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Verstappen wins shortened Sprint


Ahead of today's Sprint the air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature us 31 degrees.

It is bright and sunny but before we get carried away we should point out that there are some worrying clouds around and we know from bitter experience that conditions here can change in an instant and at particular points on the track. Indeed, race control warns of a 100% chance of rain.

Having taken pole for the Grand Prix yesterday, this morning Max Verstappen did the double and claimed pole for the Sprint, albeit only just 0.011s quicker than Oscar Piastri.

Piastri's teammate, Lando Norris starts from fifth, the Woking pair sandwiching the Ferraris, with Gasly, Hamilton and Perez just behind.

Assuming it remains dry we could be in for some fun and games because the drivers have had so little dry running this weekend, which has left the teams at sixes and sevens in terms of set-up.

The weather earlier caused the start of the shootout to be delayed which in turn meant that the Sprint is also taking place later than scheduled. Nonetheless, the Aston Martin crew have done brilliantly over the break repairing Lance Stroll's car following his crash in Q2. The Canadian being the only driver to try slicks (mediums) in that particular phase of the session.

"Realistically the Top 10 is a fairly quick Top 10," says Ricciardo. "If it's dry we might have a chance as no one has driven in the dry, but I can feel rain already. The rain is coming!"

"The rain will hit the track in 5 minutes," Bottas in formed, five minutes before the start.

"The weather is coming," Magnussen is warned.

"Heavy rain Turn 15," Leclerc is advised, "and it will last for twenty minutes."

At which point the start is delayed as the rain begins to fall. Due to start at 17:05 the formation lap, we are told, will get underway at 17:12.

"Latest update is that the rain is expecting to stay around until about twenty past," Norris is told, "then they expect to start the race behind the Safety Car."

As Hamilton heads off for a comfort break the sun emerges, though the rain continues.

As one would expect, there is a rainbow.

"The rain should stop in five minutes, and then we have an hour with no rain," Leclerc is told.

In the stands the umbrellas are closed and ponchos removed.

At 17:21 race control announces that the formation lap will get underway at 17:35, behind the Safety Car and on wets.

Sainz wishes to know, should he wish to change tyres, can he pit at the end of the formation lap or must he wait until the end of the first racing lap. This, of course, is what happened in Hungary in 2021, when Hamilton was the odd one out.

Alonso is told that there will be "at least" two laps behind the Safety Car.

They head off and in no time at all the field disappears in a cloud of spray.

At the end of the formation lap the Aston Martin of Berndt Maylander continues to lead the field... on to another formation lap.

"Yes, it's definitely Inters," reports Russell.

"The plan is for four laps behind the Safety Car," Verstappen is told, "and then a rolling start." "I think that's a smart decision," he replies.

What he isn't told however, is that as it stands there will be 12 racing laps rather than the original 15.

"It's drying quick," reports Verstappen, "you could definitely think to try Inters."

Back in the pits the various crews are preparing for a mad burst of activity.

However, the Safety Car continues as the race lap count drops to 11.

In all honesty, this is ridiculous.

Finally, race control announces that the Safety Car is to enter the pits and release the field.

As they enter Blanchimont, Verstappen slows and allows the Safety Car to pull away.

Finally he lets rip, and continue to complete the lap. Piastri, Sainz, Gasly, Hamilton, Perez, Ricciardo, Albon, Stroll, Bottas and Hulkenberg all pit.

Back on track, Verstappen leads Leclerc, Norris, Ocon, Russell, Sargeant, Alonso, Tsunoda, Magnussen and Zhou, none of whom pitted.

Verstappen subsequently pits, as do Leclerc, Norris, Russell, Ocon, Sargeant...

The world champion rejoins in second behind Piastri. Gasly is third, ahead of Perez, Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, Ricciardo and Ocon.

Hulkenberg, currently 15 has made up 5 places, Perez and Sargeant 4.

At the end of Lap 2, Piastri leads by 0.958s.

All are on Inters bar Ocon who is still on wets.

Alonso is off and in the barrier at Turn 11, a lousy birthday present for the Spaniard.

The Safety Car is deployed.

Replay shows him touching the kerb on the outside of the track and lost the rear end as he pursued Hulkenberg.

Verstappen is told that Piastri's left-hand tyre is suffering. "I'm not surprised," he replies, "he's drifting everywhere."

The Safety Car is withdrawn at the end of Lap 5, and Verstappen is all over the rear of the McLaren.

Magnussen claims that there is a dry line. "We should think about it (slicks) he advises.

Sargeant is under investigation for speeding in the pitlane.

Piastri lets loose, and at the chicane Gasly almost collects Perez.

Up the hill Verstappen sweeps into the lead, as Stroll battles Albon and Russell for 11th.

Sargeant gets a 5s time penalty.

Hamilton is battling Perez for 4th, they touch, but the Mexican holds position.

At La Source Hamilton goes around the outside of Perez, while Sainz subsequently passes the Mexican with Leclerc sealing his fate at the entry to Les Combes.

"I have no rear grip," reports Perez as he comes under attack from Norris.

The Mexican goes off and into the gravel, rejoining in 16th. A disaster for the Red Bull driver. However, he doesn't pit.

The stewards are looking at the Hamilton/Perez incident.

After 7 laps, Verstappen leads Piastri by 3.5s.

As he hunts down Gasly, Hamilton goes quickest in S1.

"We're going to box and retire the car," Perez is told.

Russell nails Ocon at La Source to claim 9th. Next up for the Briton is Ricciardo.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spa here.


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1. Posted by habentsen, 29/07/2023 17:15

"Why in the name of all that’s holy did Hamilton get a penalty?"

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