Verstappen wins Belgian GP, Leclerc takes third podium of 2023

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-23. 29.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Sprint Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

Verstappen also conquers Spa and puts another important step towards the conquest of the third title. His comeback was helped by contact between Sainz and Piastri at the start, who both retired.

Perez, second, signs the contributed to a fifth 1-2 of the season for Redbull. Leclerc finished third after a solid race in an SF-23 which proved to be second strength at Spa. Hamilton and Russel were fourth and sixth, respectively, whilst McLaren were hurt with a totally wrong set-up choice.

The twelfth round of the season takes place at Spa-Francorchamps, at the Formula One University. 

Spa is a historic circuit, characterized by a great variety of bends, straights, climbs and descents which in the past have been able to give spectacular races. 

It is also renowned for its weather, which has always been a great variable in Belgium. 

It was the same these days, and it could be the same today with the arrival of the rain expected around the halfway point of the race.


Leclerc’s SF-23 started from Pole. Ferrari has proved to be very competitive in the straights recently, thanks to an unloaded set-up. 

The absence of Verstappen in that box is anomalous, as he starts from sixth after the penalty suffered for changing the gearbox. 

Rain permitting, the planned race strategy would seem to be that of two stops, bearing in mind that the race pace has never been tested before by the teams. 

Hulkenberg sprints from the Pit-lane after replacing the Ferrari power unit and gearbox, taking advantage of the start already from the last grid.

No one takes the gamble to mount the hard tire at the start. The first 4 (Leclerc, Perez, Hamilton, Sainz) with the soft tire and the rest of the grid differentiate between soft and medium. 

The traffic lights go out, and the Source is the scene for the umpteenth time of contact between single-seaters: Sainz goes to the block to avoid rear-end collision with Hamilton and moves alongside him.

Behind him, Piastri tried an optimistic and aggressive entry into turn one, and, as often happened in the past, contact between McLaren and Ferrari was reached.

A broken right front suspension arm for Piastri, who collided against the wall in turn 1, and a hole in the right belly and on the floor for Sainz, who will retire after a few laps.

Ferrari attempted to wait for a red flag to intervene on his SF-23 and try to keep him in the race.

The other Ferrari driver was attacked by Perez in the Kemmel straight, an overtaking move without the possibility of a reply, which shattered the Monegasque’s dreams of victory after only three corners. 

Verstappen, assisted by the incidents at the front, went into fourth place after a strong start at the close of the first lap.

A trio made up of Leclerc, Hamilton, and Max soon formed, which lasted until lap seven when the Dutchman passed Lewis Hamilton – before making light work of the Monegasque.

The reigning Champion exploited the advantage of the DRS, which guarantees him a good 24 km/h difference in the Kemmel straight.

The pit stop waltz began earlier than expected on lap 10, only a Norris in extreme difficulty, due to the wrong set-up at McLaren, tried to gamble by fitting hard tires, unlike the rest of the grid.

It is precisely after the first pit stop that Verstappen puts his teammate in his sights, who is easily overtaken by the world leader, who takes the lead after only 17 laps. 

Only Russell Stroll and Gasly do not pit waiting for the rain, which arrived on lap 19 – albeit without the necessary intensity to force drivers to change tyres.

The fight further back saw a fantastic Alonso claim fifth position, bringing some positivity to Aston Martin after the last few difficult races.

On the twenty-fifth lap, the window opens to make a second pit, although this did not change the values ​​in the field, at least for what concerns the first positions.

Only Hamilton, among the top, made the third pit on the penultimate lap in search of a fast lap that he finds, aware that he can no longer fight with a very solid and continuous Leclerc.

Verstappen dominated on his way to victory. Perez second, although the clear superiority of his teammate is evident, he proves to be capable of doing what the team asks of him with such a dominant car. 

Behind the Red Bull duo was Charles Leclerc after leading a perfect race in a Ferrari that proved to be second-fastest on a circuit that was thought not to be suitable for the characteristics of the SF-23.

Hamilton secured fourth; the seven-time world Champion proves once again that he can maximise his car’s potential, thus guaranteeing third position in the drivers’ standings.

If Aston sees the light again with Alonso‘s fifth position, McLaren comes out of Spa downsized, one car retired and the other in great difficulty for the entire 44 laps due to a set-up choice which guaranteed great speed in the sector driven, but a car planted in the straights. 

To hit the points in tenth position is Yuki Tsunoda, an important demonstration of strength given the many gossips brought about by Daniel Ricciardo’s landing (16th) in Alpha Tauri, the Japanese finishes behind Stroll, Ocon, Norris and Russel.


Now there will be the summer break, with formula one starting again on 27 August at Zandvoort. 

A few more days of work lie ahead for the teams before closing for the summer break to interrupt the unstoppable dominance of Max Verstappen, who will certainly not intend to stop at his home Grand Prix.

Author: Luca Vanzini

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang