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Verstappen escapes brief Spa scare for eighth straight F1 win

Published July 30,2023

Not even a brief scare in the rain could stop Max Verstappen as the world champion romped to an eighth straight victory from sixth on the grid as his Red Bull team secured another Formula One record at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Verstappen had won qualifying but served a five-place grid penalty over a gearbox change beyond the legal season limit, a tactical move by the team because overtaking is easier in Spa than at other tracks.

And like last year, when he had won from 14th, Verstappen delivered, taking the lead from team-mate Sergio Perez in lap 17 of 44.

He almost lost the car at the famous Eau Rouge section as rain set in briefly at around the halfway mark, but regained his composure for another comfortable 10th season victory and 45th overall ahead of team-mate Perez and pole sitter Charles Leclerc of Ferrari.

Red Bull made it 12 wins in a row, moving ahead of McLaren for another record. In all, they have won 13 straight races now, starting with the 2022 season-ender.

Verstappen will have a chance to equal Sebastian Vettel's record of nine wins in a row from 2013 after a four-week break at his Dutch home grand prix on August 27 in Zandvoort.

Verstappen increased his championship lead to 125 points - or five victories - over Perez after 12 of 23 races, with a third straight world title all but a foregone conclusion, barring disaster.

"I knew that we had a great car and it was just about surviving Turn One," Verstappen said.

"I could see it getting really tight so I was just going to stay out of that and it worked out. From there onwards we made the right overtakes and moves."

Looking at his scary moment, he added: "Eau Rouge is the worst corner to have a moment. It was tricky in those laps where it was raining because you could see it was raining but not how much. I had a little sideways moment, luckily nothing happened but it's certainly not a corner you want it to happen."

Perez, won twice early in the season but had not finished second since Miami in May, admitted "there was nothing I could have done" to stop Verstappen.

Leclerc, who lost the lead to Perez in lap one, was happy with the result but said that Red Bull remain "quite far ahead."

Oscar Piastri meanwhile suffered heartbreak the day after his second-place finish in the sprint race behind Verstappen as he had to retire his McLaren after contact with Carlos Sainz' in the opening turn.

Sainz also picked up damage on the side of his car and slipped down the rankings but he continued after an early pit stop until finally retiring in lap 25.

Hamilton was fourth, ahead of Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso, who had turned 42 on Saturday, and Mercedes team-mate George Russell.

Lando Norris of McLaren, Alpine's Esteban Ocon, Aston Martin's Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri completed the top 10.

There were also more exchanges between Verstappen and his race engineer Gianpiere Lambiase - who had a bit of a spat on Friday -, with Lambiase telling him after the second stop "to use your head a bit more" concerning tyre degradation.

Verstappen said: "I could also push on and we do another stop? A little bit of pit stop training." But the answer was a clear: "No, not this time."

Vettel later admitted he did slow down after the messages - still winning by 22 seconds.