Verstappen wins action-packed wet sprint race at Spa ahead of Piastri and Gasly

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After losing the lead early on due to not pitting on the first lap, the Dutchman fought back against Oscar Piastri to take the lead again and win the Sprint. Pierre Gasly scored a sprint podium for Alpine after his early call for intermediates paid off.

Photo Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing

The drivers were met with a difficult situation at the start, as the inclement weather returned bringing heavy downpours to Spa-Francorchamps just minutes away from lights out, which prompted race control to delay the start until conditions improve.

Whilst the original start time was already delayed by 35 minutes due to delays in the Shootout, a further 30-minute wait had to be taken given the conditions, with the formation lap starting behind the Safety Car, meaning all the drivers had to leave the grid on the full wet tyres.

The drivers completed five formation laps behind the Safety Car, with a rolling start afterwards. Despite a significant lack of visibility, most drivers were asking for intermediate tyres, including Max Verstappen and George Russell.

As Verstappen got away, several drivers pitted for intermediates, including Oscar Piastri, Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton. Piastri had a 2.5s pit stop from McLaren, notably avoiding any potential hold ups as he looked to undercut Verstappen who stayed out on full wets.

The Dutchman pitted at the end of the first lap, but had a slow 3.2s stop and was held up by Norris on the fast lane, meaning Oscar Piastri took the lead. Pierre Gasly was another big gainer from the stops, as he jumped up to third in his Alpine.

After all drivers had made their pit stops, the order at the end of lap 2 was: Piastri, Verstappen, Gasly, Perez, Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, Ricciardo and Ocon.

As the drivers navigated their way through the conditions, Verstappen started to put pressure on Piastri, who had to defend on the Kemmel straight on lap 3, and was able to keep the Dutchman behind.

Fernando Alonso’s tough day on his birthday continued, with the Spaniard finding the wall on the outside of Pouhon on lap 4 and bringing out the Safety Car, but thankfully had no injuries. He lost the car following Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas and lost the back-end of his AMR23, spinning all the way to the barrier and retiring from the Sprint.

Max Verstappen was told by his team that Piastri was already suffering with tyres during the safety car period.

The safety car came into the pits at the end of lap 5, with Piastri leading the field away for the final six racing laps of the shortened sprint.

Verstappen wasted no time to get past Piastri, doing so in the first possible opportunity at the Kemmel straight, with an easy straight-line overtake to take the lead again, and quickly pulled away by over 1s from the Australian.

Behind the pair, an almighty battle between Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton took place between the two Stavelot corners, with the pair even touching wheels at one point, possibly giving damage to the Red Bull, as he dropped like a stone during the next lap, losing positions to both Ferraris and Lando Norris, before drifting wide on his way to Stavelot 1 and ending up in the gravel, rejoining in a lowly 17th place. He reported to have “no rear grip”. He stopped at the end of lap 8 to retire the car in the pit lane.

Lewis Hamilton received a 5-second time penalty for causing a collision with Sergio Perez – Red Bull reported the Mexican had a hole in his sidepod and that was the reason for his sudden grip loss.

Pierre Gasly had to face pressure from penalty-bound Lewis Hamilton as the pair entered lap 9 of 11 very close together.

George Russell was on the move on the other Mercedes, dispatching Ocon and Ricciardo in quick succession to grab 8th place and the final points-scoring position.

Despite reporting problems in his brakes, Verstappen pulled away supremely at the front, entering the final lap with a six seconds cushion over Piastri.

The Dutchman went on to win the Sprint and his second sprint win of the year, followed by Piastri and Gasly, who was able to hold off Hamilton on the final lap.

The two Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc finished in 4th and 5th respectively, with Lando Norris taking 6th after Lewis Hamilton’s penalty demoted the Mercedes driver down to 7th, with Russell finishing in 8th.

Just missing out on the points were Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo, with Stroll, Albon, Bottas, Magnussen, Zhou, Sargeant, Hulkenberg and Tsunoda rounding out the finishers after Perez and Alonso retired.