Red Bull enter F1 summer break unbeaten after Belgian GP 1-2

Red Bull enter F1 summer break unbeaten after Belgian GP 1-2

There was a familiar winner in Formula One's 2023 Belgian Grand Prix as Max Verstappen shrugged off a five-place grid penalty to take another large-margin race victory.

July 31, 2023

The win represents Verstappen's eighth consecutive triumph and Red Bull's 12th 2023 P1 finish from 12 attempts in what looks set to be a record-breaking season in nearly every metric for the Red Bull-Verstappen pairing.

Sergio Perez returned to the podium's second step for the first time since Miami to make it a Red Bull 1-2 finish, their fifth of the year, in another dominant performance for the reigning champions. Despite Charles Leclerc inheriting pole after Verstappen's gearbox change, the Red Bull duo were peerless on Sunday, eventually winning 10 seconds ahead of P3.

A fantastic opening lap for Red Bull had Perez chase Leclerc from P2 down the Kemmel Straight and grab the lead before the Les Combes chicane, while Verstappen jumped from P6 to P4 in the same distance. Without DRS, Verstappen's ascent slightly stumbled in the opening laps, but the overtakes from the Dutch driver didn't take long to come.

An opening lap collision between Carlos Sainz and Oscar Piastri at Turn 1 aided Verstappen's progress as the two went from Saturday Sprint superstars to the only retirements of the Grand Prix. While attempting to avoid Lews Hamilton on the entry to La Source, a lock-up from Sainz slid him into Piastri's path as the rookie went for a plucky overtake down the inside. The contact pushed the McLaren into the wall, to break Piastri's suspension and leave Sainz with a gaping hole in his sidepod, causing massive aerodynamic drag.

Red Bull enter F1 summer break unbeaten after Belgian GP 1-2

The Ferrari soon became the cork in a bottle with a lack of pace that allowed the leading quartet of Perez, Leclerc, Hamilton and Verstappen to sprint ahead. Sainz valiantly tried to defend his position but was powerless to stop every remaining car from getting past and fell to last place. Ferrari seemed to hope for rain or a safety car to save their Spaniard's race but eventually put Sainz out of his misery on Lap 23 for his first retirement of 2023.

Out front, any initial hopes that a competitive race could unfold evaporated on Lap 6 when Verstappen eased by Hamilton's Mercedes with DRS assistance on the Kemmel Straight. Hamilton had kept his Dutch rival behind for the previous five laps, suggesting that it might not be plain sailing for Verstappen, but the RB19's power continued to exceed all other cars. Leclerc fell next on Lap 9, again on the Kemmel Straight, and Verstappen had only teammate Perez between his cockpit and a 10th 2023 win.

A mixture of pit-stop strategies did introduce an element of unpredictability, but more so for the midfield than the frontrunners. The threat of rain caused some drivers to delay their first pit stops while others swapped Pirelli tyres as early as Lap 5. The radar suggested light rain could fall mid-race, but Hamilton forced the leaders to box with his switch from softs to hards at the end of Lap 12. Perez pitted one lap later to cover off any Hamilton undercut threat while getting a slight advantage over Verstappen. However, it only held back another, seemingly inevitable, Kemmel Straight overtake for the lead.

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Red Bull enter F1 summer break unbeaten after Belgian GP 1-2

The lightest rain shower in the middle of the race had the lap times drop a little, but it wasn't enough for anyone to switch to Pirelli's intermediate tyre. It did, however, cause the slightest of moments for Verstappen when he almost lost control at Eau Rouge with a slightly damp surface. Irrespective of that split second of worry, Verstappen eventually won by over 22 seconds, ahead of Perez and Leclerc in a much more processional second half of the race.

With three weekends off and a mandatory 14-day summer shutdown for all teams, there's some respite for the world's most expensive travelling circus. Zandvoort comes next for the Dutch Grand Prix, and Verstappen could match Sebastian Vettel's record of nine consecutive wins in front of his home crowd. Should anyone want to stop him, they have until August 27th to figure out how when F1 returns to action.

Red Bull enter F1 summer break unbeaten after Belgian GP 1-2
Red Bull enter F1 summer break unbeaten after Belgian GP 1-2