Verstappen’s Legendary Feat

The legend that is Max Verstappen continues to grow. Red Bull opted to switch out several important engine components at this race, forcing Verstappen to start fourteenth instead of on pole. It didn’t matter. Everyone knew Verstappen was quickest on the track by a wide margin. He was the only driver to post a sub 1:44 time at SPA during qualification. Still, when one starts fourteenth, there isn’t an expectation that the driver will finish on the podium, let alone first. Yet, that is exactly what happened. Not only did Max Verstappen finish first, but he also finished with the fastest lap as well. Even more impressive, he made his way to first by lap fourteen. Four of those laps were under a safety car due to two dust ups between four drivers in lap one and two. Verstappen went from fourteenth to first in essentially ten laps. His extraordinary drive on Sunday only serves to build his legend.

Verstappen's Legendary Feat

The Belgian Grand Prix is situated in the city of Spa. Situated in the beautiful Ardennes Forest, the Belgian Grand Prix (also known as SPA) is 4.3 miles in length. The race is 44 laps long. This classic circuit features 19 corners and two of the longest and fastest straights on this year’s Formula 1 calendar. Additionally, some of the fastest corners in Formula 1 are also at SPA. Drivers should be allowed to run at top speed for 80% of each lap.

Lap one was fireworks show. Carlos Sainz on pole, executed an excellent start and broke away from the pack. Behind him chaos began to ensue as Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell blew past Sergio Perez who started second. Alonso and Hamilton were running second and third going into the Les Combes chicane. Hamilton attempted to squeeze past Alonso, going into the chicane, and he gave no room to Alonso. The result was Hamilton’s rear right tire rolled over Alonso’s front right tire as they headed into the chicane. The resulting damage to Hamilton’s aero package forced him to retire. It was a reckless maneuver. Hamilton gracefully took responsibility. Then, during lap 2, Nicholas Latifi lost control of his Williams coming out of the Les Combes chicane forcing Valteri Bottas into the gravel, ending Bottas’s race. Bottas was attempting to avoid the out-of-control Williams and ended up beaching himself on the gravel.

After lap two, the race was all about tire management and strategy. Ferrari struggled with grip the whole race. Carlos Sainz lost grip after lap three. Charles Leclerc started in fifteenth, however he was unable to compete for a podium spot, only rising to fourth at one point in the race. Red Bull had the pace on Sunday, and it was all Sainz and Leclerc could do to keep their cars on the track due to their lack of grip. Towards the end of the race, George Russell put a lot of pressure on Sainz. He came within 1.5 seconds of him with eight laps to go, however Russell’s Mercedes started to lose grip as well. Sainz never let up. Russell was unable to catch him and Sainz earned third place, behind Sergio Perez.

Ferrari continues to struggle. Mercedes has closed the gap. Overall, Ferrari strategy is still suspect. They put Sainz’s podium place in peril when they asked him to pit the second time. It was not the ask that was the problem; it was the when. They did not calculate where he would come out of the pit after the tire change. He came out behind Daniel Ricciardo who held Sainz at bay for most of a lap before Sainz could get past him. Sainz lost valuable time due to this team strategy gaff. Ferrari’s decision put Sainz in danger of losing a podium and disallowing him to compete with Sergio Perez for second. Ferrari needs to improve quickly, or Mercedes will overtake them in the Constructors Championship.

Seven teams finished in the top seven including Williams. Both Alpine’s, Ferrari’ss and Red Bull’s finished in the top ten. George Russell, Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon represented their respective teams in the top ten. Verstappen’s lead has grown to a 93-point gap. Verstappen and Perez are now one, two in the drivers’ championship standings. Only one point separates Carlos Sainz in fourth and George Russell in fifth. Next week Formula One heads to Verstappen’s home country of Holland. Ferrari expects to do well. However, the Flying Dutchman will be seeking his tenth win of the season on his home track.

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