The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps hosts the 12th round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Belgian Grand Prix has reached its 79th edition and the legendary 7-kilometre circuit will be the stage for the third sprint weekend of the 2023 season, which is going to be particularly interesting as Spa always offers spectacular action and the uncertainty of Belgian weather will be once again a determining factor. Red Bull Racing are seeking to extend their domination on a championship that is increasingly becoming an occasion to break records and rewrite history books of the sport for the Anglo-Austrian team. More specifically, Max Verstappen could clinch his 8th consecutive win, surpassing his idol Michael Schumacher and approaching former Red Bull superstar Sebastian Vettel, who claimed 9 consecutive wins in the year of his fourth title (2013). The only difference? This is just mid-season, and after the summer break Verstappen could even improve this and other driver’s records. edition is attended by 380.000 spectators over the course of the race weekend, which represents an all-time record. The previous record belonged to the 2022 edition, characterized by 360.000 spectators during the weekend. Present in the calendar of the Formula 1 World Championship since the inaugural edition of 1950 and valid as a race for the category from the same year, the Belgian Grand Prix, together with those of Monaco, Switzerland, France, Great Britain and Italy, including a edition of the Indy 500 valid for the Formula 1 World Championship, was one of the races that characterized the calendar of the inaugural edition of the Formula 1 World Championship. As of this appointment, Laurent Mekies, Sporting Director of Ferrari, is not present at the Maranello stable wall: he handed over part of his duties to Diego Ioverno, who became the new Sporting Director.
From next January Mekies will be Team Principal at AlphaTauri, where he has already served as race engineer, chief engineer and responsible for vehicle performance. The French stable Alpine announces the exit of three members of the team, namely the Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer, Sporting Director Alan Permane and Technical Director Pat Fry. They leave their respective roles after this appointment. Starting with the following Dutch Grand Prix, the new Team Principal will be the current Vice President of Alpine Motorsport Bruno Famin, while the director of the Alpine Academy, Julian Rouse, will replace Permane. Matt Harman, however, will replace Fry, who will cover the role of Chief Technical Officer at Williams starting from the month of November. The Australian driver of McLaren Oscar Piastri, and the US driver of Williams Logan Sargeant debut in the category. Piastri won here during the Belgian round of the Formula Renault Eurocup of the 2019 championship, while Sargeant achieved victory in the sprint race of the Formula 3 championship of the 2020 season. Former Formula 1 driver Derek Warwick is appointed assistant commissioner for the race. It has performed this function before, most recently at the British Grand Prix. The British car manufacturer Aston Martin supplies the safety car and the medical car. For this Grand Prix, Pirelli , the sole tire supplier, offers the choice of C2, C3 and C4 compound tyres, the type of tire that characterizes the central range of the type of tire made available by the Italian company. Starting from the 2020 edition of the Grand Prix, Pirelli has always established this type of tire. It is established for the fourth time this season, and for the first time since the Miami Grand Prix. In this regard, Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director declares:
"After just a couple of days off, there's another Formula 1 race this weekend: the last before the summer break. The Belgian Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious races on the calendar, held on a track that's particularly challenging for drivers, cars, and tires. We've nominated the same line-up of compounds as last year - C2, C3, and C4 - to offer a wide range of strategy options; at least if the rain holds off. Traditionally, the weather at Spa is a key factor throughout the weekend ; the fact that the grand prix has moved dates - from the first race after the summer break to the last race before it - should make little difference , as the forecast is always variable anyway. The length of the track, with Spa being the longest lap of the year, and the variation in elevation - which is also the biggest of the whole season - means that it's easy to find wet conditions on one part of the track while it's completely dry elsewhere. New for this year is Spa becoming the third Sprint venue of the season, after Baku and Spielberg, with a Sprint Shootout on Saturday morning followed by a 100-kilometre race in the afternoon. With just an hour of free practice before qualifying on Friday (which, for now, seems to be the day most at risk of rain) there will be even less time than usual to set up the cars. At Spa, we tend to see some of the biggest differences in terms of aerodynamic setup between the teams: some prefer more downforce in order to push harder during the second sector while others prefer a looser car to have extra speed to attack and defend more down the straights. With two races this year, one of the most spectacular venues of the season is set to put on an even bigger show".
On Thursday night, Aston Martin use one of the six curfews granted during the season to carry out operations on their cars. The British stable receives no sanctions. Before the start of the free practice session, the third gearbox and third transmission are installed on the car of Lando Norris and Alexander Albon. The fourth transmission is installed on Esteban Ocon 's car. All three drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those that can be used in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. The third unit relating to the internal combustion engine is installed on the cars of Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri, Lance Stroll, Fernando Alonso and Logan Sargeant, and the fourth unit is installed on the car of Norris, Kevin Magnussen and Albon. The third unit relating to the turbocharger was installed on the car of Hamilton, Piastri, Stroll, Alonso and Sargeant, and the fourth unit was installed on the car of Magnussen and Albon. The third unit relating to the MGU-H is installed on the car of Hamilton, Piastri, Stroll, Alonso and Sargeant, and the fourth unit is installed on the car of Magnussen and Albon. The third unit related to the MGU-K is installed on the car of Hamilton, Piastri, Stroll, Alonso and Sargeant, and the fourth unit is installed on the car of Albon. The second unit relating to the energy recovery system is installed on Valtteri's car Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg. The second unit relating to the electronic control unit is installed on the car of Zhou and Magnussen. The fourth unit relating to the exhaust system is installed on the car of Stroll, Alonso and Albon, the fifth unit is installed on the car of Hamilton, Piastri, Zhou, Magnussen and Sargeant, and the sixth unit is installed on the car of Norris. All drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those that can be used in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. Lando Norris, after two consecutive podium finishes, feels happy to be back in his place, but knows there is still a lot of work to do to maintain consistency for the rest of the season. He is looking forward to racing at Spa, one of his favorite tracks and where he can hopefully get good results. He is aware of the challenges the circuit can present depending on the conditions, but will do his best to finish the first half of the season in a strong position:
"Back-to-back podiums! It feels good to be back where we belong, but we still have more work to do to keep it consistent for the rest of the season. I'm looking forward to racing in Spa. It's one of my favorite tracks and it should be a good circuit for us. Of course, it can be challenging depending on the conditions, but we will do our best to finish the first half of the season in a strong position".
It's always nice to race in Spa, as Oscar Piastri declared, hoping to have another good weekend before the summer break:
"Belgium up next. It's always good to go racing in Spa, it's a really great track, and I enjoy a Sprint weekend. The car has been good to us in the last two races, which is positive, but there's a lot of learning to take into this weekend. I was back in the sim at the MTC this week to make sure we extract all the data. Hopefully, we have another good weekend ahead of the summer break".
Andrea Stella, Team Principal McLaren, defines himself as gratified by the excellent work done by the team :
"Another strong weekend from both drivers in Hungary and a further data point to help us analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the car. It's good to be in this position and the team have worked hard to get us here. However, while we can be more optimistic about the rest of our season, we know the other teams won't stand still. Our plans and ambitions remain the same, we continue to push forward with the development of the MCL60 this year, and ultimately aim to be in a position to achieve race wins in the near future. Meanwhile, before the summer shutdown, we head to Belgium. Spa is another popular circuit with the drivers.It has a nice mix of long straights and corners at all speeds and can be even more challenging if affected by the weather. It's also a Sprint weekend, which adds to the challenge and the opportunities. As always, our team, together with our drivers, remain focused on the task at hand and are ready to give it their all".
At Alpine, Esteban Ocon declares:
"It was very frustrating for the entire team to have a double retirement on Sunday, especially in such circumstances so early into the race. There wasn't much Pierre or I could do and we have no choice but to move on and focus on this weekend where we hope to bounce back quickly. Despite the significant impact of the crash on Sunday, I am feeling OK physically and very motivated to race in Belgium. Given this weekend's Sprint format, we have the chance to take points on both Saturday and Sunday, so we will be doing all we can to maximize our opportunities".
Pierre Gasly, Ocon's teammate, declares:
"As a team, it's important we stick together, keep our heads down and keep working hard to bring better results. We have an upgrade this weekend and hopefully that will all go to plan and bring some additional performance to the car which we need now. It's another Sprint weekend, which brings more opportunities to score points. We will target a solid Practice session before we go into Qualifying on Friday night. I'm feeling even more determined for a strong outcome from the weekend ahead of the summer break".
Last weekend in Budapest was really positive for Daniel Ricciardo, finally back in Formula 1. The Australian driver made a few small mistakes in the race, but was really consistent in the last stint and doesn't think he can ask for more from his first weekend back:
"My whole weekend in Budapest was really good, making me feel all the things I missed, like the adrenalin and being on the starting grid, those emotions are really powerful. I felt our peace wasn't bad and there was maybe even a chance of points if I hadn't had to start again from the back after being hit on the first lap. It was good the car wasn't damaged, so I was able to do the 70 laps and I felt physically fine at the end of it. There were a lot of things to be happy about. I made a few little mistakes in the race, but by the last stint I was really consistent and I don't think I could have asked for anything more from my first weekend back. I'm happy to have a back-to-back and go to Spa now. I think en was a solid start and it will be good to jump straight back in the car after just a couple of days, as en will keep the ball rolling. It should fast-track my learning and my improvement. That's the plan, to keep chipping away at it. I think Spa is always a challenge, the circuit itself is one of the best and the weather is always a factor, but I will deal with it with confidence, after how things went to Hungary. I want to be optimistic about en, but also I have to stay grounded, as there are still a lot of things to learn. It's a Sprint format, which means en will be a pretty busy time, with just one practice session and then straight into qualifying. I plan to log a lot more laps, have some fun, and try to get in the points on Sunday".
At Williams Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, claims that SPA always represents a great challenge for the drivers and the teams themselves:
"Following the ATA experiment in Hungary, we return to the Sprint Event format for this weekend in Belgium. This means that we have just a single practice session to set the car up ready for the unique demands of Spa. As a result of the long lap, the drivers will get very few laps before they enter the Friday evening qualifying session. The weather forecast is for mixed conditions, which will only add to the pressure on the teams. The Spa circuit presents a great challenge, combining long straights with significant corner sequences; the trade of downforce and drag is difficult to optimize, especially in the wet. Both drivers were strong last weekend at the Hungaroring and this weekend is a good opportunity to reinforce that and continue to build momentum as we head into the summer shutdown".
