This year’s second sprint race at Spa has a distinct sense of familiarity, characterized by rainfall, uncertainty, and a Red Bull led race in the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Max Verstappen dominated the race, notwithstanding an early lead from Oscar Piastri of McLaren during the initial laps. Verstappen and the Red Bull team astutely chose not to pit stop at the end of the five formation laps on the damp circuit, unlike Piastri and his team.
If Verstappen had followed suit, he would have risked losing more time than the 1.5-second lag he experienced behind Piastri when he finally changed to the intermediate tyres on the second lap of the sprint. Even with this delay, he most likely would have regained the lead given his remarkable performance.
“We discussed the risks of pitting immediately, especially with all cars coming in at once,” Verstappen explained in the post-race press conference, “We decided to play it safe and complete at least one lap, hoping for a safety car on the first lap. There was no safety car, so I knew I’d be at a disadvantage since the full wet tyres are slower here than the inters.”
Piastri acknowledged the risks but his decision paid off as he led his first F1 race, contributing to an exceptional rookie year.
However, his lead was short-lived when Verstappen sped past him on the Kemmel straight after the restart. Verstappen’s Red Bull showcased remarkable speed that took the Australian by surprise. The episode hints at the challenges McLaren and other teams might face in the grand prix.
With Verstappen’s RB19’s aerodynamic efficacy, the powerful Honda engine, robust DRS setup and overall mechanical stability, his Spa win in 2022 could likely repeat itself, despite the looming threat of a gearbox change. The absence of any dry-running data from Spa this season makes it risky to predict otherwise.
Despite the confidence, Verstappen alluded to potential risks in the upcoming race. “The car was fast during the first race,” he stated, “I need to ensure there’s no damage to the car and once I’ve completed the first lap cleanly, we can progress.” Verstappen’s previous Spa races offer lessons about the risks of starting from behind, such as the 2016 and 2019 incidents with Ferrari drivers.
Assuming a dry race, potential damages at the La Source corner pose a significant threat to Verstappen’s chances of another dominating Spa performance. Yet, there are rumors of rain expected during the race, which could impact Verstappen’s strategy.
The lack of dry running this weekend leaves teams dependent on historical data and experiences from previous races to estimate tyre performance. Pirelli predicts negligible difference in tyre degradation between one or two pit stops. However, this could be a minor threat to Verstappen as Red Bull has been known to make miscalculations with its tyre strategies.
Verstappen will first need to surpass McLaren, which is believed to have a wet conditions setup, followed by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and pole-sitter Charles Leclerc. Additionally, another showdown with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton awaits, making the race more thrilling.
In summary, Verstappen faces multiple challenges, from weather conditions, tyre strategies, rival competitors, and his own teammate. Yet, there’s a strong sense of familiarity to this narrative, suggesting another déjà vu in the making for Verstappen’s Spa victory.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Max Verstappen’s Spa Race 2023
Who led the initial laps of the second sprint race at Spa in 2023?
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri led the initial laps of the second sprint race at Spa in 2023.
How did Max Verstappen gain control of the race despite not leading initially?
Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team chose not to stop at the end of the five formation laps on the still-wet track, unlike Piastri. This decision, despite a brief setback, allowed Verstappen to maintain control of the race and eventually triumph.
What pitstop strategy did Verstappen use in the race?
Verstappen decided not to pit straight away. The strategy aimed to avoid the risk of waiting in the pitbox due to many cars coming in at the same time.
What does a gearbox change mean for Verstappen’s Grand Prix race?
A gearbox change will push Verstappen into a recovery drive in the Grand Prix. He will start further back and needs to be careful to avoid damage on his car. From there, he hopes to move forward.
How has Verstappen’s previous performances at Spa influenced his approach to the 2023 race?
Verstappen’s past experiences at Spa, where his races were compromised due to collisions, have influenced his careful approach to the 2023 race. He understands the importance of avoiding damage in the early stages to maintain a competitive position.
What are the possible challenges Verstappen might face in the Grand Prix race?
The possible challenges for Verstappen in the Grand Prix race include managing tyre degradation, dealing with McLaren’s setup, facing the Ferrari team’s challenge, and possibly a showdown with Lewis Hamilton. He also needs to consider the unpredictable weather at Spa.
Who might pose a potential threat to Verstappen in the upcoming race?
Sergio Perez, starting on the front row of the grid, could pose a potential threat to Verstappen in the upcoming race. With an improved showing in qualifying and a competitive car, Perez could potentially disrupt Verstappen’s race.