World champion Max Verstappen came from sixth on the grid to take first at the Belgian Grand Prix, winning ahead of his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
When the five red lights went out, polesitter Leclerc went across Perez’s bows to maintain the lead at the La Source hairpin, where Carlos Sainz, starting fourth, locked up and then collided with Oscar Piastri running just behind from fifth on the grid on the inside.
The McLaren was pinched against the inside wall, damaging its suspension and ripping the side of the Ferrari’s right-side sidepod, with Piastri slowing on the run downhill to Eau Rouge and later stopping on the first lap of 44.
Up ahead, Perez used his RB19’s straight-line speed to fly by Leclerc into the lead the first time they ran up the Kemmel straight and he quickly built a DRS-breaking lead.
Verstappen was by the end of lap one up to fourth from his abnormally low grid spot, earned for taking a fifth gearbox of the season this Belgian Grand Prix weekend, where he remained behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who had started third, and Leclerc over the first phase of the race as Perez continued to pull clear ahead.
But when Hamilton lost DRS to Leclerc on lap six, Verstappen pounced going up the Kemmel straight and, with DRS himself, had enough to make a move to the inside and seal third position.
He then pursued Leclerc, whose gap to the lead had stabilised somewhat at just over two seconds, but as the end of the opening ten laps approached it had eked out again to three seconds.
On lap nine, Verstappen shot to Leclerc’s outside as the pair traversed the Kemmel straight, with the Ferrari defending the inside, but it was an unsuccessful defence as Verstappen braked later and swept ahead at the first part of Les Combes.
Perez’s gap to his team-mate was still the same he had over Leclerc at the start of lap 10, but over the next stage of the race Verstappen gradually ate into that advantage.
On lap 13, with Perez’s lead down to 2.4 seconds, he came into the pits – just after Verstappen and his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase had another team radio spat, this time apparently about the times the Red Bull drivers were being asked to do, with the defending champion concerned both cars would do the same.
On that same lap, Perez pitted, his stop nearly a second longer with a lot of sparks coming off his left-rear wheel and with Leclerc coming by as he pitted from third at the same time, as they switched the softs they had started on for mediums.
Verstappen was brought in at the end of the following tour having been asked if he could make it staying out on his softs until predicted rain arrived around half-distance, which he dismissed.
The second Red Bull stop was a second quicker than the first and that all added up to Perez’s lead being down to 1.5 seconds on Verstappen’s out-lap and that was down to 1.1 seconds on lap later, with the chaser soon getting DRS on the Kemmel straight for the first time.
Inevitably, the next time by at the same spot, Verstappen powered into the lead with an outside line DRS-run heading on the straight – easily went ahead of Perez, who tucked in behind his teammate.
Verstappen stayed on it to snap Perez’s DRS threat on the same lap, then shot to a near four-second lead by the time the rain arrived on lap 20.
It stayed light initially, but times went up by nearly three seconds for the leaders and Verstappen nearly dropped his car running through Eau Rouge one lap later.
That did not reduce his momentum, however, as he was soon over five-seconds clear of Perez, as the rain remained light compared to the deluges that delayed the sprint qualifying and race.
It eased off completely around half-distance, with Verstappen then ploughing on to extend his lead to near ten seconds by the time the leaders prepared for a second round of pit stops.
As the leaders had made a longer stint on the softs work better than many in the pack behind on full fuel tanks, the red-walled rubber was the compound of choice for the final run to the flag.
Hamilton, who started to close in on Leclerc in fourth during their stint on the mediums before dropping back again as it wore on, was the first to come in on lap 27.
Leclerc was brought in the next time by to cover the Mercedes, which had to fight by Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin as the Ferrari rejoined.
This phase cut Leclerc’s advantage, such as the undercut’s power, that Hamilton was the closest he had been Charles since Verstappen came by in the early laps, but again the Ferrari was able to pull away.
Red Bull made the same strategy call with Perez coming in on lap 29 and Verstappen on lap 30, after which the leader set a fastest lap nearly two seconds quicker than the personal best Perez had just achieved.
This earned a rebuke from Lambiase, who asked Verstappen to “use your head a bit more” as his pace immediately on his out-lap and then on the flier being deemed “not very sensible” with the soft still showing “reasonable deg”.
Verstappen suggested pushing on and stopping again just like Austria, but this was given short no as the lead rose to 12.4 seconds by lap 34.
From there, Verstappen continued pulling away and eventually won with a crushing victory of 22.3 seconds over Perez, who was 9.9 seconds ahead of Leclerc.
Hamilton had been running a few seconds adrift of the final podium spot when he was pitted with two laps to go to switch back to the mediums for a final stint, which he used to deprive Verstappen of the fastest lap as the Mercedes driver set that on the final lap, with a one minute, 47.305 seconds against the Red Bull driver’s one minute, 48.922 seconds set during that initial period after his second stop.
So a brilliant weekend for Max Verstappen. Winning the sprint and the main Grand Prix. The five-pace grid penalty wasn’t a problem for the world champion and his race pace is just unreal. Eight consecutive wins this season is mighty impressive and it will be fascinating if the other teams/drivers can challenge as the sport head into the summer break.
Belgian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:22:30.450
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull +22.305s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +32.259s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +49.671s
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +56.184s
6 George Russell Mercedes +63.101s
7 Lando Norris McLaren +73.719s
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine +74.719s
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +79.340s
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +80.221s
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine +83.084s
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +85.191s
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +95.441s
14 Alexander Albon Williams +96.184s
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas +101.754s
16 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +103.071s
17 Logan Sargeant Williams +104.476s
18 Nicolas Hulkenberg Haas +110.450s
Carlos Sainz Ferrari DNF
Oscar Piastri McLaren DNF