Max Verstappen dominates Belgian Grand Prix to protect mammoth Formula One lead

Max Verstappen’s invincible streak continued at the Belgian Grand Prix with another crushing win.

The double world champion started sixth but took the lead at Spa Francorchamps on lap 17 of 44 before taking the chequered flag 22.3 seconds clear of his forlorn Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

Verstappen’s triumph was his eighth in a row – one shy of Sebastian Vettel’s record – and 10th from the 12 rounds so far.

He leads Perez by a mammoth 125 points in the standings – the equivalent of five victories – heading into Formula One’s summer break.

Pole-sitter Charles Leclerc took the final spot on the podium with Lewis Hamilton, who denied Verstappen a bonus point by setting the fastest lap, fourth.

Fernando Alonso finished fifth for Aston Martin, one place ahead of George Russell with Lando Norris seventh.

Verstappen qualified fastest on Friday evening but was demoted five places following a gearbox change.

The Dutch driver was up from sixth to fourth at the end of the first lap while Perez blasted past Leclerc on the Kemmel Straight to take the lead.

Oscar Piastri finished runner-up in Saturday’s 11-lap sprint race, but the Australian rookie’s Grand Prix lasted less than a lap after he collided with Carlos Sainz at the opening corner. Sainz turned into Piastri at La Source leaving the McLaren man with race-ending damage.

Back up front and Verstappen was on the move. On lap six he breezed past Hamilton at 210mph along the Kemmel Straight. Three laps later, Leclerc became his next victim, after he outbraked the Monegasque man with a fine move around the outside of Les Combes.

Perez was now three seconds up the road. In came Perez for new rubber on lap 12 but Verstappen wanted Red Bull to double-stack in order not to lose any time to his team-mate on fresher tyres.

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen has a 125-point lead in the championship standings (Simon Wohlfahrt/AP)

“So don’t forget Max, use your head please,” said Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.

“Are we both doing it or what?” replied Verstappen.

“You just follow my instruction,” came Lambiase’s response.

“No, I want to know both cars do it,” Verstappen fired back.

“Max, please follow my instruction and trust it, thank you,” said Lambiase.

The following lap, Verstappen stopped for tyres and it only took a couple of laps before he was crawling all over the back of Perez’s Red Bull machine.

Verstappen tracked Perez through the fearsome Eau Rouge-Raidillon section before applying DRS and roaring round the outside of his team-mate along the Kemmel Straight on lap 17. By the end of the lap, he had already pulled out a 1.6 sec gap over his team-mate.

Verstappen was then on the radio, reporting rain, and the Dutchman endured a hairy moment through Eau Rouge as the back end of his Red Bull machine stepped out on him at 180mph.

“F***, I nearly lost it,” said the championship leader amid the light drizzle.

Lambiase was then back on the radio asking if Verstappen could make his tyres last with more rain due to arrive.

“I can’t see the weather radar,” came Verstappen’s spiky response.

On lap 29, Perez now trailing Verstappen by nine seconds, stopped for a second time with Verstappen following in on the same lap but it was not long before Lambiase was back on the radio lambasting his driver.

“You used a lot of the tyre on the out lap Max,” he said. “I am not sure if that was sensible.”

Verstappen responded by banging in the fastest lap of the race.

Such is Verstappen’s stranglehold of Formula One, he was back on the radio joking if he should stop for a third time.

“Should we push on and do another stop?” he said. “A little bit of pit-stop training?”

“Not this time,” replied Lambiase, having previously calling on his driver “to use your head a bit more.”

But Verstappen showed no sign of slowing down, delivering Red Bull’s 22nd win from the last 23 races and retaining the team’s unbeaten streak this season.

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