168. However, Leclerc would start from P1 on Sunday due to Verstappen’s penalty, meaning that the two-time world champion drops down to sixth on the grid. Sergio Perez joined the Monegasque driver on the front row as Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top three.

After Qualifying, Kevin Magnussen was handed a three-place grid penalty for the race on Sunday for impeding Leclerc. This would drop the Danish driver from P13 to P16 for the Grand Prix.

The Sprint Shootout saw Verstappen once again claim top spot on the grid for Saturday’s Sprint race. However, this time he would start from P1 after receiving a grid penalty for the Grand Prix. Oscar Piastri claimed a on front row start for the first time in his F1 career after missing out pole by eleven thousands of a second. Carlos Sainz and his Ferrari team-mate would start on the second row.

Sprint Qualifying was not without some drama. The session was delayed by 35 minutes due to the wet conditions. There was also a Red Flag in SQ2 after Lance Stroll found himself in the barrier, as he made the switch from wet tyres to slicks. This meant that his team-mate Fernando Alonso failed to make a top ten appearance for the first time in 2023 after failing to set a lap time.

Verstappen took victory in the Sprint race which was again delayed by 35 minutes due to the weather. Piastri took second place as Pierre Gasly rounded out the top three to give Alpine some much needed points.

The race started under the safety car for five laps before a rolling start commenced. This meant that there were only 11 laps of racing instead of the 15 laps that was originally set.

Half of the grid pitted straight the way from wet tyres to inters. This allowed Piastri to get ahead of Verstappen and into the lead of the race.

Then on lap four, the safety car was bought out after Alonso took too much curb and spun off into the gravel. The Spaniard was out of the race on the day of his 42nd Birthday.

Piastri’s lead was short lived as Verstappen overtook the Aussie on the race restart on lap six. Whilst the Dutchman regained the lead, his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was having a disastrous race.

The Mexican driver had an intense battle with Hamilton. There appeared to be some contact between both drivers and damage to Perez’s car. A couple of laps later, Checo would pull into the pit lane and retire. Hamilton would receive a five second time penalty for causing a collision and because of this, it would see him finish in P4 but drop down to P7.

Verstappen extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship with another Sprint race victory this season. With this being an eventful weekend so far, everything was set up for a great race on Sunday.

The starting grid

Lights out and away we go

Leclerc got a great start of the line as he led into Turn 1. Piastri got compromised going into the first corner as he damaged his front wing and suspension. Sainz also sustained damage as he locked up into the first turn and hit the McLaren driver. Perez made his way into the lead of the race on the main straight into Turn 5, overtaking the Monegasque driver. Verstappen found himself up in P4 on the first lap.

Piastri brought out the Yellow flag after stopping at the side of the track on Lap two. Due to the damage, the Australian driver was out of the race. However, there was no need for a Safety car as the racing continued.

On lap four, Alonso overtook Sainz and moved up to fifth as Alex Albon made a move on Lando Norris to put himself in P8. Lance Stroll and George Russell then overtook the British driver who was struggling with his set up as he found himself in P11 on lap five.

The first pitstops

Norris then made an early pitstop a lap later, as he came back out in P17 after suffering a slow stop. Verstappen would move ahead of Hamilton on the same lap and up into the top three. More drivers made their way into the pits including Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas, who switched for the medium tyres.

Stroll and Russell moved ahead of Sainz, as the Spaniard would pit on lap eight for the medium compound. Sainz came back out onto the track in P18 with a lot of work to do.

Verstappen made his way up into second place on lap nine after overtaking Leclerc into Turn 5. The Dutchman found himself three seconds behind his team-mate, as he looked to chase the Mexican down.

Yuki Tsunoda, who found himself all the way up in P6 on lap 10, came into the pits for mediums. The Japanese driver would come back out onto the track in P11. Alonso then made his first stop of the race, putting on the hard tyres, as he exited out of the pitlane in P9. The two-time world champion continued to battle Nico Hulkenberg, who started the race from the pitlane for eighth place.

Hamilton pitted on lap 13 and onto the mediums as he came back out in P4. Perez then made his stop a lap later as Verstappen took the lead of the race for the time being.

Verstappen takes the lead of the race

Verstappen who had not pitted yet, took the lead of the race on lap 14. The Red Bull driver was told on his radio that rain was expected in the next ten minutes as he decided to pit for mediums. Perez would regain first place. However, two laps later, Verstappen was right on Checo’s tail as he looked to make a move on his team-mate.

From sixth on the grid, it took Verstappen 17 laps to take the lead of the race as he overtook Perez before Turn 5.

Norris pitted once again this time for the soft tyres as he endured another slow stop. On lap 19, Verstappen was out of DRS from Perez behind him.

Tsunoda moved ahead of Stroll on Lap 20 and into P8. Stroll then decided to pit for the softs a lap later as the rain began to fall.

Halfway into the race, Verstappen had already built up over a five second lead on his team-mate, as the rain continued to come down.

Second round of stops

The drivers started to make their second stops. Russell pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres as he re-entered the track in P15. Gasly was the only man who had not made a pitstop after 24 laps. The Frenchman would soon come in and pit for medium tyres. However, he had a slow stop and came back out in P16.

Sainz would enter the pits on lap 25 and retire due to the damage he sustained earlier in the race after colliding with Piastri on the first lap.

More drivers continued to enter the pits as we saw some teams move back onto the soft tyres, with others opting for mediums.

Hamilton would then pit again on lap 28, coming back out on track in P5. A lap later, Ferrari would react to this by pitting Leclerc as he re-entered the track in P3. Hamilton then moved up into P4 after overtaking Alonso.

Perez and Alonso then pitted on lap 30 for soft tyres. They both came back out onto the track in P2 and P5.

A great battle between Gasly and Albon ensued on Lap 33, as the Alpine driver moved ahead of the Williams man and into P11. Albon would pit a lap later for soft tyres and come back out in P18.

The closing stages

With 10 laps remaining, Verstappen had more than a 13 second lead over Perez in second place. However, the Dutchman was told of by his race engineer for pushing his tyres too hard, as Gianpiero Lambiase made it clear to Verstappen to take things easy. Verstappen then complained to his team over the radio about the windy conditions.

With 5 laps remaining, Verstappen had extended his lead over Perez to nearly 18 seconds as Red Bull looked very comfortable for another 1-2 finish this season. Leclerc was sat in third, around 5 seconds behind Checo.

Hamilton pitted on the penultimate lap to go for the fastest lap in the race, which he would get as picked up an extra point.

As we entered onto the final lap, Verstappen would come across the line to win the Belgian Grand Prix, finishing over 22 seconds ahead of his team-mate.

Full Classification

F1 now heads into the summer break. Racing action will return in a months time at Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix.

Feature Image Credit: (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)

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