The Saturday in F1 Belgian GP saw a rain-affected sprint run as drivers braved tricky conditions providing good action overall.
It was a tricky weather day on Saturday of F1 Belgian GP where both the sprint shootout and sprint race were affected by rain. The start of the race was delayed and took place behind the safety car on the full wet compound.
But once there was a start, 10 cars pitted while 10 didn’t and one of them who didn’t was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. This is the reason he lost his lead to McLaren’s Oscar Piastri who hung on until the safety car was deployed for Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.
Verstappen wasted no time on the re-start to pounce on Piastri as the Australian held on well to third. Alpine’s Pierre Gasly pitted earlier and eventually gained to be third despite chase from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
The Mexican started to struggle and was eventually hit by Hamilton which caused a hole on his sidepod, but the Brit didn’t get a penalty for that. He got it for his understeer moment at Turn 15 when they touched while they were jostling for position.
“Hamilton was attempting to pass Perez on the inside at Turn 15,” said the steward. “While Perez was giving little room on the inside for Hamilton, Hamilton drove onto the kerb and subsequently understeered into Perez in the wet conditions. The Stewards consider that Hamilton was predominantly at fault for causing a collision and order a 5 second penalty.”
Perez retired while Hamilton was fourth but ended up seventh ahead of Mercedes teammate George Russell who had to fight through 12th to eighth after pitting a lap later. The Ferrari pair were in the middle in where they felt they didn’t maximise their results.
Verstappen: “I think just to make the call when to pit. I said already to the team, I know we can pit straight away. It’s very risky in case of having all the cars come in as well, who would pit behind me, and then of course you have to hold your car, or a Safety Car lap one, you never know, that can happen quite often in these kind of conditions. So, I think we just took the safer option to at least do one lap. Maybe there would be a Safety Car and you’re unlucky. There wasn’t a Safety Car so I knew I wouldn’t lose out, because the extreme tyres are a lot slower around here than an Inter. So yeah, we did the pitstop. I had a little wait as well for the Ferrari, and I came out behind Oscar and then of course I knew I had to get by him at some point. I could see that within two laps, he was already struggling a lot more with the tyres. Like they were just overheating more and then I guess with our top speed as well, I had a good run after the Safety Car. The car was quick. We knew already over one lap we were anyway not bad, but also in the race it seemed like we were quite good on keeping the tyres alive. So hopefully, we can do the same tomorrow if it’s dry. But tomorrow, of course, I’m starting a bit further back. 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.”
Piastri: “It was a good Sprint. I think it was pretty obvious for us to box on the first lap. Obviously we had the same risk as Max of potentially getting stuck with everyone coming it – but it worked out really well and managed to lead a few laps, which was cool. So really enjoyed it. Think we struggled a bit with keeping the tyres alive. Yeah, that was pretty much all we could have achieved today, so I’m very happy. For the re-start, I mean you’re always focusing on trying to just do the best laps you can. When you’ve got Max and his car behind you, it doesn’t put your nerves at ease, put it that way. So I knew it was going to be difficult to hold him behind, of course. I probably wasn’t expecting him to catch me literally at the top of Eau Rouge after the Safety Car restart, but such is our straight line speed. So yeah, it was cool. I was just focusing on trying to do the best job I could, knowing that it was probably going to be a when Max came past, rather than an if. But yeah, I tried my best. And I think second was all we all had. I think for us, it was pretty clear we would box for Inters.
“And then, you know, there’s always the risk that maybe you hit some standing water or whatever, but I could see how quickly I was catching the guys ahead that stayed out on Wets and knew I’d be in a pretty decent spot. You know, I think with Zhou maybe I could have been a little bit more aggressive. But yeah, in the end, it was enough. I think we were quite fortunate that we managed to do a normal stop when we did, because otherwise, if you have a car that’s one second further ahead or closer to and then they have this five behind, you can easily lose five, six seconds. So that worked out very well in our favour. But yeah, I think for us, it was always quite clear it would be Inters and we made the most of it.”
Gasly: “I think the last few races have been pretty unsuccessful and involved all sorts of incidents. So a bit of bad luck there. So yeah, it means quite a lot, actually, to be able to just put a strong Quali this morning and a strong race this afternoon. We know in terms of performance it hasn’t been as good as we would have liked since the start of the year. But in these conditions like today everything can happen and you need to play with the cards that you have. I think we definitely did the right choice in boxing on lap one and then from there it was a bit of survival mode, with first Sergio in the mirrors and then after Lewis for a couple of laps. But, yeah, we managed to hold him off until the end and really, really pleased to finish in the top three today. This weekend, we kind of set up the car for dry conditions and especially for the race, like trying to target straight line speed, so in these conditions there is a compromise.
“I knew we will not be the most competitive or the fastest out there, but I knew it would not be that easy for other guys to pass us. So it was about putting in clean laps, not doing any mistakes. And Lewis has been fast all weekend, so I knew he would be putting some pressure. He caught up pretty quickly. But then yeah, I just managed to hold him off until the end. So I’m really pleased for the whole team, because as you mentioned earlier, it hasn’t been an easy season. There’s quite a lot of changes going on inside the team. So I’m really pleased for the guys to put a positive note to the start of the season so far.”
