After three long agonizing weeks, Formula 1 returns to action after their three-week summer break. The Belgian Grand Prix was set to kick off the second of the season at the historic Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. Last year’s edition of the race was mired in controversy after the race was stopped after a couple of laps due to rain sending all the fans in attendance home. Luckily, this year’s edition of the race did not face similar problems and was given sunny skies to redeem itself on race day.
Throughout the summer break, there were rumors that the Belgian GP would be removed from the calendar in 2023 leaving F1fans and former F1 drivers upset with that possibility. Prior to the race weekend began confirmed the GP will remain on the schedule for at least the 2023 season.
Max Verstappen and his Red Bull lead both the driver’s and constructor’s championship standings and a victory at the Belgian Grand Prix would make the task of beating them even more daunting. Most of the pressure would seem to be on Ferrari who trails Red Bull and has faced severe scrutiny over their race strategies that have hurt Charles Leclerc and his battle against Verstappen.
As per usual only everything must be decided on the track and the Belgian Grand Prix is a terrific way to start up the war again.
The qualifying sessions were led by Verstappen’s Red Bull and Carlos Sainz Jr Ferrari. Williams’ Alexander Albon was one of the surprises of the day showing impressive straight-line speed and for the first time, this season reached Q3 and the top ten.
Although Verstappen easily took pole position, he did not start at the front of the grid on race day due to changing his gearbox. Verstappen was not the only driver to be penalized for changing their gearbox or power units as Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, Ferrari’s Leclerc, McLaren’s Lando Norris, HAAS’ Mick Schumacher, and Alpines Esteban Ocon were sent to the back of the grid on race day.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was given pole position followed by Red Bulls Sergio Perez in second place and Alpines Fernando Alonso in third. Mercedes locked up P4 with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in the P5. With such powerful cars in the back of the grid, the race was set up to be an interesting one.
A rarity at the Belgian Grand Prix the temperatures were extremely hot without any chance of rain on the forecast. The 2022 race was not going to be canceled or interrupted by rain but now had to determine the appropriate tire selections to endure the heat.
The formation lap started with both Alpha Tauris starting from the pit lane leaving eighteen cars lined up on the grid awaiting the red lights to go out and start the race. The second half of the F1 season kicked off with Sainz taking off cleanly and maintaining his leadership position as Perez fell to P5, Alonso and Hamilton surpassed the Red Bull heading into turn 1.
Alonso and Hamilton began to battle for position and heading into a corner Hamilton did not give enough space to Alonso colliding with him and sending his Mercedes flying into the air. Both drivers returned to the track and Alonso was lucky to be mostly unscathed and continued his race. Hamilton on the other hand was forced to retire. After the race, Hamilton admitted it was his mistake and race stewards yet have not added any additional penalties due to the matter.
The action was intense in the opening laps and Williams’ Latifi lost control of the car bumping the wall and nearly colliding with Bottas who avoided the Canadian and beached himself in the gravel and out of the race.
A safety car was immediately deployed, and the race slowed to a snail’s pace to clear the debris and the F1 cars left on the track. On Lap 4 the safety car retreated, and green flags triggered the restart of the race Sainz maintained his lead position followed by Perez and Russel. Verstappen who started in 14th place sliced and diced through the cars ahead of him and by the time Lap 7 was complete he was already sitting in 4th place.
After the first round of pit stops Sainz could not contain Verstappen who climbed to 2nd place and easily surpassed the Ferrari on Lap 18. Verstappen was unstoppable and as he said post-race “the car was on rails.” Sainz slides a little further down the rankings landing in third place with an eager Russell hot on his tail. Leclerc who started in 15th place also made an impressive climb up the rankings but seemed to lack the pace of the front runners.
By Lap 33 Leclerc sat in 5th place without any real chance of making the podium. Ferrari’s strategic decisions came under question again late in the race when they pitted Leclerc for soft tires to claim the fastest laps of the race and a bonus point. Upon leaving the pit lane Alonso was right on top of Leclerc and even passed the Monegasque driver even if it was for a few corners. Ferrari almost lost fifth place due to their decision and when Leclerc failed to achieve the fasted lap it was clear their decision was questionable.
In the end, the chequered flag rightly belonged to Max Verstappen who was unstoppable and won his 9th race of the season easily and claimed the fasted lap of the race. Verstappen’s lead in the driver’s championship tremendously leads the championship by 93 points over his teammate Sergio Perez in second place.
Sergio Perez finished the race in second place allowing him to take over the runner-up position in the championship standings over Charles Leclerc by 5 points. It was the fourth time Red Bull finished in the 1-2 positions of a race and now they also stand 1-2 for the championship.
Things look like Red Bull is well on its way to securing both championships in a few more races. Ferrari’s only silver lining of the day was Carlos Sainz Jr finishing in third place giving the team their first podium since Austria.
REST OF THE PACK
George Russell continues his run of steady performances finishing 4th place adding more points to his impressive rookie year with Mercedes. Leclerc had to be satisfied with 5th place followed by the ageless wonder Alonso in 6th. Alpine’s Ocon also had a steady race finishing in 7th place after starting in 16th.
Sebastien Vettel AND Aston Martin finished 8th followed by Pierre Gasly and his Alpha Tauri in 9th. Rounding off the top 10 and point scorers was an extremely pleased Alexander Albon who gave Williams something to cheer about.
Fans won’t have to wait long for the next race because in one week’s time the Dutch Grand Prix awaits at the Zandvoort Circuit. You can expect seas of orange to be cheering on their fellow countrymen and world champion Verstappen every lap he takes.
One thing is certain if Ferrari wants to still have a chance in the championship battle, they will need to silence the crowd and steal away a win. Easier said than done especially when Verstappen and Red Bull are running on full cylinders.
2022 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX FINAL STANDINGS
|1||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NETHERLANDS||RED BULL||1:49.354|
|2||SERGIO PEREZ||MEXICO||RED BULL|
|3||CARLOS SAINZ JR||SPAIN||FERRARI|
|8||SEBASTIEN VETTEL||GERMANY||ASTON MARTIN|
|9||PIERRE GASLY||FRANCE||ALPHA TAURI|
|11||LANCE STROLL||CANADA||ASTON MARTIN|
|14||ZHOU GUANYU||CHINA||ALFA ROMEO|
|RETIRED||VALTERRI BOTTAS-LAP 1||FINLAND||ALFA ROMEO|
|RETIRED||LEWIS HAMILTON- LAP 0||BRITAIN||MERCEDES|