Max Verstappen recovered from losing the lead to Oscar Piastri to blast past the McLaren driver and cruise to a comfortable Belgian Grand Prix Sprint victory.
The Dutchman lost out in the pit-stop phase as a number of drivers switched from wets to inters when racing finally got underway on a drying Spa-Francorchamps circuit after the race was cut to 11 laps.
Verstappen admitted he took the “safe” option before passing Piastri down the Kemmel straight and taking the chequered flag by nearly seven seconds.
“It was a safer call (to stay out for lap one) – I could come in first and then be blocked by other cars, there might be a Safety Car and then you lose out massively. I didn’t mind to stay out,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.
“We lost one position and we know we are quick and we could see that when we put the inter tyres on we were flying.
“The car was quick, tyres were holding on, just tiny little issues (with the brakes).
“I need to pass a few cars tomorrow. The biggest risk is just lap one, turn one, it’s always very tricky there. As long as we stay out of trouble we have a quick car.”
As has been the theme of the weekend, the Sprint was delayed after a couple of heavy showers swept through over Spa-Francorchamps.
Given the inherent risk of the iconic track, the FIA mandated extra formation laps and a rolling start, which cut the racing laps from 15 to 11.
The safety car was followed into the pits by half the pack, who switched onto inters on the rapidly drying asphalt.
Among them was Piastri, who leapfrogged Verstappen into first after the Dutchman stayed out on the wets.
The world champion emerged just over a second behind the McLaren and pounced at the restart down the Kemmel straight after Fernando Alonso brought out the safety car.
Behind the leading duo, the other big winners in the early pit-stop phase were Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton, who battled for third, fourth and fifth before the Red Bull driver tumbled down the order.
There was contact between Hamilton and Perez as the Brit tried to force his way past before he eventually made it stick into Turn 1, with the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc following him through.
Hamilton nearly snatched third from Gasly before being given a five-second penalty which demoted him to seventh for causing a collision with Perez, who retired.
The podium was a timely one for Gasly and Alpine, after the news earlier in the week that a number of senior personnel would be leaving during the summer break.
Behind Gasly, Hamilton’s penalty promoted Sainz and Leclerc into fourth and fifth respectively, with Lando Norris taking sixth in what was a good day for McLaren.
George Russell snatched the final point in eighth.
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