The Spa circuit is also one of Alex Albon's favorites, who claims:
"Coming into Spa, it's a great circuit and one of my favorites to visit. Obviously, it's a track that should suit us a bit more than Hungary, however with everyone bringing upgrades this weekend, we're in a period where it's difficult to know where you stand in terms of peace to our competitors. Last year we scored a point at this circuit, so I think we'll have a good chance this weekend, whilst being mindful of the weather".
Toto Wolff declares himself happy to have used the weekend in Hungary to consolidate his second position in the Constructors' Championship:
"Hungary it was a weekend of highs and lows. Our pace was strong on Saturday and Sunday, but we didn't maximize that across the weekend. Lewis produced a brilliant lap to take pole position. However, on Sunday, we were too conservative with some of ours decisions and ultimately missed out on a podium. George meanwhile was compromised in qualifying but drove a strong race from P18 to take P6. We also encountered cooling limitations across both cars; we likely had the second-fastest car, but we must execute better if we are to deliver our full potential. Nevertheless, we scored good points with both drivers, and consolidated our P2 championship position. We will be aiming to turn those learnings into actions for this weekend. Spa-Francorchamps is a classic venue and a true challenge for both the cars and drivers, especially in the Sprint format with such limited practice time on a long and challenging lap. We will be bringing updates this weekend as part of ours ongoing development program. We hope this will be another small step forward in improving the W14. As we have seen at many races this year though, it is hard to predict where we will be relative to our competitors. Wherever the true peace of our car is here, we want to maximize the outcome in this final race before the summer shutdown".
At Red Bull, strongly anchored in first place in the classification world builders, Max Versteppen declares:
"I'm looking forward to the Sprint race in Belgium. It looks like it's going to be quite a rainy weekend, so we'll see what impact that'll have as it always makes it a bit more interesting and chaotic. Spa is of course my favorite track on the calendar so I'm looking forward to racing there and seeing the fans, it should be a fun weekend. It will be interesting to see how our car will perform in the higher speed corners too.I have good memories from Spa and coming off the back of a great Team result in Hungary, I hope we can deliver this weekend, it's the final push before summer break".
Checo Perez claims:
"It was a great Team win in Hungary, it's incredible to be part of such a historic moment in Formula 1. I'm proud to be a part of this Team and what we are achieving together. Everyone did an incredible job across the weekend and worked so hard, the reward was the end result. For me Belgium is about taking a step up in performance and being up there from the start of the weekend until the end.The weather will be tricky, as it always is in Spa, and we have the Sprint format to contend with so running could be very limited. I have to keep pushing and, as always, the aim is to deliver the best result possible".
In Ferrari, Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur declares that in the last two races, the italian team have not been able to exploit full potential of the SF-23 due to one approach too cautious and of some errors committed. Therefore, the goal for the Grand Prix of the Belgium will be to return on the direction undertaken in Canada:
"At the last two races, we weren't able to make the most of the SF-23s potential, because we adopted too cautious an approach, as well as making a few too many mistakes. Therefore, our goal for the Belgian Grand Prix, at one of Formula 1's truly great venues, is to get back to the path we had embarked on Canada. Charles and Carlos are two of the best drivers on the grid, but we have to give them the right tools with which to express their talent. Behind Red Bull, it's all extremely close with five teams battling it out to the nearest thousandths at every race. We therefore have to study every last detail of the weekend from Friday free practice to the last lap on Sunday, because one tenth of a second can mean a difference of one or two places. We know what our technical weaknesses are and ours rivals are not just killing time either. So, in Belgium and for the rest of the season, we must apply maximum concentration and be willing to take risks".
Charles Leclerc claims:
"It's going to be a busy weekend, as always with the Sprint format. I like to have to deal with this sort of weekend occasionally, as it rewards those who have done their homework and usually, our team is very good at preparing for races. There's just one free practice session and then it's straight into qualifying. Finding the right set-up quickly could be the key to this Grand Prix. It looks like it will rain at least until Saturday, so the track conditions, especially in terms of visibility will well very unpredictable. That's why qualifying well will well even more important. Then recently, we have seen that the fight behind the Red Bulls is very close. There are at least ten cars, as now McLaren is in that group too, all fighting for places between third and twelfth. For our part, we have a lot clear plan of what is needed and what we have to do over the coming weeks and even in the longer term. For now, we need to get back to working the way we did in Canada and Austria to maximize ours car's potential and I see a team with everyone pulling together determined to do that".
Carlos Sainz concludes:
"It will be a particularly tough weekend for all the drivers. The Sprint format means the program will well very compressed and we have just one free practice session, which it's not very much time to fine tune the car on such a difficult track. But it's the same for everyone, I know en will be important to apply maximum concentration to ours work, especially given how close so many of the cars are this year. We did not pick up the results we should have done, given our potential, but I'm sure we are working well and personally, I feel I am driving better than last year. We must continue to push in this direction because I believe it's the right way, as we saw in Canada and Austria. We must get back on track and I'm sure we have everything in place to do that".
At Aston Martin, Lance Stroll claims:
"Spa-Francorchamps is a very different circuit to the Hungaroring, with lots of long straights and high-speed corners. We're learning that those characteristics aren't particularly suited to the AMR23, which favors the lower and medium-speed corners, so I think we'll well managing our expectations going into this weekend. That being said, the goal still remains the same : to deliver the best possible result for the team".
Fernando Alonso concludes:
"We didn't have the easiest weekend in Budapest and ninth was the maximum from Sunday with three points in total collected for the team. Belgium is up next and we've had a few days to analyze everything from Hungary. It's a very different challenge here with the high-speed nature of this circuit and I've always enjoyed racing at Spa. It's a challenge we are looking forward to tackle though, and hopefully we can bounce back this weekend with a strong result. It's another Sprint weekend here, so we only have one practice session before Qualifying to get everything optimised, which is a test for all teams, especially with a mixed looking forecast. I'm looking forward to getting back in the cockpit of the AMR23 so soon after Budapest".
As always, the sprint format mandates for just an hour of free practice on Friday, which in Belgium does not yield meaningful results as the session is showered by incessant rain, which increases in intensity in the final part. Still, teams and drivers exploit these sixty minutes to gain data and confidence on these conditions, as the unpredictable Belgian weather could definitely bring out the rain again in qualifying and in both races, making the first free practice very useful to define a good wet set-up. In the first stages many drivers do some exploratory laps to ‘taste’ track conditions and consequently determine a workplan. As expected, the wet track surface and the cold tyres produce some accidents, from which some drivers escape, others not. For example, Alex Albon goes out at turn 18 and then at turn 5 but manages to use the escape road both times. His teammate Logan Sargeant is unluckier and after aquaplaning at Les Combes he hits the barrier on the left as the car goes straight even with him steering completely to the right. This causes a brief red flag. Guanyu Zhou runs wide at turn 8, crosses the gravel trap and brushes the barrier with the front wing. Another victim of aquaplaning turn 18 is Pierre Gasly, who chooses the tarmac run-off area not to flat-spot his tyres while hard braking for the Bus Stop chicane. In the second part of the session visibility further deteriorates with more rain and track action is reduced to a minimum. Aston Martins have a try with intermediate tyres but immediately go back in. In the end the highest number of laps completed in FP1 is just nine and just a small group of drivers reach it. Among those Carlos Sainz, who sets the fastest lap in 2'03"207 on intermediate tyres. The Spaniard is followed by the McLaren pair of Piastri (+0.585), Norris (+1.277), then Leclerc on full-wet tyres (+4.941), Perez, Albon, Tsunoda, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Hamilton, Russell, Bottas, and Zhou. As previously said, lap times are not very meaningful though, since starting from Pérez the gap from the leader exceeds five seconds. Sargeant (because of his accident), Stroll, Gasly, Ocon, and Verstappen finish the session with no time. In the afternoon, the track is still wet, and qualifying is going to be a very delicate session, with the track steadily improving and the high risk of accidents. In Q1 Lando Norris demonstrates this theory by going out at Paul Frère curve after a snap of oversteer and running into the gravel trap at high speed. Leclerc is the last one to improve and sets the fastest lap under pressure with 1'58"300.
Ricciardo temporarily makes it through, but his time is deleted due to track limits at turn 4 (cutting on the inside at Raidillon on top of the hill) and he is demoted back to 19th position and is eliminated together with Albon, Zhou, Sargeant, and Hulkenberg in 20th position. In Q2 the track is drying up and the drivers gamble with slick tyres in the final stages of the session. Ocon catches a patch of wet out of line and hits the barriers at turn 9, resulting in front wing damage. First Tsunoda then Piastri sets the fastest time at the chequered flag with 1'51"534. Among the last to cross the finish line, Verstappen sets the 9th best time and gets pushed down to 10th by Leclerc improving, putting him at risk. Despite managing to make it through, Verstappen is furious and has a word with his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase on the radio, who quickly responds by implying that that was the best strategy possible. During the session, Magnussen goes drifting in the gravel at turn 9 and then impedes Leclerc at turn 12. Hence, he will be given a 5-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race. The drivers eliminated are (in order) Tsunoda, Gasly, Magnussen, Bottas, and Ocon. In Q3 the track improves significantly, and drivers can comfortably use slick tyres. Leclerc sets momentarily the fastest lap with 1'46"988. After a purple middle sector Piastri goes third fastest behind Sainz, who completes his lap right after his teammate, but remains behind by less than two tenths of a second. Norris goes 4th fastest, then Alonso 5th. But then comes Max Verstappen: the Dutchman is in a league of his own with all purple sectors and sets the best time with 1'46"168, eight tenths quicker than Leclerc. Hamilton goes 3rd but is immediately pushed down to 4th by Perez. Russell improves to 8th position to be ahead of both Aston Martins. Due to Verstappen’s 5-place grid penalty for changing some additional gearbox components, the pole position goes to Charles Leclerc, the 20th of his career and the second this season, in a situation which reminds everyone of the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix. Hence, the final classification is Leclerc, Perez, Hamilton, Sainz, Piastri, Verstappen, Norris, Russell, Alonso, and Stroll, Tsunoda, Gasly, Magnussen, Bottas, Ocon, Albon, Zhou, Sargeant, Ricciardo, Hülkenberg. After the chequered flag, Verstappen apologizes on the radio to his engineer for his poor behaviour at the end of Q2.
