Max Verstappen celebrates after winning the Belgian Grand Prix. (Photo: @redbullracing/Twitter.)

Max Verstappen has claimed his ninth win of the 2022 Formula 1 season, dominating the rest of the field to be crowned the winner of the Belgian Grand Prix and in the progress extend his championship lead.

With Formula 1 returning to action in Spa following the summer break, Verstappen continued where he left off, winning his third consecutive Grand Prix in scintillating fashion.  

Prior to the weekend, Red Bull opted to replace Verstappen’s power unit which therefore gave him a grid penalty. The move paid dividends come qualifying with Verstappen’s pace unmatched, having the quickest qualifying time by over half a second.

However due to the penalty, Verstappen began the race in 14th place although he made sure to quickly work his way up the grid.

After just one lap of the race Verstappen already had claimed six spots, climbing into eighth. By lap eight the Dutchmen had well and truly made his mark, overtaking George Russell and sliding into third.

With his blistering pace Red Bull opted for Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez to switch positions on lap 12 which allowed the 24 year old to lead the Grand Prix. From there no one could match Verstappen’s pace, falling to second after pitting on lap 16 yet returning to pole just two laps later after overtaking Carlos Sainz.

Verstappen remained in first for the rest of the race, slowly extending his lead lap by lap with 17.8 seconds separating him and second place Perez.

The win further extends his lead atop the Drivers Championship to 93 points ahead of Perez and 98 points in front of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

This marks the second consecutive race where Verstappen has had to come from low on the grid to win, having done so in Hungary after starting in 10th. This means he is only the second driver in Formula 1 history to win consecutive races starting 10th or lower on the grid.

Overall it was another great day for Red Bull with the team having its two drivers finish first and second after Perez put in another solid performance.

While Sainz challenged Perez at stages in the end he proved too quick for the Spaniard to give Red Bull its fourth one-two finish of the season. The win and 18 points that came along with it also meant that Perez moved ahead of Leclerc in the driver standings to give Red Bull first and second.

Red Bull now sits on 475 points in the Constructors Championship, 118 points ahead of Ferrari.

No points for McLaren

It was a somewhat lacklustre performance for McLaren again in Spa, with both Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris finishing outside of the points again.

With Ricciardo starting the race in seventh place, there were high hopes that the Australian could earn some much needed points and kick off a solid start to the second half of the season.

This looked to be the case on the first lap with Ricciardo jumping into sixth place on the opening lap before scumming to the charging Verstappen and Alex Albon to fall to eighth by lap six.

Following a pit stop on lap 13 which saw Ricciardo come out in 15th, the 33 year old was unable to return to the top eight. While he moved into 10th on lap 19, a second pit stop on lap 33 sent him back down to 15th where he finished the race.

Teammate Norris had his back against the wall early, starting in 17th after taking a new power unit and receiving a grid penalty. Norris was never able to work his way into a top 10 position, finishing the race in 12th place.  

Ferrari fails to fire

With Carlos Sainz starting the Grand Prix in pole position, Ferrari would have had high hopes that they could put an end to Red Bull’s dominance in Spa.

In the end, the pace of Red Bull proved too much to overcome and with teammate Charles Leclerc battling lower down the grid early, Sainz was unable to defend against both Red Bulls.

Sainz battled hard until the 21st lap when both Red Bulls were finally able to get past him, with the Spaniard going on to finish the race in third and get his seventh podium of the year.

Teammate Leclerc had a much more difficult race, ultimately finishing in sixth place. Leclerc started the race in 15th after he received a grid penalty for taking a new power unit. Unlike Vertsappen, Leclerc was unable to climb as rapidly up the grid due in part to him pitting on lap four which resulted in him returning to the grid in 17th.

By lap 17 Leclerc had finally made his way into the top five, slicing through the mid-field to give Sainz some support. However Leclerc had to battle with Mercedes’ George Russell who proved a handful to deal with not allowing the Ferrari driver to get the better of him.

Things got worse for Leclerc with just two laps to go in the race with Ferrari opting to pit him so he could steal the fastest lap from Verstappen. This move however did not work as Leclerc returned to the track with Fernando Alonso passing him to fall to sixth.

While he was able to regain the position, he later received a five second penalty for speeding during that pit stop which meant he finished the race in sixth place.  

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Mixed results for Mercedes

Mercedes leave Belgium having scored 12 points following a fourth place finish for George Russell, while Lewis Hamilton’s race did not even last one lap.

The seven-time world champion was forced to retire from the race on the opening lap following an incident with Fernando Alonso. Hamilton and Alonso who were battling for second place on the first lap made contact going into turn five, with Hamilton’s car suffering damage which forced him to retire from the race a few turns later.

The retirement of Hamilton hurt Mercedes, with the Brit showing great pace early having climbed from fourth place into second.

Mercedes remains in third place in the Constructors Championship, sitting just 41 points behind Ferrari.

Alonso shows class

Fernando Alonso has played an integral part in helping Alpine establish itself as the fourth best team this season, again putting on a fantastic performance to score a season best fifth place result.

Alonso continues to exceed expectations and showcase the ability to at times hang with the top cars on the grid, illustrated in him beginning the race in third place after being one of the quickest cars in qualifying.

Alonso spent the majority of the race on the fringes of the top six before being able to capitalise late on Ferrari and Leclerc’s mistake to score in the points for the ninth consecutive race.

Teammate Esteban Ocon also had a strong performance, finishing in seventh place after starting 16th to give the team 16 points from the weekend.

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