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Max Verstappen Continues to be Unstoppable as Formula 1 Enters Summer Break

Max Verstappen (1) celebrates after winning his 8th in a row and 13th in a row for Red Bull at the Belgian Grand Prix

Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on July 30, 2023 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

STAVELOT, Belgium – After the Sprint Race excitement on Saturday, all eyes turned to Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Franchochamps. World Championship leaders Max Verstappen and Red Bull hoped to continue their impressive form in 2023 and pick up another win in the 2023 Formula 1 season. But with Verstappen starting in fifth and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on pole, perhaps there was a chance for a change.

Changes to the grid that was set on Friday after the qualifying session, outside of the known grid penalty Verstappen had, was a three-place grid penalty for Haas driver Kevin Magnussen for impeding Leclerc during qualifying.  The other Haas of Nico Hulkenberg started on pit lane due to changes to his power unit and gearbox.

With the grid set, and the clock ticking down before the formation laps, the tire covers were finally removed to show what strategies teams would take for the Grand Prix. Most teams picked to start on the Soft compound tires while the rest went with the Medium compound tires, giving a chance to 2 different strategies to be in play.

The lights went out, and pole-sitter Leclerc got away cleanly from Perez while the field spread out behind them. Going into Turn 1, McLaren’s standout teammate Oscar Piastri got sandwiched between a wall and the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz in the opening melee, causing significant damage to both vehicles.  This lead to an immediate retirement from Piastri, ending a wonderful weekend early after a fantastic Saturday.

Perez used the slipstream down through Eau Rouge and up the Kemmel Straight to rocket past Leclerc as Verstappen took advantage of the damaged Ferrari of Sainz to set his sights on the podium finishes. From there, Sainz started falling back more, creating two different races: the podium battle between the Red Bulls, Leclerc, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Due to the damage of Sainz, the rest of the mid-field were stacked together, waiting for their chances to get by the damaged Ferrari. First to take advantage was the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso, and soon the impressively quick pair of the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda and Williams of Alex Albon pounced and got by Sainz.

As positions were changing up and down the order, Verstappen made his way onto the podium with a pass on Hamilton at the end of the Kemmel Straight and into Les Combes, setting his sights on Leclerc. Meanwhile, the first stop for McLaren’s Lando Norris went from the Medium tires to the Hard compound tires, Magnussen and AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo swapping from the Soft tires to the Medium tires.

A couple of laps after getting into the podium spots, Verstappen got behind and then around Leclerc in a similar move he made on Hamilton. Meanwhile, Sainz continued to fall the order and was close to getting dropped out of the points-paying positions. During this, more and more of the opening round of pit stops took place, with Alonso being the leading front runner hitting pit road first.

Hamilton first brought his car down pit road at the end of his opening stint on the Soft tires, and soon came Perez and Leclerc. Verstappen stayed out an extra lap, being warned to follow the instructions of his pit wall. He was also given a heads up of incoming rain that would have to be something to look out for. However, the rain wouldn’t be enough to change to wet weather tires.

Sergio Perez (11) leads the way in his Red Bull in the early laps of the Belgian Grand Prix

Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on July 30, 2023 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Soon, Verstappen went down pit lane for his first stop of the day and started his chase of Perez. By lap 17, he got behind, alongside his teammate up the Kemmel Straight, and passed for the lead, as he did on Hamilton and Leclerc earlier in the race. After taking the lead, he set off to create a gap on the field.

Soon, the rain started to fall with a bit of intensity. However, it was expected to be a 10-minute shower that shouldn’t lead to too many issues. The slipping and sliding led to a bit of a nervous watching, especially when Verstappen came extremely close to losing his car from Raidillon but saved it. But the rain wasn’t enough for a switch, as evident when Lance Stroll brought his Aston Martin down pit lane to swap Mediums to Softs.

The race had gotten to the point of just logging laps. Verstappen collected himself after his moment in the wet and continued to grow his lead. The first leader to make his second stop was Hamilton, who came out behind his teammate George Russell and former teammate and title rival Alonso, though he made quick work and returned to fourth.

Perez and Alonso soon pitted, and Verstappen took his final stop of the day a lap later. Continuing the little back-and-forth conversations between Verstappen and his Race Engineer being told to “use his head, ” Verstappen picked off the race’s fastest lap.

A third and fourth interesting strategy was being played out as Aston Martin had Stroll on a one-stop approach with Mercedes and Russell. On top of that, McLaren had Norris on a strategy that would hope to see him finish in the points after a long stint on the Soft tires.

During the middle point in the race, Ferrari finally called in the damaged car of Sainz to retire the car. The damage was too much to overcome, with no chance to make it into the points.

As more and more strategies played out, drivers such as Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda were putting up good fights for the final points-paying spots. However, the Williams pit wall had a faltering moment as both drivers of Albon and Logan Sargeant were mired out of the points, even with how fast both cars were in a straight line.

The most considerable excitement came in the closing laps as Ocon set his sights on gaining as many points as possible, getting past Tsunoda and Stroll in the closing stages. Meanwhile, Verstappen was looking to claim the FL point, hopefully, to have it entirely in his control with a last-minute pit stop. However, his pit wall told him it wasn’t in the cards for today.

However, Mercedes called down Hamilton to get a set of new Medium tires to get the FL point from Verstappen. And as Verstappen crossed the line for his eighth win in a row by a margin of 22 seconds, Hamilton secured the FL point as the checkered flag flew.

Following Verstappen was Perez, securing the Red Bull 1-2 finish, with Leclerc closing the podium. Even with pitting for the FL, Hamilton still came home fourth, with Alonso closing out the Top 5. Russell and Norris survived running longer on the Soft tires to finish sixth and seventh, respectively. Rounding out the Top 10 came Ocon, Stroll, and Tsunoda.

Verstappen’s win was his eighth in a row, putting him one behind Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine wins. This was also Red Bull’s 12th win in 2023 alone, the first time a team had won that many in a row in a single year. There’s still half the season left.

Formula 1 now enters its four-week Summer Break before returning to action in the Netherlands for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort at the end of August. It is now to be seen how much the F1 landscape will change in the four weeks off and if Red Bull and Verstappen will continue their impressive pace for the second half of the season.

Finish Start Car No. Driver Team Gap (in seconds) Points
1 6 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT Leader 25
2 2 4 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT 22.305 18
3 1 11 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 32.259 15
4 3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 49.671 13
5 9 81 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 56.184 10
6 8 63 George Russell Mercedes 63.101 8
7 7 16 Lando Norris Mclaren Mercedes 73.719 6
8 14 55 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 74.719 4
9 10 14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 79.34 2
10 11 18 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda RBPT 80.221 1
11 12 23 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 83.084 0
12 13 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 85.191 0
13 17 3 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 95.441 0
14 15 27 Alex Albon Williams Mercedes 96.184 0
15 16 22 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 101.754 0
16 19 24 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri Honda RBPT 103.071 0
17 18 17 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 104.476 0
18 20 2 Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 110.45 0
19 4 31 Carlos Sainz Ferrari DNF 0
20 5 10 Oscar Piastri Mclaren Mercedes DNF 0

John Arndt is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree of communications who has been a life-long fan of NASCAR and motorsports. John is a member of The Podium Finish's photography team based in Texas and his home track is Circuit of the Americas. With a love of multiple racing series, he has started to write about Formula 1 and sports car racing to help expand the reach of The Podium Finish.

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