And if the defending world champion competes in a class apart, this qualifying is the demonstration of how the new regulations have helped to narrow the gaps between the contenders, since from 2nd to 6th they are all enclosed in less than four tenths of a second. Despite being forced to lose his pole position in favour of Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen certainly does not lose confidence in a good result on Sunday, especially considering the incredible race he had in Spa last year. The Dutchman is also very motivated to do well in front of many of his fans in what he considers a second home race given his mother’s Belgian nationality:
"It was quite tough out there today; the conditions were tricky and there was only one dry line. Q2 was close, I had to abort my first lap because I went wide, we then did a slow lap and lost quite a bit of temperature in the tyres, the track ramped up pretty quickly so it was very close. The final lap in Q3 went well, we had to risk it all and to be on pole here feels great. We obviously have a very good race car and even in these tricky conditions we were able to show that again today. We have a gearbox penalty for the race on Sunday, last year we had more penalties and started even further back but the car is better this year, so I am still targeting a win. It definitely feels like a second home race, I grew up not far from here and it’s great to see so many fans. It was tough out here with the rain but everyone got stuck in and that’s great to see, so thank you very much".
Sergio Perez does his fair share of work and despite some difficult conditions the Mexican keeps up with his teammate and qualifies only behind him and Charles Leclerc, who is an excellent one-lap specialist:
"Every qualifying has its challenges, the conditions were super tricky: it took all Q1 to dry up and then the tyres were too warm in Q2 but then it all came together in Q3. We really needed to find the limits today and I am pleased to have finished in the top three. For the Sprint race tomorrow, we have good information about the crossover times and have a very busy day ahead of us. On Sunday, I will try my best and try to get Charles at the start which is always hard! But it is a long race, with high degradation and anything can happen. We certainly have a good position and are looking forward to it".
Red Bull’s Team Principal Christian Horner is satisfied with the outcome of Belgian qualifying. His drivers both remain the favourites for the win of this Grand Prix, even though on of them is starting from further on the grid:
"Weather wise, it was all over the place again. Torrential rain to start and finishing in bright sunshine certainly made things interesting from a strategy point of view, but that’s Spa. In terms of the racing, it was a great performance from both drivers. Max was on brilliant form once again, showing exactly why this is his favourite track while Checo delivered in the fashion we all know he is capable of for qualifying, finishing a couple of hundredths off Charles - earning what will become his first front row since Miami. The penalty drops Max down the grid. Starting in 6th and with Checo carrying his momentum on to the front row, will make for a good race on Sunday".
Ferrari comes back as the second force on the grid in the Belgian Grand Prix. Charles Leclerc does what he excels at and qualifies behind an unstoppable Verstappen in such a frantic session, earning pole position de facto. The Monegasque even manages to beat one of the Red Bulls in a car that is clearly inferior to the Anglo-Austrian bullet. However, Leclerc does not delude himself and is conscious both Red Bulls have a chance to win on Sunday:
"On the one hand, it feels good because I struggled quite a bit in these conditions up until a few races ago and the hard work I put into my driving has paid off. I really felt at ease in the car. In Q3, we may have gone out a bit early, but at the end, it’s always down to risk versus reward, and we wanted to avoid any yellow flags. Our result is good, and we wouldn’t have been able to finish in front of Max (Verstappen) today. I expect him to catch up in the race on Sunday and with Checo in the mix, it will be a good challenge".
Carlos Sainz Jr. is a bit disappointed with his last attempt, but manages to see the positive side of starting from a decent position, given the fact that Spa often provides quite unpredictable race, especially because of the ever-changing weather:
"Tricky qualifying today with the changing conditions. Every time we were going out we found a completely different track. We managed to go nicely through Q1 and Q2 but in Q3 I didn’t put together my best lap, having a moment in T8-9 which cost me some positions. We’ll start P4 on Sunday, which isn’t bad, and anything can happen this weekend with the weather, so we’ll see what we can come up with for the race".
Ferrari’s Team Principal, Frédéric Vasseur, is happy with his team’s work but also reckons that there are many variables to account for, which makes predictions for Sunday’s race very difficult. According to Vasseur, different set-ups and very little practice demand ignoring the rivals and focusing on one’s race to hope for the best outcome:
"Qualifying today was a bit chaotic, as we had to put everything together in just one lap in Q3, but overall it was a good session for us, if you take Max out of the equation, as he was flying, but we will start from P1 and P4 on Sunday which is a good starting point. We have not really been able to look at race set-up, because free practice was really wet and then we went into quali on Inters before finally being able to use slicks. But that was the case for all the teams, and it’s much better to start at the front than from the back. We saw huge differences in top speeds today, which means teams have gone for different options for Saturday and Sunday and we must wait and see what the weather will be for the rest of the weekend. I don’t want to make any forecasts for Sunday. We just have to do our best and try and get the most out of the car and the drivers. So far, I think the team has done a very good job, so on Sunday, we will focus on our own race rather than on what any others behind Charles might do".
104 pole positions are not scored easily, so when a complicated qualifying is waiting ahead, rest assured that Lewis Hamilton will be ready to take on the challenge. The seven-time World Champion will start from third place on Sunday thanks to a good lap, even though he thinks some more lap time can be found, especially in the middle sector:
"I'm happy with today's result. It was a hectic session as it was consistently drying up. It was very slippery at the beginning and visibility was a challenge. You know that every lap you are going to be improving as it dries up, so you need to maximise it. That's why we were waiting at the end of the pitlane each session and the Team did a great job of getting us out there and finding clear track. I kept my head down and focused on maximising as much as I could. At the end, we were a good chunk off Max and his lap was pretty impressive. We're pleased with where we are starting though. I'll now have Max behind me on Sunday, but the aim is definitely to fight for a podium and chase down the guys ahead. No one got any real running in FP1 so I'm hoping that we have decent long run pace. Setting the car up ahead of qualifying was a bit of a guessing game. The car felt pretty decent, but we lost a lot of time in the middle sector. We'll go away, study it, and see where there is time to be found. We will work on making any improvements we can, and we'll be giving it everything we've got for the rest of the weekend. So far though, it's a good start".
George Russell completes a positive day for Mercedes. The young Brit recovers from a terrible performance in Hungary, where he even failed to qualify for Q2 while his teammate claimed pole position. Same as for Hamilton, also for Russell there is some work to be done to improve the overall performance, since he laments some lack of pace throughout qualifying:
"It was a dynamic session. We were a bit off the pace for the entire session and struggled throughout; I'm not sure why. I usually love those transitional conditions between wet and dry, but on every lap we were nowhere. There's plenty to review and try to understand. We know qualifying isn't everything around here, but we would of course have liked to be higher up the order. The lack of running in FP1 wasn't too much of a factor as it's the same for everyone. You always want to do more laps to further your understanding, but the car didn't feel too bad. There's a decent amount for us to try and understand overnight".
Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin sums up his drivers’ impressions and points at the sprint race as a good chance to gather data on the car’s behaviour around the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, since no more practice is allowed and therefore changes to the car:
"Sprint race weekends are challenging. When you get no useful running in the first session, they become even more difficult. You need to rely entirely on the pre-weekend simulations to set the car up and get it balanced. Today's qualifying session was tricky with the changing conditions; the long lap doesn't make that any easier as you don't get many attempts in each session. Lewis was very close to Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez but unfortunately, we were missing a tenth. George struggled a bit for pace as the track moved to dry. We'll have a look through the data and see what there is to learn ahead of the sprint qualifying tomorrow; hopefully we'll find a bit of speed. We've had no real dry running yet, so the sprint race is going to a bit of a long run test ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix. We can't change the car now so hopefully we've got the race balance in the right place".
Oscar Piastri beats again his teammate at one of the most technical circuits of the Formula 1 calendar. An even more impressive result considering that this is the first time the young Aussie has ever set foot on Spa’s tarmac in a Formula 1 car:
"I'm reasonably happy with P6 in qualifying, though I think there was maybe a bit more left in Q3. We were really quick until that point. I think in the last session it really dried up a lot, and that was my first dry lap of Spa in an F1 car. I was kind of hoping it would stay a bit wetter but overall, still not too bad. I think everybody probably feels like they had a bit more left but it's a decent grid spot for Sunday and we'll see what we can do from there".
Lando Norris can be happy for his 7th place considering that he risked not making it to Q2 after damaging his car’s floor in the early stages of Q1 by running wide at Paul Frère curve. A lucky outcome from what could have been quite a tricky session resulting in an even trickier race on Sunday with a bad starting position:
"Tough session. Tricky in these conditions, as always. I went off at the start of Q1 when the track was wet and that punished us a lot because it damaged the floor a huge amount. The team did an incredible job to get the car back out for the end of Q1, and it was good to be able to get the most out of the car under the circumstances. Getting into Q2 and Q3 was already a positive thing after Q1. So, overall, not the best of days but I think we made the most of the situation and we have to take P7 for the starting position on Sunday".
McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella narrates a hectic day for his team, who however has managed to overcome all the obstacles and bring home a good result which will, theoretically, allow them to build a solid race on Sunday:
"It was a busy qualifying session with conditions that got drier and drier, requiring the team to constantly adapt run plans, and revise tyre choices. Oscar did a very good job to go with that, being quick in all sessions and precise with his driving, and he'll start the race from a competitive P5. On Lando's side, an off-track moment in the wet in Q1 caused significant damage to the floor. His mechanics did a fantastic job to patch it up and get him going again - even if car performance was degraded - and Lando managed to qualify in P7, which was a proper piece of damage limitation. We've got two McLarens up there for Sunday and hope to score decent points. But first, we have an interesting Saturday ahead".
