Verstappen prevails in rain-hit Belgian GP sprint race

Red Bull's double defending world champion extends championship lead

Max Verstappen after wining the Belgian GP sprint race. Getty
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Max Verstappen increased his lead by a further eight points in the F1 world championship with a calculated and convincing victory ahead of Australian rookie Oscar Piastri in Saturday's rain-delayed sprint race at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Red Bull's double defending world champion rode his luck when McLaren's Piastri snatched the lead by making an early pit-stop to switch from wet to intermediate tyres, to storm back and win by 6.6 seconds.

Verstappen's win extended Red Bull's record this year to 14 wins from 14 races - 11 grands prix and three sprints.

"It was all under the control, the car was quick, tyres were holding on," said the Dutchman.

Piastri came home a strong second ahead of Pierre Gasly, who gave the beleaguered Alpine team something to celebrate, with Carlos Sainz and his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc finishing fourth and fifth.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton came home fourth on track for Mercedes, but was demoted to seventh behind Lando Norris, in the second McLaren, after taking a five-second penalty for a clash with Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

George Russell was eighth in the second Mercedes ahead of Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine and Daniel Ricciardo, enjoying his second weekend with Alpha Tauri.

"I am very happy," said Piastri. "We tried out best and led for a few laps, but we were no match for Max. But it's nice to be up there in P2. All credit to the team."

The race began 35 minutes late, after delays caused by heavy rain, with all 20 cars on full-wet tyres for the start behind the safety car.

The race distance was reduced to 12 laps, but it was obvious that in the improving conditions all 20 cars would dive into the pits for intermediates - a chaotic spectacle - as the race was reduced to 11 laps, allowing for one more formation lap.

Updated: July 29, 2023, 5:02 PM