Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen won the Sprint at the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix, beating McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly in a tricky 11-lap race shortened to heavy rain that required a rolling start behind the Safety Car.
After a 35-minute delay caused by thunderstorms, Race Control informed teams that the Sprint would get underway with a formation lap followed by four laps behind the SC. That meant starting on full Wet tyres and during the period behind the Safety Car, a number of drivers radioed through to their teams to report that the conditions were good enough for Intermediate tyres.
However, when the Safety Car left the track, Verstappen, wary of any potential mishaps in what was likely to be a crowded pit lane, stayed on track to take the race lead. Behind him, Piastri dived into the pits for Inters, followed by a host of drivers including Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez.
The early move benefited all, as ahead the cars on full Wets laboured through the opening lap on slower tyres. Verstappen and the rest of the full Wet runners then filed into the pit lane at the end of the first lap to take on the green-banded tyres but when the rejoined the order had changed massively with Piastri now ahead of Verstappen and with Pérez and Gasly owever, the time lost on that lap of full Wets meant that when Max rejoined he was behind Piastri who streamed through to take the lead.
Behind the top two, Checo had perfectly worked his pit stop and as the field crossed the line to start the second lap, the Mexican was in P4 behind Gasly with Hamilton in fifth place. On lap four, however, the race was neutralised. Fernando Alonso went off track at the exit of Pouhon and with his car beached in the gravel track, the Safety Car was released.
At the end of lap 5 the SC left the track and Verstappen closed in on Piastri as they exited La Source. Aided by a slipstream he powered past the Australian and into the lead as they made their way down the Kemmel straight.
Behind them, Pérez was coming under pressure from Hamilton and after a wheel-banging battle at the end of lap 6, during which the Red Bull driver sustained major damage to his sidepod, he could do nothing at the start of the next lap when the Mercedes driver got past at La Source.
Complaining that he had “no rear grip” Pérez was then passed by Sainz and Leclerc on the Kemmel straight, and when he slid off and clattered through the gravel at Stavelot and let Norris past, the Mexican’s race was done and he limped back to the pits to retire.
At the front, Verstappen was in total control and after 11 laps he took his second Sprint win of the season 6.6s ahead of Piastri. Gasly finished third ahead of Sainz and Leclerc, with Norris in sixth place. Hamilton, after taking his time penalty at the flag finished in seventh place and the final point on offer went to George Russell.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix – Sprint
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 11 24’58.433
2 Oscar Piastri McLaren 11 25’05.110 6.677
3 Pierre Gasly Alpine 11 25’09.166 10.733
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 11 25’11.081 12.648
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 11 25’13.449 15.016
6 Lando Norris McLaren 11 25’14.485 16.052
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 11 25’15.190 16.757
8 George Russell Mercedes 11 25’15.255 16.822
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine 11 25’20.843 22.410
10 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 11 25’21.239 22.806
11 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 11 25’23.440 25.007
12 Alexander Albon Williams 11 25’24.736 26.303
13 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 11 25’25.439 27.006
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 11 25’31.419 32.986
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 11 25’34.775 36.342
16 Logan Sargeant Williams 11 25’36.004 37.571
17 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 11 25’36.260 37.827
18 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 11 25’37.700 39.267
Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 8 – Retirement
Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 2 – Retirement