Verstappen eases to Belgian Grand Prix victory from 14th on the grid


Max Verstappen took another step closer to his second world title following an easy victory at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Spa-Francorchamps is often known as an easy circuit to overtake on, with DRS zones allowing drivers to get past their opponents, often without any trouble in the corners.

However, nobody expected such a cruise to victory for the championship leader, following engine penalties that sent him from pole position to starting 14th on the grid.

This meant that Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz inherited pole position with Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez starting from the front row, while Charles Leclerc joined Verstappen from the midfield following similar penalties.

Sainz and Perez maintained their lead on the first lap while, behind, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton clashed at Les Combes, with Hamilton being sent into the air after not leaving Alonso enough room.

Alonso had harsh words for the seven-time world champion, telling his team on the radio:

“Yeah. What an idiot! Closing the door from the outside. I mean, we had a mega start but this guy only knows how to drive and start in first.”

This forced the Briton to retire, while a safety car was called out a lap later following an incident between Nicholas Latifi and Valtteri Bottas, a crash that saw the Alfa Romeo driver retire from the Grand Prix.

While Verstappen moved through the field, Leclerc was forced to pit due to a helmet tear-off being stuck in his brakes. As the safety car came in, Sainz briefly pulled away.

Soon enough, the championship leader was into the top three, breaking past Mercedes driver George Russell on lap eight, before Sainz pitted for fresh medium tyres on lap 12.

The Red Bull cars would emerge behind Sainz, before quickly moving back into the mirrors of the race leader. Verstappen would move into the lead on lap 18, not looking back and taking his ninth win of the 2022 campaign.

In the closing stages of the race, Leclerc, who was now in fifth, was told by his Ferrari team to pit for soft tyres in an attempt to go for the fastest lap, despite the Monegasque’s doubts over the strategy.

Perez followed the Dutchman in second to hand Red Bull a 1-2 at Spa, while Sainz brought Ferrari another podium this season with third.

This left him vulnerable to Alonso, with a close fight denying him the chance to take the fastest lap. As well as this, a penalty for speeding in the pits dropped him behind the Spaniard, costing him a further two points.

Speaking after the race, Verstappen explained the race from his point of view, saying:

“It was quite a hectic first lap to try and stay out of trouble. So many things were happening in front of me.

“But once we settled in after the safety car, the car was really on rails, we picked the right places to pass people and we could look after our tyres and that is how we made our way forward.

“This whole weekend has been incredible. It’s been a weekend I couldn’t imagine before, but I think we want more of them, so keep working hard.”

With a 93-point lead in the title race to teammate Perez, the reigning world champion now sets his sights on his home race in Zandvoort, as F1 prepares for this week’s Dutch Grand Prix.

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