Max Verstappen showed once again why he is the favorite to win the 2023 Formula One world championship, as he cruised to a dominant victory in the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday. The Red Bull driver overcame a five-place grid penalty for changing his engine and stormed his way from sixth to first in a masterful display of overtaking and pace. He crossed the finish line 17.8 seconds ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez, who completed a one-two for Red Bull. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took third place, his second podium of the season.
A chaotic start
The race started under wet conditions, with all the drivers opting for intermediate tires. Verstappen made a great getaway from sixth on the grid and quickly moved up to third by the end of the first lap. He passed Lando Norris for second on lap two and then set his sights on pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas.
Meanwhile, behind him, there was chaos and carnage. Lewis Hamilton, who started second, had a poor start and dropped to fourth. He then collided with Fernando Alonso in the first corner, damaging his front wing and puncturing his tire. He had to pit for repairs and rejoined at the back of the field.
Alonso was also out of the race, along with George Russell, who was hit by Sebastian Vettel at the same corner. Vettel spun and continued, but Russell’s Williams was badly damaged and he had to retire.
The safety car was deployed to clear the debris, and the race resumed on lap five.
A masterful drive
Verstappen wasted no time in attacking Bottas for the lead. He made a bold move on the inside of Les Combes on lap six and took the lead with ease. He then pulled away from the rest of the pack, setting the fastest laps and extending his gap.
Bottas was struggling with his tires and soon came under pressure from Perez, who had also made a brilliant start from ninth on the grid. Perez passed Bottas for second on lap nine and then tried to chase down Verstappen.
However, Verstappen was in a league of his own, and Perez could not match his pace. Verstappen continued to increase his lead, and by lap 20, he was more than 10 seconds ahead of Perez.
The rest of the race was uneventful for Verstappen, who controlled his pace and managed his tires. He made his only pit stop on lap 25, switching to a fresh set of intermediates. He rejoined in the lead and maintained it until the end.
He took the chequered flag on lap 44, after 1 hour, 23 minutes, and 5.7 seconds of racing. He celebrated his ninth win of the season, and his eighth in a row.
A disappointing day
While Verstappen enjoyed a perfect day, his main rival Hamilton had a nightmare. The Mercedes driver had to fight his way back from last place after his early pit stop. He made some overtakes but also made some mistakes.
He spun at La Source on lap 11, losing some positions. He then had a close call with Kimi Raikkonen on lap 15, when he tried to pass him at Les Combes. He locked up his brakes and went wide, narrowly avoiding contact with Raikkonen.
He made another pit stop on lap 26, switching to soft tires. He hoped to gain some time on the drying track, but it was too risky. He struggled with grip and graining and had to pit again on lap 38 for another set of intermediates.
He finished the race in ninth place, scoring only two points. He lost more ground to Verstappen in the championship standings, falling behind by 92 points.
Bottas also had a disappointing day for Mercedes. He finished fourth, behind Sainz. He was unable to challenge Perez for second place, and he also received a 10-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
Mercedes lost more ground to Red Bull in the constructors’ championship as well. They are now 156 points behind their rivals.
A thrilling race
The Belgian Grand Prix was a thrilling race for the fans and spectators at Spa-Francorchamps, as well as those watching online or on TV. The race had everything: drama, action, overtakes, crashes, strategy, and suspense.
The race also featured some standout performances from other drivers besides Verstappen and Perez. Sainz drove a superb race for Ferrari, scoring his second podium of the season. He held off Bottas for third place and also set the fastest lap of the race.
Norris also impressed for McLaren, finishing fifth after starting 11th. He made some great overtakes, and also showed his maturity and composure. He was involved in a close battle with Charles Leclerc for fifth place, and he gave him enough room to avoid a collision.
Leclerc finished sixth for Ferrari, ahead of his former teammate Vettel, who recovered from his spin to finish seventh for Aston Martin. Esteban Ocon finished eighth for Alpine, ahead of Hamilton and Pierre Gasly, who completed the top 10 for AlphaTauri.
The race also featured some disappointments and misfortunes for other drivers besides Hamilton and Bottas. Daniel Ricciardo had a poor race for McLaren, finishing 11th after starting eighth. He lost some positions at the start and then had a slow pit stop.
Lance Stroll also had a bad day for Aston Martin, finishing 12th after starting seventh. He had a puncture on lap one and then had a drive-through penalty for overtaking under the safety car.
Nikita Mazepin was the only other driver to retire from the race, besides Hamilton, Alonso, and Russell. He crashed out on lap 31, after losing control of his Haas at Pouhon.
A memorable weekend
The Belgian Grand Prix was a memorable weekend for Verstappen and Red Bull, as well as their fans and supporters. They showed their dominance and superiority in Belgium, and they extended their lead in both championships.
Verstappen also achieved some personal milestones in Belgium. He scored his 50th podium finish in F1, and he equaled Ayrton Senna’s record of eight consecutive wins in a season.
He dedicated his win to his fans who came to support him at Spa-Francorchamps, following in the footsteps of his father, Jos Verstappen, who became the first Dutch driver to win the Belgian Grand Prix in 1994.
“I’m very happy to win here,” Verstappen said after the race. “It’s an amazing track, and with so many Dutch fans here as well, it’s incredible. It’s been a perfect weekend.”
The next race will be the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, Verstappen’s home race. He will be hoping to continue his winning streak and delight his home crowd with another victory.
Will Verstappen win his ninth race in a row? Will Hamilton bounce back from his setback? Will anyone challenge Red Bull’s dominance? Stay tuned for the next chapter of the 2023 Formula One season.