Given the excellent start of the season, many would have expected to see a crescendo for Aston Martin but lately their performance has come to a plateau, which has caused them to end up in the mix rather than being the clear second force. This trend seems to continue at Spa, where Fernando Alonso places 9th in qualifying, even though this session cannot be taken too seriously due the ever-changing weather:
"Qualifying was stressful. Every lap was a new game - you had to adapt all the time to the changing levels of grip. You had to trust the car - we were taking corners faster and faster each lap, so it was a little bit of a guessing game. We progressed through Q1 and Q2, which was one of our main targets. Q3 was extremely tight - we ended up a few tenths off seventh place, which was probably the maximum we could have achieved today. I think the AMR23 was behaving well today: we're still missing those final couple of tenths to our main competitors - particularly over a flying lap - but hopefully we can recover some of that pace on Sunday".
Aston Martin’s Team Principal Mike Krack telegraphically describes his team’s Friday afternoon:
"Getting both cars into the top 10 is a decent outcome from a challenging day. It is never easy when you have a drying track evolving so quickly, but both drivers delivered clean and tidy laps. We have put ourselves in a reasonable position for Sunday's race".
Daniel Ricciardo laments instead a case of bad luck. A track limits infringement means the deletion of a time that could have easily put him in Q2. A costly mistake at turn 4 due to a misjudgement in the use of the throttle means the Aussie will have to work overtime to come back from 19th place:
"It’s frustrating to have my lap time deleted because of track limits at Turn 4. I tried to take Eau Rouge flat, I thought it was possible, but I was drifting off the good line and had to lift to try to stay on track, but it was just drifting. As soon as I got over the Turn 4 kerb, I knew I was probably over. I tried to put it behind me and keep going with the lap - you have an idea, but you never really know if you’re off, so I obviously kept pushing. I thought it was possible, but it wasn’t quite yet. Our qualifying position hurts me for Sunday, but fortunately, we have another chance tomorrow. I don’t like making mistakes obviously, but there’s the big picture where we’re doing ok. I’ll put it behind me and learn from it because there’s a lot to be encouraged by".
After setting no valid times in free practice, Alpine goes all-in in qualifying but the final results cause some disappointment in the French team. In the battle between the two French teammates, it is Pierre Gasly who comes out on top, despite only clocking the 12th-best time. Mixed feelings for Gasly, as he knows that the car was not set up for the conditions found in qualifying and will definitely be better in the race, but he was certainly hoping for something better:
"It's always challenging in wet to dry conditions with things changing lap after lap. It is exciting like this as you have to be on it straight away without overstepping the mark. We probably didn't start our final push lap in Q2 under the best conditions but, even so, we didn't have the car set-up for these kind of conditions and that is shown in our lap-time. Sector 1 was quite strong for us, whereas the longer, tighter, Sector 2 is where we struggled. This might be a positive by Sunday for the race, though, where we'll be aiming to fight our way towards the points".
Gasly finds the positive side in his performance in the speed shown in sector 1. On the other hand, his teammate Esteban Ocon struggles to smile when he feels Q3 was reachable. However, an incident at turn 9 prevents him from clocking a good-enough time to qualify in the top ten, forcing him to start from 15th on the grid:
"It's not been an easy day on track today and I'm disappointed not to get into Q3. The weather conditions made the session tricky for everyone and but we did a good job to get through to Q2. Unfortunately, I hit the wall at Turn 9, which damaged the car and we were not able to have a second push lap on Soft tyres when the track was at its best. Tomorrow, we have a chance to get points with the Sprint Race, so we'll certainly target a good result. For Sunday, it's going to be tough from fifteenth on the grid but we'll give our all".
According to Alex Albon the mixed conditions experienced in qualifying are the worst for Williams’ car, that prefers a ‘full’ set-up, be it dry or wet. So, in the end, nothing to be surprised about for Albon, who however likes driving in the rain:
"It was a tough one today. I don't think we have the downforce for this kind of weather and were just sliding a lot, which overheats the tyres quickly and makes finishing a lap without the tyres going off a struggle. It wasn't our day today; we'd prefer it to be fully wet or fully dry, as these mixed conditions make it tricky for us. We know our issues, it's just not obvious how to fix them. We should be okay if the conditions are dry or fully wet but today was tricky and I normally like these conditions".
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams, identifies the weather as the main problems for the team in this Belgian Friday. Having a car not suited for wet conditions and some timing errors when changing tyres lead both drivers to failing to qualify for Q2, but Robson is confident they will have the chance to improve both on Saturday and Sunday:
"Inevitably in Spa, the day was dominated by the weather and conditions were quite different in FP1 and Q1. In FP1 the track remained very wet and the car was behaving well in those conditions on the intermediate tyre. Both drivers lost front grip when braking for T5 in the wettest conditions and this unfortunately led to some damage on Logan's car, which delayed his appearance in Q1. In qualifying, the track dried incredibly quickly and although we were right to stop for a 2nd set of tyres with Alex, the run plan and tyre state didn't quite suit the improving track. Logan drove well especially considering that he only had time for a single run and had to adapt to the conditions very quickly. It is frustrating not to have qualified for Q2 as we could have done well as the track became ready for the slicks. Nonetheless, there is still a lot of the weekend yet to come and there are opportunities, both tomorrow and on Sunday, to improve our position".
Pirelli Chief Engineer Simone Berra gives an insight on Friday at Spa from the tyre manufacturer’s perspective. As the weather has played a crucial part so far, Pirelli has collected information especially about the behaviour of wet tyres but one thing is for sure: we are in for a very interesting weekend:
"It was an interesting day and useful to understand the behaviour of the two types of wet weather tyre, while it was impossible to gather any data as far as dry tyres for the race were concerned, given that slicks were only used in qualifying. The most used tyre was the intermediate, which behaved well, both when there was a lot of water on track, as was the case in free practice and Q1, and when the track was drying quickly, as in Q2. It was also possible to get a sufficiently accurate idea of the crossover time from intermediates to slicks (around 110%), while that between the extreme wets and the intermediates is much harder to assess, given that they were used in the first part of free practice when teams and drivers were having to get an understanding of the track conditions. From what we could see, we can say that the Extreme Wet, which remember, since this year's Monaco Grand Prix, are not pre-heated, responded well in terms of warm-up, even with the relatively low temperatures of around 20 °C for both air and track. The Soft also immediately provided good grip in qualifying, even though the track was clearly not in optimal condition. Tomorrow's forecast is definitely not encouraging, in terms of rain which could have a significant impact on the Sprint format, while for Sunday it seems the conditions should improve. Whatever happens, it looks like we can expect two days of surprises and excitement".
Saturday July 29, 2023, it is raining on the circuit before the Shoot-out qualifying and the first Sprint race in Spa. Heavy rain delays the start of the sprint shootout. Indeed, there is no rush in the boxes and all the drivers chat with their mechanics. After 30 minutes, it is announced that the SQ1 will start at 12:35 a.m. time as the rain will stop at that time. Drivers position their cars in line in the pitlane, waiting for the safety car to complete his drive around the circuit. Hamilton is the first on the line. The green light turns on and there are 12 minutes for the drivers to make through the SQ2. All drivers opted for inters. None likely will choose the soft tyres for this SQ1. Ten minutes to go and all the drivers are on the track. Hamilton opens the dances and scores purple first sector (34.039s), 1'30"243 in the second, and decides the pace in 2'02"297. Russell scores 34.097s, 1'30"233, fastest second sector so far, but unfortunately loses a lot in the last sector and closes his best in 2'05"067. Bottas puts his car between the two Mercedes in 2'03"432. Norris goes second and puts his car between the two Mercedes (+0.547), while Zhou takes P4 (+2.389). Leclerc is completing his first best and goes first in 2'01"438. Piastri scores 54.388s in the second sector and takes the lead from Leclerc in 2'01"311. Albon goes third in 2'01"933, and Sainz Jr. eighth (+3.358) at Stroll’s back (+1.577). It’s Verstappen’s turn. He scores -0.826 in the second sector, compared to Piastri’s 1'29"016, and goes first in 2'00"352. Ricciardo makes a good first try and goes fifth in +1.181. Checo Perez manages to take P3 (+0.694), followed by Gasly (+0.734). Leclerc tries again and goes second (+0.255). Sainz scores a 33.364s in the first sector, -0.004 compared to Verstappen’s time, and goes first in 1'59"981. Race control announces that an impeding incident involving Hamilton and Verstappen has been noticed in turn 8 but there will be no investigation. Verstappen tries again and goes first in 1'58"958. Hamilton scores a 33.222s, -0.183 in the second, and goes second, until Perez takes P2 back (+0.404). Piastri goes fifth (+1.089).
Currently eliminated from SQ2 are Norris, Stroll, Sargeant, and the two Haas cars. One minutes to the end. Leclerc improves in the first sector 33.241s (+0.671), and goes third +0.617. Sargeant scores -1.590 in the second sector and goes sixth (+1.073). Albon gets the first sector at 33.088s and goes second +0.240. Verstappen improves in 1'58"135. Alonso goes second (+0.080). The countdown ends and Max Verstappen takes P1, with the time at the 1'58"135, followed by Hamilton (+0.804), Alonso (+0.903), Albon (+1.063), Perez (+1.227), Sainz (+1.279), Leclerc (+1.440), Ocon (+1.749), Sargeant (+1.896), and Gasly (+1.897). Piastri is in P11 (+1.921), followed by Ricciardo (+2.042), Norris (+2.301), Stroll (+2.325) and Russell (+2.340). Drivers eliminated are Tsunoda (+2.433), Bottas (+2.816), Magnussen (+2.944), Guanyu (+3.295), and Hulkenberg no have a time. Green light at 12:54 a.m. and SQ2 starts. Ten minutes to go and only Ricciardo and Norris are on the track. Ricciardo is the first to start and scores a 1'26"394 in the first sector, and goes first in 1'57"687. Norris scores a purple in the second sector and goes first in 1'56"828, at five minutes to the end. Yellow flag in the 3rd sector, as Sargeant lost his car in turn 15 but now track is clear as he manages to come back to the warm up. Gasly takes the lead but it lasts a few because Hamilton starts his best -0.906 in the first sector, -0.712, and goes first in 1'55"823. Verstappen goes first in 1'55"200, followed by Hamilton +0.623), Gasly +0.935, Leclerc +1.065, Piastri +1.192, Sainz +1.357, Norris +1.628, Ocon +1.851, Russell +.2193, Ricciardo +2.487 in P10. Perez goes third +0.678. Ricciardo chooses new inter while Stroll is the only one with medium tyres. Says Lance Stroll:
"It’s too early ***".
