Belgian Grand Prix – Max Verstappen wins rain delayed Sprint after being challenged by Oscar Piastri, while Pierre Gasly came home in P3.
It was dry for the build up to the Sprint but rain was forecast for around the start time and indeed some spits were being felt around the track in the few minutes leading up to it. As heavy rain made its appearance again, Race Control announced a delayed start with things initially set to get underway at twelve minutes past the hour, but there was then a further delay announced.
If not for the mandatory 4.5 hour gap between the Shootout and the Sprint, then the Sprint could’ve pretty much been completed before the downpour started. TV pictures showed drains at Eau Rouge/Raidillon overflowing and leaving a lot of standing water at the side of the track there.
The sun then came out and it was announced that the new start time would be at 5:35pm (local time), half an hour later than it had been rescheduled to after the Shootout delay and just over an hour later than it was originally scheduled before the weekend. The cars will have to start on wet tyres and they would be following the Safety Car on the Formation Lap.
Max Verstappen would be starting from P1 for the only time this weekend as a gearbox swap means that despite being fastest in qualifying yesterday he will be demoted to P6. Oscar Piastri was disappointed to have been beaten to the front by the reigning champion.
Carlos Sainz in P3 queried his team whether he would be allowed to follow the Safety Car into the pits at the end of the formation lap to change to intermediate tyres, Ferrari came back to him to let him know that that would be legal. So Sainz, and most likely the majority of the grid will probably be doing just that.
The Safety Car led the field around on the Formation Lap, and the conditions varied at different points of the track, some parts throwing up huge amounts of spray and others very little. An additional formation lap was added before it was decided that there would be a total of four formation laps completed and then the race would get underway with a rolling start and then a 12 laps Sprint instead of the initially planned 15.
It ended up with the Safety Car hanging around for another lap so the race distance was again decreased so there would be 11 racing laps after the rolling start. Half the field followed the Safety Car into the pits, one car from each team to avoid any stacking, so Verstappen took the start ahead of Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris.
Sainz lost out in the pits though, emerging in P15 as Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton all got between him and Piastri. The other half of the grid pitted at the end of the following lap but Red Bull weren’t able to make it work for Verstappen and he rejoined in P2, losing the lead to the rookie McLaren driver.
At the end of lap 3, just as Verstappen had closed up to the back of Piastri, Fernando Alonso got onto the wet kerb and went spinning into the gravel at T11 which called the Safety Car back out.
Behind the Safety Car Kevin Magnussen believed that slick tyres could be possible in a few laps and told Haas to think about it. The race got back going on lap 6, Yuki Tsunoda spinning at the final chicane but was able to get himself back going.
At the front though Verstappen got the better of Piastri to retake the lead but things didn’t go as well for Perez, who got passed by Hamilton, after a bit of contact on the Mercedes driver’s first effort. He then lost out to the Ferraris before going wide and into the gravel while trying to defend P7 from Norris. He avoided getting beached and rejoined in P16 before retiring. Hamilton was handed a five second penalty for his contact with the Red Bull driver.
At the front Verstappen had pulled out over six seconds to Piastri, who was safe enough with a three second buffer between himself and Gasly in P3. Thanks to Hamilton’s penalty he fell back from P4 to P7, just ahead of his teammate, who took the final point. The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc took P4 and P5 while Norris ended in P6.