Leclerc: “We didn’t maximise our package today. Starting on the Wets like everyone else, I pitted one lap after Carlos, which I think was the right choice because we would have lost more time stopping right behind him. Unfortunately, we lost time in the pitlane and as a consequence we lost some positions there. The race tomorrow will depend a lot on the weather, as teams have set up their cars for different conditions. It’s always a bit of a gamble here, not just in terms of strategy, but you need a bit of luck too. In any case, it should be a good fight and I look forward to getting back in the car.”
Hamilton: “I mean, I feel like it was a racing incident, but… It does feel like it was a racing incident, and in the trickiest of conditions. I was more than halfway alongside him, but yeah, a bit unfortunate. He went wide and was slow through turn 14 and I got a great exit – I was more than half-a-car alongside him and we ended up just coming together. Naturally it wasn’t intentional, but I got a penalty for it. Ultimately fourth, with the penalty seventh, [but] you don’t really get a lot of points anyway in this session. We’ll try and fix the car for tomorrow and hope for a better race tomorrow.”
Perez: “We had a lot of damage from Lewis. The conditions were tricky and Lewis ran out of grip and crashed into the side of me. He basically took the whole right-hand side of the car. Once we realised about the damage we retired. That meant game over on my race. The race pace was good and I think we could have caught Pierre Gasly. All in all, I think everything was managed well today by race control and we have been really strong the whole weekend and had the pace to fight for pole today. Anyway, I look forward for [the Grand Prix] tomorrow, hopefully tomorrow we can recover those points.”
As mentioned, the crash for Alonso was a big loss for Aston Martin who already had a bad F1 sprint shootout. The Spaniard accept his mistake where he touched the white line near the kerb and just spun off. He lost out while chasing Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg.
There was struggle for Williams’ Alexander Albon too outside the points where they couldn’t get the car going in greasy conditions, facing overheating problems. Over at AlphaTauri, Daniel Ricciardo fought hard for 10th but teammate Yuki Tsunoda had a spin on re-start.
He lost his rear and could have rammed into the back of another car during the re-start, but chose to spin off and drop back. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen tried his best to rally his team to stop for slicks but they didn’t take the gamble in drying conditions.
Alonso: “My mistake. I touched the kerb, or the white line or whatever, and I lost the car. I was very close to Nico, so I lost a little bit of rhythm into that corner. We were out of the points anyway – I think today, impossible to be in the top eight, so if one time you have to have a DNF, maybe better today than any other day. It was tricky obviously. We’ve been, the whole weekend, finding the grip and guessing what the grip is in each of the corners. It was tricky obviously. We’ve been, the whole weekend, finding the grip and guessing what the grip is in each of the corners. Every lap, the track improvement is massive. It was tricky also with all the cars – visibility was obviously different to qualifying, so it was tricky.”
Albon: “That was really tough. We’ve been struggling all weekend in this greasy weather, where we just can’t seem to get on top of it. We got some understanding of it during the Sprint Shootout; however, we were just putting new tyres on the car. As soon as we did more than 9 corners, the tyres were overheating. It’s good to go through these periods where it becomes clear to us that we’re weak in these conditions, and it’s obvious when you see the tyres overheating quickly. With a lower downforce set up, it normally works around here, however you don’t see the benefit of the straights when you’re sliding through corners with the heat building and the tyres continuously overheating. If the race can stay dry tomorrow, we’ll be in a good place.”
Tsunoda: “During Sprint qualifying this morning, I made some mistakes and couldn’t put a clean lap together. It’s super frustrating having qualified P16 because that position hurt us this afternoon, but it was my fault. It was better to prioritise the car in front, which was Daniel because he had a much bigger chance to score points than me, so I think the strategy was good. My whole race felt strange because the rear grip was really poor, but together with the team, we’ll investigate what happened there tonight, and I hope everything is ok. At the restart following the Safety Car, I had a massive rear lock and I couldn’t control anything, and almost crashed into another car, which would’ve been the worst-case scenario. By starting P16 in these conditions, my main focus was on bringing the car back in the same shape for tomorrow. Luckily, I was able to avoid any incident with any other car or barrier. I’m happy to start P11 tomorrow for the main race, which is the most important one. I miss the points, so I’m hoping we can finish in the top 10 tomorrow.”
Bottas: “It was pretty tricky out there today, but nothing different from what we have had this weekend so far. The weather has been changing unbelievably fast throughout the day, and it’s been unpredictable, too. At least, despite everything, we got some good racing done this afternoon, which is always good fun, and also made up a few places up through the field. Overall, as a positive to take home from today, our pace and car felt good, which gives us confidence ahead of tomorrow’s race, with better starting positions.”
Magnussen: “It’s pretty gnarly when you can’t see anything. When they called the rolling start at the beginning I was pretty surprised because we still couldn’t see a thing. Coming down to Turn 5 of course when you get into the corners you can see again because the speed is that much slower but going down the straight you literally can see nothing. Towards the end, the track was ready for slick tires, I think it was past the crossover but there just wasn’t enough laps to make up that pit stop loss in a sprint race, so we didn’t go for it in the end. P14 for us, we will see what we can do tomorrow.”
Here’s broken sidepod: https://www.instagram.com/p/CvSfsETtNAI/?hl=en
Here’s how F1 Belgian GP sprint panned out