One minute and 30 seconds to the end. Stroll tries his first best with medium tyres. He scores +0.872, but loses the car and hits the barrier in turn 9. It’s the end of the session. Verstappen is in P1 1'55"200, followed by Hamilton (+0.623), Perez (+0.678), Gasly (+0.937), Leclerc (+1.065), Piastri (+1.192), Sainz (+1.357), Norris (+1.628), Ocon (+1.851), and Russell (+2.193). Drivers eliminated are Ricciardo (+2.487), Albon, Sargeant, Stroll, and Alonso with no time. SQ3 starts and drivers have 8 minutes. The two Ferrari are the first to start. Five minutes to the end before the drivers will try their best to get the best spot on the grid. Leclerc on soft scores 32.035s, 1'23"052, and goes first 1'52"525. His teammate Sainz Jr. scores 32.076s, 1'25"669, and goes second with the time of the 1'55"374. Norris takes P1 from Leclerc in 1'51"546 but this lasts a few as Hamilton crosses the finish line in 1'51"198, followed by Verstappen 1'51"286.
Drivers opt for a cool down before the last try at 2 minutes to the end, except for Ocon, Gasly, and Perez. Hamilton is in P1, followed by Verstappen, Norris, Leclerc. Piastri is in P5, followed by Sainz, Russell, Gasly and Ocon. Perez scores a 48.628s in the second sector, finds traffic jam but manages to go first in 1'50"303. Gasly scores a purple in the second sector and goes first in 1'49"700. This lasts a few as Sainz manages to take pole position in 1'49"081. Leclerc gets -0.161s in the first sector (31.352s), goes straight and loses a bit of time and scores -0.151s, and takes P2 in +0.170s. It’s the McLaren’s turns and Norris goes third. Piastri does an amazing job and gets P1 in 1'49"067. The session is almost finished and the last driver to cross the line is Verstappen, who goes first in 1'49"067. Verstappen is in pole position 1'49"056, followed by Piastri, Sainz Jr., Leclerc, Norris, Gasly, Hamilton, Perez, Ocon , and Russell. It is time to get serious. The sky is grey on SPA for the first sprint on this circuit but the third over this 2023 season. The sprint race start has been already delayed at 5:05 p.m. but since it is expected 20 minutes of full rain, it is announced that the formation lap will start at 5:12 p.m. local time. Still no indication on the tyres. All the teams are already on the track, and all the cars are placed on the grid under the tents. It is again announced that the start will be delayed. After more than 30 minutes the safety car drives through the circuit to assess the track condition. The Aston Martin safety car is raising many waters from the track and this could be a relevant data for the Race control. The Race control has yet indicated whether full wet would be required. The only indication is that the formation lap will start at 5:35 p.m.. Says the Alfa Romeo team to Guanyu Zhou:
"The next heavy shower is expected in 2 to 3 minutes".
And says the Scuderia Ferrari team to Leclerc:
"So, this rain should stop in five minutes, then we have a gap of an hour with no rain".
Indeed, weather seems to improve. Still the question remains on the track condition. Finally, all the teams opt for the full wet. A new indication arrives that the formation lap will be started behind the safety car on wet-weather tyres. The formation lap starts and a lot of water raises from the track. Track conditions are good but from the drivers’ perspective, it seems that visibility might be a bit tricky.
"Yeah, it is definitely inters".
This sprint race will see 4 laps behind the safety car and only 11 laps for the sprint race. Safety car drives in 3'02"38. Says Max Verstappen:
"It’s drying quick. You could definitely already drive, I think, with inters".
Finally, Safety car enters pits and rolling start procedure takes place. All the mechanics of Red Bull and Aston Martin are ready for a pitstop. Max opens the dance and a giant water cloud spreads all over the circuit. Max, Piastre and Sainz exits this one close behind the other. As soon as the cars reach the pitlane, half drivers go to the boxes and the other keep driving. The teams have differentiated the strategy. Piastri, Sainz Gasly, Hamilton, Perez, Albon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Bottas and Hulkenberg enter the pitlane for a pitstop for inters. We will have two different races. At Lap 1 Verstappen has the lead, followed by Leclerc, Norris, Ocon, Russell, Sargeant, Alonso, Tsunoda, Magnussen, and Zhou. Behind in P11 Piastri, Gasly, Perez, Hamilton, Sainz, Ricciardo, Stroll, Albon, Bottas, and Hulkenberg.
"We need to box this lap".
Says Max Verstappen:
"Confirm, box this lap".
Leclerc is at 3.971s to Verstappen. He enters the pitlane and Leclerc enters as well. Pit stop of 3.2s for Max while Leclerc remains stuck in the traffic jam. Leclerc almost risks to hit a car that was driving on the pit lane. There is a lot of confusion right now as the drivers risk to hit one each other. At lap 2, the scenario is completely different. Piastri has the lead and Verstappen is at 1.566s, followed by Gasly, Perez, Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, Ricciardo, Ocon, and Stroll. Russell is in P11, followed by Albon, Bottas, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Sargeant, Tsunoda, Magnussen and Zhou. Verstappen keeps to follow closely Piastri’s car. Gasly slows down and gives perez an opportunity to attack him. At lap 3, Piastri loses nine tenth compared to Max as he loses a bit the rear of his car. Max is at +0.795s. Sainz Jr. seems to slow dow a bit at +1.733s to the two drivers on the top. Suddenly, yellow flag starts to wave in sector 2. It’s Fernando Alonso who hitted the barriers in turn 11 and it is safety car at lap 4.
"Ok, Max. So, inter Piastri left hand side tyre is already suffering".
Says Lambiase to Verstappen.
"Yeah, I’m not surprised. He’s drifting everywhere".
The race control announces that the turn 2 incident involving Alonso and Hulkenberg will be investigated after the sprint for impeding. Safety car ends at lap 5 and Piastri will dictate the pace for the first time in his F1 career. Meanwhile, the race control announces an incident involving Sargeant for speeding behind safety car. Safety car enters the pitlane and Piastri open the dances. Verstappen follows closely and has no intention to give up. Perez hits Gasly. Again the yellow flag appears in sector 3 this time in lap 6 but the track is immediately declared clear after a few. Verstappen is close and Piastri tries to defend its P1. Both are wheel-to-wheel and Max passes easily him. The race control decides to punish Sargeant with a +5 seconds penalty. Suddenly, Hamilton tries to overtake Perez. Hamilton goes on the outside, and they hit each other. Some debris fly from Perez’s car. Perez looks in troubles but Lewis raises his foot from the pedal but has no intention to give up. Leclerc and Sainz get closer to Lewis and Checo. Hamilton manages to overtake Perez before the rouge turn and Sainz takes advantage of the situation and goes wheel-to-wheel and overtakes him. Hamilton and Sainz go up to P4 and P5. Verstappen scores the fastest lap in 1'58"943. It’s not done yet for Checo. In lap 7, Leclerc goes overtakes him taking P6 and Lando Norris attacks Perez as well who seems not able to defend his position. Indeed, Perez has a huge whole on his car due to the incident with Hamilton. Norris tries to overtake him and Perez goes out the track, losing his car. In lap 8, Perez slips to P16 quickly but the team decides has yet taken the car out to the track. Piastri is at +3.055s to Max, and Gasly and Hamilton are fighting for the P3. Sainz Jr. is not so far at +0.999s, followed by Leclerc, Norris, Ricciardo, Ocon, Russell, Stroll, Albon, Bottas, Sargeant, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Zhou, and Tsunoda. Three laps to go and Perez’s car is finally retired. Hamilton is under the attack of the Ferrari driver Sainz. Russel and Ocon hunt Ricciardo, who tries to defend its P8. Ocon tries to take P9 from the outside at turn 6 but Russell defends his position. In the meantime, the race control announces a 5 seconds penalty to Lewis Hamilton.
"The brakes are pretty *** I can’t really wake them up".
Says Max with a 4.933s gap from the other drivers.
Meanwhile, Leclerc has some troubles with overheating of tyres and moves all around the track to cold his tyres. At Lap 10, Russell overtakes Ricciardo in P8 in traction on the finish line. It’s the final lap 11. Russell is pushing to arrive to P7, thanks to Lewis’ penalty. Unfortunately, Ricciardo could not be so lucky and will be excluded from the score zone. Max Verstappen crosses the finish line and wins the sprint race of Belgium, with Piastri behind, Gasly, Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, Russell, Ocon, Ricciardo, Stroll, Albon, Bottas, Magnussen, Zhou, Sargeant, Hulkenberg, and Tsunoda, while Alonso and Perez are out. Max Verstappen finds today was tough due to the weather conditions:
"It wasn’t a straightforward race today, we made the safer call with the pit stop because there was a lot of risk in pitting straight away, I opted to stay out for another lap. After that, as soon as I came out on the intermediates, I could see that we had a lot of pace, it was just a matter of time. The weather of course was challenging today, it was okay from my position, but I understand that the people behind me were still struggling to see. There are some improvements to be made with the visibility, but I think race control did the smart thing today, they took some time to analyse everything and that was wise. At the moment, it looks like our car is fast on the wet and the dry so I’m pretty chilled and looking forward to the race tomorrow".
Sergio Perez has the same mind:
"It was a shame that we had to retire from the race today and get no points for the team. The conditions were tricky and Lewis ran out of grip and crashed into the side of me. I had massive damage to the sidepods and floor and once we realised the extent of this, we had to retire. It is unfortunate, as today we had some good opportunities and had a great strategy. The race pace was good and I think we could have caught Pierre Gasly. All in all, I think everything was managed well today by race control and we have been really strong the whole weekend and had the pace to fight for pole today. Ultimately, we lost a few points today but we look forward to tomorrow".
