Verstappen delighted with pace in wet F1 Sprint at Spa: “When we put the inters on we were flying”

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Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

After securing his second pole of the weekend in a wet-dry sprint shootout, Max Verstappen found himself staring at the back of an Aston Martin for 5 laps of the Sprint race, albeit this Aston was the safety car and these were not racing laps. After being delayed due to wet condtions, the grid found itself behind the safety car for almost a third of the allocated laps before a rolling start once the safety car pitted.

As the safety car made it’s way into the pit lane, the McLaren of Oscar Piastri darted after it, quickly exchanging his wet tyres for intermediates along with 9 other cars as Verstappen and others continued their was on the first racing lap on full wets, before also opting to pit for the intermediate tyre as in the sunshine the track was rapidly drying.

While being released from his pit box, there was a delay as the other McLaren of Norris passed him by in the pit lane and as the Dutchman got underway, Piastri’s MCL60 was thundering down the pit straight followed by plumes of spray and into the lead.

Speaking in parc ferme however, the current championship leader, of course now vindicated in victory, saw no issue with staying out that little bit longer on the wet tyre:

“I think it was just a safer call, I mean, I could come in first but I might be blocked by other cars…there might be a safety car and then you lose out massively so…I didn’t mind to stay out. I mean we lost one position but we know we are quick and you could see when we put the inter tyres on we were flying.”

And flying they were, Verstappen quickly closed in on the Australian rookie ahead of him, even noting on team radio during a safety car period triggered by Fernando Alonso spinning off into the gravel on Lap 4 that he was struggling on his tyres and “drifting everywhere”. Alonso’s stricken AMR23 was swiftly cleared and racing got underway again at the end of Lap 5. Verstappen gained immediately on Piastri and cleared him with relative ease before the end of the Kemmel straight.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Later, at the post-race press conference, Verstappen said that his biggest challenge of the sprint was “to make the call when to pit”, evidently not hugely troubled by his brake issues later in the race given the margin with which he finished.

With the Sprint race behind him, the focus for Verstappen now moves to tomorrow’s Grand Prix, in which he says: “I need to be careful to not have any damage on the car. And as soon as I have a clean lap one, I think from there onwards, yeah, we can move forwards.”

With much discussion on how many formation laps behind the safety car are appropriate, the reigning world champion was also asked to weigh in on the subject:

“I think it really depends on the conditions we are facing: how wet it is, visibility-wise. Every track is a little bit different with that. I think here it was probably quite a safe view on things but I prefer that than risking it and going too early. But other tracks again, maybe it’s a bit different. I don’t think it needs to be clear four or five laps.”

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool