Photo: Red Bull Media House

Belgian GP Sprint: Verstappen takes victory with Piastri and Gasly in top three

The Sprint would be delayed as a result of the earlier Qualifying session starting late, but with the rain coming down heavily right when the Sprint was meant to start, there was a delay for around half an hour before the action got underway.

After a few laps behind the safety car, there was a rolling start procedure that would see racing begin, just after the safety car dived into the pitlane. Piastri was the first driver to dive into the pitlane and handed second to Verstappen. The teams opted to box one driver and not the other to try and maintain their position and avoid double stacking.

However, it was Piastri who was able to take the lead over Verstappen, with Pierre Gasly the biggest benefit as he climbed to third place.

The safety car would then come out after only three laps as Fernando Alonso went off from 16th place in the second sector and was out of the Sprint. He will be thankful that this year the Sprint doesn’t dictate where you start on Sunday, with the Spanish driver lining up ninth on Sunday. He actually didn’t hit the barriers as the gravel trapped slowed him down, but he did spin multiple times on his way to stopping.

Max Verstappen was told near the end of the safety car period that Oscar Piastri’s front left tyre was already struggling, with the Dutch driver unsurprised due to the way the Australian was driving. It wouldn’t take long for the two-time World Champion to get past the McLaren down the Kemmel Straight, while Logan Sargeant was handed a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

Perez then was off into the gravel but was able to continue, dropping to 16th overall. Hamilton ran alongside him and made contact and was handed a five-second time penalty as a result.

As Verstappen eased to victory, there would be celebrations from the McLaren and Alpine garages as they finished second and third with Piastri and Gasly respectively. Hamilton would take fourth on the road but would be overtaken by Sainz, Leclerc and Norris when the penalty was applied. Russell would be able to get passed Daniel Ricciardo to claim the final point in the Sprint to deny the Australian a point in only his second weekend back.


But how did we get to this point? Let’s take a look back at Sprint Qualifying earlier on Saturday.

With the rain falling on the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the start of the Sprint Qualifying was delayed by around 35 minutes. If the session was cancelled, the grid for the Sprint would have been set using the result from yesterday’s Grand Prix qualifying session.

The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were first to leave their pit boxes and make their way down the pitlane to await the green light. Russell would be lucky to make it out of the SQ1 session as he finished the session P15 and had to abandon his final lap going straight and pitting instead of taking the checkered flag. It was the driver he replaced at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas, that spared the British driver a place in SQ2 as he also dived into the pitlane.

After the opening session, it would be an early exit for Yuki Tsunoda, Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hulkenberg.

In SQ2, the track got drier as the drivers pumped the laps in. This allowed an opportunity where slick tyres could be tested on the conditions. Lance Stroll took that risk and ended up in the barriers shortly afterwards with less than a minute left in the session. This was very costly as it not only knocked the Canadian out of qualifying but also his team-mate Fernando Alonso who would have hoped to be in the battle for the front rows of the grid. Joining the Aston Martin duo were Daniel Ricciardo, Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant. George Russell was yet again the slowest out of the drivers to progress.

SQ3 would be a case of last across the line as the track continue to get faster, with Gasly going 0.6 seconds faster as the final runs began. However, all eyes were on one man… no not Max Verstappen but Oscar Piastri who was setting purple sectors on his way to setting the fastest lap of the session. However, the two-time World Champion of Max Verstappen would narrowly pip him to the Sprint pole position.

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