And tne Red Bull team principal and Ceo, Christian Horner, adds:
"We brought Checo in immediately for the tyre change and he got a great release that jumped both Mercedes and Ferrari’s, elevating him to 4th. Unfortunately there was the contact with Lewis that caused significant damage to his side pod causing a significant loss in down force that meant we had no choice but to retire the car. For Max, it was another clinical performance. We chose to bring him in after the first lap which ended up putting him in 2nd, just behind Piastri. While it was a very strong drive from Oscar today, Max was able to bring it home and covert the win following the safety car. We regroup now and prepare for tomorrow's race, Checo on the front row and Max in 6th following the gear box penalty. So, another challenge and no doubt the weather will play a part but both drivers are sharp and on their toes and we look forward to some good racing".
Oscar Piastri is pleased with today’s results and the top three points they scored today:
"Very, very happy, we tried our best today and scored valuable top three points. We boxed when the Safety Car came in and led for a few laps, but Max was able to pass me shortly after the restart. It's nice to be up there in P2. I think our pace was really strong, so full credit to the team again. The last three weekends have been pretty special, compared to where we were earlier in the year, so, I can't thank the team enough for the car. We've still got a little bit of work to do to continue working towards the top, but it's a lot nicer to be up there and to lead my first laps in F1 was a day I won't forget".
Lando Norris has a mixed feeling toward today but he is satisfied with today’s results:
"I think it was a difficult but reasonable day. We got good points, quite a few as a team, especially with Oscar finishing in P2, so congratulations to him for scoring his first top three in Formula One. I think we did the best we could in the conditions, from being the second car, having to box on the second lap, we lost maybe two positions because of this, so it could have been a little bit better but that's just the way it is sometimes. I'm still happy with how we performed and I'm looking forward to taking the momentum into tomorrow's race".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, finds 10 points a very strong result for the team:
"We come out of today's Sprint with ten points, which is a very strong result for the team. Circumstances were difficult once again with rain at the start, but the team managed the conditions well, adapting to the changing requirements. We also acknowledge Race Control and how they have managed the challenging conditions well all weekend, putting safety as its main priority. Oscar pitted immediately following the safety car start for intermediates. There wasn't much we could do with Max later on after the Safety Car restart, but we are very happy for Oscar scoring a first top three result in his F1 career with today's P2. Lando stayed out an extra lap as we wanted to avoid congestion in the pit-lane. He drove a strong race and finished P6. We look forward to the Belgian Grand Prix and whatever weather comes our way tomorrow".
Pierre Gasly is satisfied with team’s result:
"I'm so happy for the entire team today, this one is for everyone trackside and at the factories in Viry and Enstone. For me, it's very special to achieve third place here in Spa-Francorchamps with all its history and personal moments that are clearly close to my heart. We took some risks in Sprint Qualifying this morning and it paid off as we ended in sixth place. Then, it was down to a well-executed pit-stop to switch to Intermediates which meant we jumped a number of positions and put ourselves in contention for the top three. It was not easy to hold off Sergio [Perez] and then Lewis [Hamilton] but we did it and I'm so pleased. Tomorrow our focus is on the main race where we know it will be tough starting from twelfth but we can take some confidence into it and hopefully we can come away with another strong result".
Esteban Ocon gives his congratulations to his teammate and adds:
"First of all a big congratulations to Pierre and the team for today's great result. These are some important points for the team after a few tough weeks so I'm very happy for everyone. On my side it was a pretty straightforward race. The conditions were tough out there but the team did a good job with the strategy and pit stops. I had a couple of good fights on track with Daniel [Ricciardo] and George [Russell] but, unfortunately, we just missed out on the points today. We are fully focused now on tomorrow's Grand Prix where we'll be looking to move up the grid and finish the first part of the season on a high".
Lewis Hamilton explains his perspective on the incident with Checo:
"The conditions were very tricky out there and we're all trying our best. I think the contact with Perez was a racing incident. He went wide and was slow through turn 14 and I got a great exit - I was more than half-a-car alongside him and we ended up just coming together. Naturally it wasn't intentional, but I got a penalty for it. Ultimately, it doesn't make a huge difference. The difference between fourth and seventh in a Sprint where you don't get a lot of points means it's not punishing. The positives are that our pace has been good. Today in the Sprint Shootout, we would have been fighting for the front-row without the issues on our final lap. We would have been right up there battling with Max, but it wasn't meant to be. We now start third tomorrow and I hope I'll be able to fight with the Ferraris and Perez".
George Russell finds that today they achieved the maximum they could:
"I think P8 was the maximum we could achieve from a shortened Sprint today. The car was really quick; I think we were probably the second fastest out there behind Max. Unfortunately after a bad qualifying session this is all you can really get. It also wasn't easy out there in those conditions. It was my decision to pit one lap after the safety car had come in and that was perhaps not the correct one. We came out P12 after the pit stop and got back to P8. To recover those positions in such a short race is positive. With two more laps, we could have possibly got up to P5, but it is what it is, and I'm relatively satisfied".
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ Team Principal & CEO says that:
"The car was good today. I would rather have a quick car that is doing good things and have a less optimal position in the Sprint, than benefitting from other's misfortunes and being lucky. Given everything that happened today that we didn't optimise, I'm OK with how our race played out. Both Lewis and George had great pace; George overtook several cars and was closing on Norris who was much further ahead, so he had a good recovery. The contact between Lewis and Perez I saw as a racing incident more than penalty worthy. They were side-by-side and we want to see people racing. Nevertheless, that was the decision, and we now move on to the Grand Prix tomorrow. If we take similar pace into the race, we will be in a good position to fight for a decent result".
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director finds that
"Both drivers drove a good race today. We'd have liked a few more laps to attack as the car was working well. Lewis' penalty is frustrating, but the big points are tomorrow and if the car has the pace it had today, we should be on for a strong result. George did a really good job to get into the points. It wasn't easy to overtake as the DRS was disabled but he was making steady progress through the field and had good pace. We still don't have any proper dry running so it's hard to know where everyone will be on pace; we can expect Max to be difficult to beat even with his penalty, but everything else is up for grabs".
Carlos Sainz is a bit disappointed
"We had good pace with the Inters but we missed out on a better result. The pit stop was crucial today and unfortunately, we lost some valuable positions there. We will look into it, but apart from that it was a solid Saturday for the team and I felt good in these conditions. Now we focus on tomorrow: it's difficult to know how our pace will be during the race so I prefer to be cautious. However, I’m looking forward to putting everything together and finishing this first part of the season with a good result. Let’s race again".
Charles Leclerc finds that they have not maximized Ferrari’s package today:
"We didn’t maximise our package today. Starting on the Wets like everyone else, I pitted one lap after Carlos, which I think was the right choice because we would have lost more time stopping right behind him. Unfortunately, we lost time in the pitlane and as a consequence we lost some positions there. The race tomorrow will depend a lot on the weather, as teams have set up their cars for different conditions. It’s always a bit of a gamble here, not just in terms of strategy, but you need a bit of luck too. In any case, it should be a good fight and I look forward to getting back in the car".
Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, finds fair the race direction decision concerning the time and modalities for the start:
"Firstly, I think the race direction took the right decision about the start procedure. We have to put safety first and visibility has been the main concern. As for our race, we were unlucky to lose places with both Carlos and Charles, because both their pitstops were affected by traffic in pit lane, which meant we were unable to release our cars back into the fast lane. Unfortunately, it is always a bit risky when you are near the pit lane entry as you cannot see who is coming in from the track, so we didn’t want to take too many risks. Now we must focus on tomorrow. No one has been able to work on race pace and today’s Sprint did not provide any particularly useful information. From what we have seen so far, out performance seems quite good, on both the wet weather tyres and the dry ones and tomorrow’s weather could be a bit better with a lower chance of rain. Starting from first and fourth, we need to make the most of this opportunity".
Says Daniel Ricciardo, at the end of the Sprint Race:
"The conditions during Sprint qualifying were fairly similar to yesterday”, says Daniel Ricciardo. “After yesterday, I felt there was more I could improve on in the corners, and after today I got a little more out of them and feel I’ve made another step forward. It’s my first Sprint qualifying with these shorter sessions, so I think it’s about timing and knowing when to go. In the end, we were the first on track, maybe that hurt us a little with the time, and everyone else was able to improve. It’s not like we expected to have a solid SQ3 car, so maybe our qualifying result isn’t too far off our true pace anyway. All in all, I feel progress has been made, so I’m happy with that. At the beginning of the Sprint race, we were able to hold the pace and I thought it was good, but as the track dried and it came to the last three laps, I could feel the tyres struggling and the car getting slower. I knew I was P9, and I could still see the Ferrari and Lando (Norris) in the McLaren ahead. They pulled away in the second sector, but I was hanging on in the straights and keeping them in sight. I saw Perez go off, but in the end, I was losing the car quite a lot, and I was overtaken by Russell and Ocon before the chequered flag. After the race, everyone’s tyres looked pretty beat up, but we have to understand why we dropped off more than others. It would’ve been nice to score a point, but I’m glad to see the chequered flag because I don’t know how much longer the tyres could’ve kept me on the track".
Fernando Alonso explains his incident during the race:
"I was following very closely behind Nico [Hülkenberg] at the entry to Pouhon; I lost downforce, touched the white line, and just lost the car. Trying to find grip - and guessing the grip levels in each corner - was tricky. It was very slippery, and it was my mistake. But we weren't in the points anyway - and with just 11 racing laps, it was always going to be difficult to score today. Still, these things are better happening today than tomorrow. We turn the page".
Mike Krack, Aston Martin’s Team Principal, finds today’s weather gave an overview on the changeablity of the track conditions:
"Like the rest of the grid, we chose to switch to the Intermediate tyres as quickly as possible in the Sprint, but we did not manage to progress into the points from our low starting positions. Fernando unfortunately dropped out of the Sprint, but the car did not sustain damage. So, we move on from a challenging day where we did not optimise things. We can hopefully convert our top-ten starting positions for the Grand Prix into points tomorrow".
