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Verstappen makes light of Spa penalty to secure eighth straight win

Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates with the Belgian Grand Prix trophy. Photo: John Thys/AFP

Max Verstappen made light of a five-place grid penalty to reel off an eighth consecutive victory for his invincible Red Bull team at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The defending double world champion and runaway series leader came home 22.305 seconds ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez. 

Verstappen extended his lead in the title race over Perez to 125 points.

Pole-sitter Charles Leclerc was third for Ferrari ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who clocked the fastest lap.  

It was Red Bull’s record-extending 13th win in succession, and their fifth one-two of the season.

“It’s mind blowing!” said team boss Christian Horner.

“We need to keep this level going, but right now everyone deserves a well-deserved break” he added.

Formula One will ‘shut down’ for three weeks and return at the end of August with Verstappen’s home Dutch Grand Prix, where he will seek to equal former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel’s 2013 record of nine straight wins. 

Verstappen said his latest demonstration of dominance “was really enjoyable!”.

He said: “It’s a new spot, that’s for sure – P6. I knew that we had a great car. It was just about surviving turn one.

“We made all the right moves.”

Perez, who led for much of the early part of the race, said: “It was a good race for the team. We had a great start, to get through Charles, and I was doing my own race — but Max came through pretty fast on the second stint. There was nothing I could do.”

Leclerc said: “It was pretty good for us in terms of pace, but looking at Red Bull we have a lot of work to do.”

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso finished fifth for Aston Martin ahead of George Russell in the second Mercedes, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon of Alpine and Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin. Yuki Tsunoda was 10th for Alpha Tauri. 

The race began under grey skies, but in dry conditions as Leclerc led from pole into La Source hairpin where, after a decent start, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri was squeezed into the wall by Sainz and after limping slowly on the Australian rookie pulled up to retire at the exit of Fagnes chicane. 

By then, Perez had blasted past Leclerc on Kemmel Straight, a show of power to take the lead. 

Behind him, Verstappen was swiftly up to fourth from sixth, his starting slot after taking a five-place penalty for a new gearbox. 

It was clear Red Bull had superior handling and pace and on lap nine Verstappen eased past Leclerc into Les Combes. It meant Perez had his team-mate in his mirrors before they had run 10 laps. 

‘Use your head’

After a flurry of pit stops Verstappen chose to attack on his new medium tyres and on lap 17 swept past Perez on Kemmel Straight and promptly clocked a fastest lap before rain began to fall.

“It is raining quite a lot,” said Verstappen, who survived a big wobble at the bottom of Eau Rouge. 

The anticipated 10-minute shower eased after only five, enabling Verstappen to pull clear by 5.3 seconds while Leclerc held a 3.5-second buffer on Hamilton. 

By lap 30, Verstappen led by 27.5 seconds, gifting the Dutchman a comfortable second stop as the sun broke out.

He re-joined with an 8.5 seconds’ advantage for his final stint en route to the flag only to be reprimanded by his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase. “You used a lot of the tyre on the out lap, Max. Not sure that was sensible.” 

The Dutchman remained silent, but responded with a fastest lap, a full second quicker than any other, in 1:48.922. “I’d ask you to use your head a bit more,” said the engineer, anxious about serious tyre degradation. 

Verstappen took little notice, pulled away by a second a lap to storm to another supreme triumph and what seems to be an inevitable third drivers’ title.

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