RACE REPORT | F1 Belgium 2023

At Spa-Francorchamps, in the 13th round of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, Max Verstappen from Red Bull secured victory in the Belgian Grand Prix starting from the sixth position on the grid.

Despite starting from the third row due to a grid penalty for a new gearbox, Verstappen showcased impressive driving skills, advancing to the front by lap 16. He overtook his teammate Sergio Perez, who had led the race since passing pole-sitter Charles Leclerc on the opening lap.

During the start of the race, Leclerc maintained his pole position advantage, leading the pack into Turn 1 with Perez and Lewis Hamilton closely following. However, unfortunate incidents occurred behind them, with Oscar Piastri damaging his McLaren by colliding with Carlos Sainz's Ferrari and the wall at the La Source hairpin, leading to his early exit from the race.

Perez swiftly overtook Leclerc for the lead on the Kemmel Straight, while Verstappen, starting from sixth, quickly advanced to fourth after the Sainz/Piastri incident. Perez managed to build a 3-second gap, but Verstappen found himself in a DRS train behind Leclerc and Hamilton initially. On lap four, Fernando Alonso passed a struggling Sainz, whose Ferrari encountered a sidepod issue, leading to his retirement later on. 

Verstappen made his moves, overtaking Hamilton at Les Combes on lap six and then driving around the outside of Leclerc a few laps later, securing the second position early in the race. Hamilton was the first of the leaders to pit on lap 14, followed by Perez and Leclerc on the next lap, and Verstappen one lap after them.

By lap 16, Verstappen closed the gap to Perez and successfully overtook him with DRS assistance on the following lap, taking the lead well before the halfway mark.

Meanwhile, further down the grid, George Russell of Mercedes passed Lance Stroll from Aston Martin to secure sixth place on lap 17. Stroll lost more positions to Pierre Gasly from Alpine and Yuki Tsunoda from AlphaTauri before pitting for fresh soft tires. Tsunoda then overtook Gasly.

At lap 18, light rain started to fall, with Verstappen nearly losing control of his car after Eau Rouge due to the increasing intensity of the rain. However, it turned out to be a passing shower, and the teams decided not to switch to intermediate tires.

Hamilton made a pit stop for soft tires with 16 laps remaining, prompting Leclerc to react a lap later. Hamilton's undercut attempt was hindered as he had to pass Alonso first. The Red Bull team executed their final pit stops flawlessly, with Verstappen rejoining the race with a 9-second advantage, which he extended to 22 seconds by the finish line.

Behind Perez, Leclerc successfully fended off Hamilton's challenges, followed by Alonso, Russell, and Norris. Esteban Ocon from Alpine made a smart move at Les Combes, passing Tsunoda for ninth with five laps to go, and then overtaking Stroll at the same place for eighth two laps later. Towards the end, Hamilton pitted for new medium tires and snatched the fastest lap from Verstappen on the final lap.

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