Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen rose from sixth on the grid to take a comfortable Belgian Grand Prix win, beating team-mate Sergio Pérez by more than 22 seconds, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc held off Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to claim the final podium place at Spa-Francorchamps.
At the start, Leclerc made a good start from pole position to take the lead into La Source ahead of Pérez who defended aggressively to keep Hamilton at bay. Behind them, though, there was contact when Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, starting fourth, locked up into Turn 1 and squeezed McLaren’s Oscar Piastri into the wall on the inside. Both cars were damaged in the incident, with Piastri forced into retirement later in the lap, while Sainz was able to limp on.
Verstappen , meanwhile, made a good start from P6, and taking a wide line into Turn 1 to stay out of trouble he was able to tuck into P5 on the run through Eau Rouge.
As the cars swept up the hill to Raidillon, Pérez closed on Leclerc and the Mexican powered
past Leclerc to take the lead, while behind them Verstappen breezed past the wounded Ferrari of Sainz to take P4 behind Hamilton.
His stay behind the Briton would be brief, however. On lap six, the Dutchman closed in on the Kemmel straight under DRS and he eased past the Mercedes driver under braking on the inside into Les Combes. The champion was now just a second behind Leclerc, while ahead, Pérez led the Ferrari driver by 2.4 seconds. And three laps later Vertsappen moved to took to P2, passing Leclerc on the outside on the approach to Les Combes.
Hamilton was the first of the soft tyre front runners to pit and the Mercedes driver switched to Medium tyres at the end of lap 12. Pérez made his first stop on lap 12, and he moved to medium tyres. The stop was slightly slow, however, at 3.2 seconds with sparks flying from the left rear but he managed to rejoin in second place ahead of Leclerc. Verstappen then pitted at the end of lap 14 and he took on new Medium tyres in a 2.5s second stop that put him back on track just over two seconds behind Pérez.
Verstappen quickly erased that gap and on lap 17, aided by DRS on the long Kemmel straight, he shot past his team-mate to take the lead. And immediately afterwards the Dutchman posted a new fastest lap of 1:50.108 to power out of DRS range.
On lap 18, Sainz, struggling with damage in P19 and soon to retire, reported that rain was falling at Turn 15 and over the following three laps it began to get more steady and on lap 22 there was a nervous moment for Verstappen when the Dutchman suffered snap midway through Eau Rouge and had to quickly correct. “I almost lost it,” he told his pit wall before backing off his lap times in the tricky conditions to manage the gap to Pérez
The race leader was told the rain wouldn’t last, however, and despite the slippery track he and the rest of the field hung on to slick tyres. That forecast proved to be correct and soon after half distance the times began to drop once again, leaving the Red Bulls drivers to settle in at the front of the pack. On lap 25 Verstappen led Pérez by six seconds and with the Mexican seven seconds clear of Leclerc. Hamilton was fourth with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in P5.
Hamilton made his second stop, for Soft tyres, on lap 28 and Ferrari reacted by pitting Leclerc on the following lap, with the Monegasque driver moving to the same compound as their tight battle for P3 continued.
Pérez made his second stop at the end of lap 29 and in a smooth 2.2 second halt he also moved to Soft tyres. Verstappen then made his second stop at the end of the following lap, switching to Soft tyres just a tenth of a second slower than his team-mate. And he immediately used the greater grip of the softest compound on offer to blast to the fastest lap of the race with a lap of 1:48.922 on lap 32.
With the bulk of pit stops complete, the order at the top settled, with Verstappen a comfortable 17 seconds ahead of Pérez who was 4.2s clear of Leclerc. And by the end of lap 44 Verstappen had stretched the advantage to take his eight consecutive victory 22.3 seconds clear of Pérez, who scored his seventh podium of the season.
Behind the top two, Leclerc held on to second place ahead of Hamilton, who pitted on the penultimate lap for a new set of Medium tyres to take the fastest lap of the race on the final tour with a lap of 1:47.305.
Alonso finished in fifth place ahead of George Russell who worked a one-stop race well to take sixth after starting in eighth, while Lando Norris took the flag in P7. Esteban Ocon finished in eight place ahead of Lance Stroll and the final point on offer was taken by AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix – Race
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 44 1:22’30.450
2 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 44 1:22’52.755 22.305
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 44 1:23’02.709 32.259
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 44 1:23’20.121 49.671
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 44 1:23’26.634 56.184
6 George Russell Mercedes 44 1:23’33.551 1’03.101
7 Lando Norris McLaren 44 1:23’44.169 1’13.719
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 44 1:23’45.169 1’14.719
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 44 1:23’49.790 1’19.340
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 44 1:23’50.671 1’20.221
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine 44 1:23’53.534 1’23.084
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 44 1:23’55.641 1’25.191
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 44 1:24’05.891 1’35.441
14 Alexander Albon Williams 44 1:24’06.634 1’36.184
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 44 1:24’12.204 1’41.754
16 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 44 1:24’13.521 1’43.071
17 Logan Sargeant Williams 44 1:24’14.926 1’44.476
18 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 44 1:24’20.900 1’50.450
Carlos Sainz Ferrari 23 44’53.845 Accident damage
Oscar Piastri McLaren 0 – Accident damage