Alex Albon finds today difficult due to the weather conditions:
"That was really tough. We've been struggling all weekend in this greasy weather, where we just can't seem to get on top of it. We got some understanding of it during the Sprint Shootout; however, we were just putting new tyres on the car. As soon as we did more than 9 corners, the tyres were overheating. It's good to go through these periods where it becomes clear to us that we're weak in these conditions, and it's obvious when you see the tyres overheating quickly. With a lower downforce set up, it normally works around here, however you don't see the benefit of the straights when you're sliding through corners with the heat building and the tyres continuously overheating. If the race can stay dry tomorrow, we'll be in a good place".
Finally, Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, shares his remarks on team’s strategies for the tyres.
"The Saturday of a Sprint weekend is always very exciting, even more so if rain plays a part. We saw three very close Sprint Shootout sessions, both on the intermediates and the Softs, with really close gaps, especially when one considers the length of the track. In the Race, it was practically impossible to evaluate the behaviour of the wet tyres, because once the Safety Car came into the pits, the conditions were clearly ideal for intermediates. They worked in the way we had expected from what we saw yesterday, with a reasonably limited degradation even over longer runs as seen in the race. Tomorrow, the teams will go into the race with plenty of information about the rain tyres, but they will be pretty much in the dark when it comes to the dry weather ones. In the case of mixed conditions in the race, the crossover time from dry tyres to intermediates is estimated to be between 1'54"0-1'55"0, while from the intermediates to the extreme wets its between 2'04"0-2'05"0 (times based on a low fuel load). If it does not rain, then they will all have to base their strategy simulations on data gathered from past races at this track and on how the trio of available compounds have behaved in the first part of this season. We are doing exactly that ourselves and at the moment all we can do is confirm our earlier prediction, which indicated there was not much difference between a one stop or a two stop. And, without much information, this becomes an even finer line, so there is a bigger chance of some surprises tomorrow".
After a rainy Sprint day, Sunday, July 30, 2023, everyone is ready for the race at Spa Francorchamps. Verstappen has moved up from P1 and will start P6 because of the new gearbox mounted on his Red Bull, Magnussen, who was P13, is now P16 due to an impeding to Leclerc in qualifying, while Hulkenberg will start from the pit lane for a host of power unit and gearbox changes. Tyres are revealed: the poleman Leclerc, Perez, Hamilton, Sainz and Verstappen are on the soft compounds, while Piastri, Norris, Russell, Alonso and Stroll go with mediums. At 3pm local time lights are out and the Belgian Grand Prix starts. Leclerc manages for a few seconds to mantain the first place ahead of Perez, while Sainz and Piastri bang wheels at La Source. Immediately, Perez passes the Ferrari number 16 along the Kemmel Straight, while Piastri has a damage because hit the wall in his skirmish with Sainz and is now last in the ranking. At the end of lap 1, Perez leads Leclerc by more than a second, ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen, while Sainz stays fifth for the moment, telling the team to have a damage, with Alonso, Norris, Tsunoda, Albon, and Stroll closing the top 10. Piastri did not manage to go back to the pits due to the damage and the yellow flag is triggered.
"I don’t know what he was doing".
He says to his team on the radio. At the same time, Carlos Sainz is told to fix his aero balance, while Alonso makes a move on him; behind them, Tsunoda and Albon pass Norris. A little after, Tsunoda and Albon are the next to pass Sainz, while Norris continues to lose places, having problems on his set of medium tyres, so decides to make an early stop to swap to hards, together with Magnussen and Ricciardo. Verstappen passes Hamilton into Les Combes. On lap 7, Sainz is 10th, almost out of the points area, while Sargeant passes the Ferrari driver at Blanchimont. Albon, Sainz and Zhou pit, while there is a side-by-side moment between Ocon and Norris while they go back on track, while the Mercedes pit wall says to Hamilton:
"Potential rain on the radar, 20 minutes away - not very strong".
On lap 9, Verstappen inserts his car into the slipstream behind Leclerc down the Kemmel Straight and passes him at the outside of Les Combes, completing the Red Bull one-two in the lead. Perez has now an advantage of 2.5 seconds over Verstappen, while Leclerc, Hamilton, Alonso, Stroll, Russell, Gasly and Hulkenberg the still having to pit. Alonso stops on lap 11 and emerges just ahead of Hulkenberg, before losing out to the Haas down the Kemmel Straight. Tsunoda passes Albon for the final point. At the front, Leclerc is 3.5 seconds far from Verstappen and Hamilton is another 4.5 seconds behind the Ferrari, before pitting for fresh tyres at the end of lap 13. A lap later, Perez swaps softs for mediums, while Verstappen is told by his engineer to:
"Please follow my instructions".
On strategy after raising some questions. The Dutchman is then told that rain can arrive in 10 minutes:
"I can’t see the weather radar, can I?"
He comments before pitting for mediums. Also Leclerc stops, so only Stroll, Russell and Gasly have to pit yet. Verstappen arrives on the rear of his team mate’s car at the end of lap 17 and takes the lead between La Source and Les Combes. Leclerc and Hamilton remains P3 and P4, followed by Alonso and Stroll, who is now ahead of Russell’s Mercedes, while Gasly, Tsunoda and Ocon complete the top 10. Norris pits again at the end of lap 19 for softs, while Sainz says on the radio that it is now:
"Raining at Turn 15".
And Ferrari confirm that there will be a few spots before a 10-minute long shower. As the rain intensity increases, the drivers start to slip on track, waiting the teams for a call to swap slick tyres for intermediates. Stroll stops for softs as the rain is not quite heavy enough to force the switch to intermediates. Verstappen almost loses the car through the Raidillon/Eau Rouge complex. Russell pits for softs, while the blue sky starts to appear bewteen the clouds. Verstappen leads Perez by six seconds while Leclerc holds third from Hamilton, Alonso, Tsunoda, Ocon, Magnussen, Norris and Russell. Sainz pits to retire because of the significant damage. Ocon and Magnussen pit and drop out of the points again. On lap 28, Hamilton stops again and put on softs, emerging fifth, between Alonso and team mate Russell. A lap later, the Briton regains P4 with a move on Alonso, while Leclerc pits and stays ahead of both. On lap 30, Perez pits for a second time, along with Alonso; Verstappen, Russell, Stroll and Gasly are the only drivers with only one stop. Verstappen pits a lap later, emerging almost 10 seconds ahead of Perez, with Leclerc still holding third from Hamilton, Alonso, Russell, Norris, Stroll, Tsunoda and Ocon. Red Bull is concerned about degradation levels on the soft tyres Verstappen fitted several laps earlier. Williams drop to the back of the field with third stops for Sargeant and Albon. Ocon goes around the outside of Tsunoda at Les Combes, before doing the same with Stroll and rising to eighth. Verstappen wins the Belgian Grand Prix with a margin of 22 seconds over Perez. Leclerc is another 10 seconds down in third, while Hamilton makes a late pit stop to earn the fastest lap bonus point, finishing fourth, followed by Alonso, Russell, Norris and Ocon. Stroll ends up ninth, Tsunoda 10th, Gasly 11th after his pit stop dramas, with Alfa Romeo drivers Bottas and Zhou next. Albon and Sargeant cross the line only 14th and 17th, as Magnussen and Ricciardo are between them. Hulkenberg is last in 18th. Verstappen managed to get his eight straight victory after starting sixth:
"I knew that the car was going to be quick today, and this is one of the best tracks to drive when you have a good car. GP and I were just having a laugh today, we’re honest with each other and that’s how we operate, there’s no need to worry. The first half of the season has been much better than anyone would have ever dreamt of, how we are performing as a Team and winning so many races in a row is incredible. We’re definitely enjoying the moment, but we also want to keep this momentum and level for a long time, so hopefully after the summer break we’re strong again in Zandvoort".
After a great start, Perez held the lead until the first round of pit stops, when his teammate took his place:
"Today was a good day for the team. The race started really well and then Max came through strong, especially on the second stint where he pulled away. After he overtook, it was all about bringing it home for the team and managing the pace until the end, that was the main objective. I ended up slipping on turn 11 due to the tricky conditions so we wanted to then look after the car, manage the tyres and keep the position. Two podiums in a row now and our main objective is to continue to stay on the podium. We have the summer break to make sure we stay on top of things and have some time to reset. Max did a tremendous job and it overall was a great team result. I am looking forward to the summer break and going into the second half of the season to come back even stronger".
Christian Horner, Red Bull’s CEO and Team Principal, is satisfied with this 1-2 for the team:
"We could never have dreamt of getting to summer break unbeaten, that’s never been achieved before. It’s all about teamwork and everybody doing their bit and that’s what has happened through the first 12 races of the year. For Max it’s another masterful win. He managed the race after making his way from P6 to take the lead in the second stint. Checo also had a brilliant first lap, taking the lead of the race and in the end bringing home our fifth 1-2 of the season. All credit to everybody back in Milton Keynes, this result is their result and the way they’re applying themselves is the reason that we’re making the history we’re currently making. We need to keep the intensity but for now, everyone deserves the break and then we come back hard in Zandvoort".
Leclerc was the only Ferrari racing at a certain point, due to the retirement of his teammate. He lost out to the Red Bull duo, but managed to get the podium:
"Third was the best result we could have achieved today. We knew that the Red Bulls would be quicker than us, so our target was to maximise points with the package we have, and we did that. We had to base our strategy on Lewis' (Hamilton). He had a good pace and we had to make sure we kept him behind us. The Red Bulls in front then had to react to our moves, so we were all on the same strategy. In terms of tyre management, we didn't have too much degradation and we have been doing a good job in that area for the past few races. The team has done an amazing job to bring updates ahead of schedule and let us take steps forward faster than we thought we would. It's good to finish this first half with a podium and hopefully we can maximise our package at the upcoming races after the break too".
Bad day for Sainz, who collided at the start with Piastri atTurn 1. From that moment he had a damage and, despite trying to continue, was forced to retire:
"Not the way I wanted to finish the first part of the season. Hamilton stayed behind Perez and I attacked him on the inside. Then came the contact with Oscar and that was it, a racing incident, but in my opinion Oscar was way too optimistic as he was never side by side with me and making that move from behind has never really worked here in Spa. I’m disappointed, but it’s also part of racing. On a positive note, it looked like the pace was good today so congrats to the team and Charles on an encouraging result. We need to keep pushing hard to make sure we come back strong after the break and have a good second half of the season".
Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, is happy for what they earned, despite Sainz’ accident:
"We are happy with Charles’ podium, it was well deserved and it’s a nice way to head into the summer break. Apart from that, I’d say the weekend in Belgium had several other positives. The pace was good all weekend, on rain tyres and slicks, both the Medium and Soft. We made the right strategy calls and all the pit stops went well. Overall therefore, I think we have made a step forward and we must start off from this point when we are back on track, because only with this attitude can we aim to beat our closest rivals. It’s a shame for Carlos because he too could have got a good result given that his pace was similar to Charles’ all weekend. The first corner here is often tricky and racing incidents after the start are always a possibility and that’s what happened. We opted to keep him out on track until the rain shower in the hope there might be a red flag which would have given us the chance to fix the car, but then it became clear that wouldn’t happen so we decided to retire him. This first half of the season has seen many highs and lows, but today it was clear we have reacted well after recent races that had not gone the way we wanted. The team all deserve the break, having worked so hard at the track and back in Maranello over the past months and when we come back, I want to see that same sense of determination".
Hamilton was fourth for most of the race, never able to pass Leclerc. At the end, he got the bonus point for fastest lap:
"It was a non-eventful race for me today with not a huge amount going on. I was unable to keep up with the cars ahead of me and was struggling in the beginning. We know the rear end is our biggest issue and then we had some bouncing this weekend. At the end, I was keeping the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc within a few seconds, but I couldn't get any closer. It was nice to have the gap to the car behind and to attempt to go for the fastest lap. It was gusty out there today and difficult to keep it on the track, but my lap was decent. We know we have more work to do to close the gap to the front. We'll work with all the data we've accumulated and try to figure out what we can do for the next race after the summer break".
Russell managed to get P6:
"I really felt that I could have been up there with Lewis fighting for a podium for the Team today. Unfortunately, I was boxed in on the opening lap behind Oscar when he picked up damage at the first corner. That cost me a couple of positions and compromised my Grand Prix. After that it was a good race for us, and we have opened the gap in the Constructors' by 51 points to third place. It has been an intense first half of the season for everyone in the Team, so we are looking forward to the break and the chance to switch off for a few weeks before we get back racing again at Zandvoort. We know our goal is to win races, and I still believe that we can do that this season".
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ Team Principal & CEO, adds:
"We struggled with the car at points today and experienced some bouncing. That was the main limiting factor this weekend, so we've got some work to do to understand that more. We've got the shutdown coming up, but we will get our heads down this week, review the data, and see what we can do to make progress. Going into the summer break, I feel that we are on the right trajectory overall. There is so much hard work going across the Team to upgrade the car and help us to make those important steps forward. I believe we are making progress and the direction we are going in is the right one. We will go away, recharge over the summer break and come back refreshed and re-energised".
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, concludes:
"With the everchanging weather and a sprint race thrown into the mix, it's been a challenging weekend in Spa. At times, our pace has been good. However, on the slicks today, we needed another tenth to be able to challenge for a podium. On the run to Eau Rouge at the beginning of the race, George unfortunately got boxed in behind Piastri's damaged McLaren. That meant that he was stuck in a pack for the first stint. Once he was clear, we made good progress, but we lost too much time to be able to challenge Alonso at the end. Lewis also couldn't get close enough to place Leclerc under pressure, so our options were limited. It was good to bring home a point for fastest lap, but we need to focus on bringing more performance. The first half of the season has been tough, and everyone in Brackley and Brixworth has been working incredibly hard. We're looking forward to the break and will be back in Zandvoort ready to take on the final 10 races of the season".
Alonso was fifth and built a gap to have a quiet race, which was probably preferable to the chaos that the team had to deal with yesterday.
"I was lucky at the start: I made up a few places into Eau Rouge, but then I was worried that I wouldn't be able to hold onto those positions through the first stint. We were fast - we kept one Mercedes and one McLaren behind us - so we were in the mix. That's good news for the whole team as we head into the summer break. The car felt great today - and really gave me confidence. This is a high-efficiency circuit - and, after the British Grand Prix, we were a little concerned about our performance coming here. The team changed a few characteristics on the car and it really paid off. It's been an incredible first half to the season: we are third in the Constructors' Championship and third in the Drivers' Championship. It was impossible to think of achieving this before the start of the season. The whole team did an incredible job today. Now, it's time to recharge our batteries over the summer break and come back stronger".
Mike Krack, Aston Martin’s Team Principal, affirms that they were competitive, a perfect condition before the summer break:
"We delivered a more competitive performance today, with both drivers racing well and managing different strategies. Lance was one of three drivers to make only one stop - and that required some excellent tyre management across both stints. With the threat of rain in the middle part of the race, we kept his options open as long as we could and really stretched out the final stint on the Softs. Fernando's race was a bit more straightforward and, with clean air for much of the race, he was able to show good pace to bring home fifth place. The 12 points scored today ensure we maintain third place in the Constructors' Championship. This was an important confidence boost for everyone in the team before the well-earned summer break".
Norris had a difficult race, pitting very early and coming in again due to problems on hards:
"A good result. I think we can be pleased with that after the start of the race being frustrating for us. We were just very poor on pace and struggled too much to overtake and defend in the straights. So, we were going backwards and backwards in the opening laps. We tried many things with the strategy and the only thing to work in the end was to put a Soft tyre on and the whole race transformed after that. We ended up finishing P7, which was, I think as good as the race could have gone today. Tough for the team, but we scored some good points, and we have to take that going into the break".
Piastri collided with Sainz’s Ferrari and was forced to retire:
"A disappointing end to the weekend. I had my nose in there at Turn One and got a bit caught out with Carlos darting to the inside. My nose was in there, I couldn't get out of that one, so a shame to have my race over so early. It's still been a positive weekend though and all in all, I think we've had some good learning on track so we can still be confident for the rest of the year".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, analyzes the race:
"After a positive Sprint event on Saturday, today in the race we have had some more difficulties. With Oscar, unfortunately there was an incident in corner one, Oscar ran out of space, and he touched the wall, breaking the steering system and he needed to retire the car. On Lando's side, we tried our best to stay in the points. We knew we were vulnerable in terms of top speed on the straights, and this was an issue in the race. However, thanks to the strategy and thanks to Lando driving exceptionally well while there was some rain, on new Softs, we could find some free air, exploit the pace of the car, and this led us to a good P7 finish. We are happy that we scored a good chunk of points over the weekend, it has been a very strong stint before the break. I would like to again thank the whole team for the exceptional work that led us to being competitive and scoring so many points in the last four races, and we can look positively at the races post-shutdown".
Ocon climbed his way through the field and came home with good points for the team:
"It feels good to be back in the points here in Spa after a few tough weeks where we've finished outside the points due to circumstances out of our control. Overall, it was a good recovery drive and a well-executed race from the team today. Eighth place is a very good result after starting from fourteenth on the grid. There were some fun overtakes along the way too, especially on Yuki [Tsunoda] and Alex [Albon]. I think it's a good way to end a busy weekend for us and a nice way to go into the summer break where we'll look to rest and recharge before attacking the second part of the season. Finally, I'd like to wish Otmar, Alan and Pat all the best in the future and I know we all thank them for their important contributions to the team".
Gasly due to a slow pit stop ended out of the points:
"It's been a frustrating afternoon where we did not score points. I made a pretty good start into Turn 1 and then on the run into Turn 2, gaining a couple of positions. I was very unlucky with Oscar [Piastri] who had damage and was slow up Eau Rouge and I ended up being stuck behind him with a number of cars able to overtake. That made things difficult for us, left us playing catch-up and then we had to see if we could extend our first stint on Softs with the chance of rain. It did not rain hard enough, so we converted to a one-stop and in the end fell just short of the points. Some of the racing was fun out there but we're still lacking some power which we need to find. Now we have the summer break where all of us will take some time to rest and recover ready to take on the second part of the season. Finally, I wish Otmar, Alan and Pat the very best for their future and a big thanks for all the moments with them during this season".
Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine’s Team Principal, talks about the improvements they made during the last races:
"The team leaves the Belgian Grand Prix weekend with ten points scored, which is a vast improvement after the last two races where we left without scoring points due to factors beyond our control. We could probably count ourselves unfortunate not to have both cars in the points today with Pierre just shy of the top ten after his race was compromised on lap one after being caught in traffic in Eau Rouge. Esteban did a very good job to rise from fourteenth to eighth with a well-managed two-stop strategy including a string of clean and decisive overtakes. Credit to both drivers for their performance this weekend: Esteban today back in the top ten and Pierre yesterday for finishing third in the Sprint. Today marks my final race with the team. I'd like to thank the efforts of all those at the track and at our factories in Viry and Enstone during my time here and I wish them all the best for the future".
Ricciardo started P19 and did not manage to improve a lot:
"Honestly, it was tough in traffic. Maybe a race with more clear air could’ve been better, but in general I’m not convinced we had great pace today. It felt like we never got the peak out of the tyres, and we couldn’t generate enough grip in the second sector. When we were in clear air later in the race, I felt we were more competitive, but in traffic, it was definitely hard. The reality is, these were my first dry laps in this car on this track, and I don’t know this car that well yet, so I still felt there was a little missing, but we’ll figure it out. Many are now looking forward to a well-deserved holiday, but the situation is slightly different for me as the break is a good chance for me to keep working behind the scenes. After a few days off, I’ll spend time in the gym and use my days training, to be able to further improve on my race fitness".
Jody Egginton, AlphaTauri’s Technical Director, looks at the positive aspects of this Sunday:
"Following on from the last race, where we feel we took a step forwards, we have also generally been more competitive, and to score a point here is a good reward for everybody's hard work and persistence. Yuki ran a strong race, making really good use of each of his tyre sets to keep his car in the top 10. The fight for points was on merit pretty much all race long, so he should be pleased. It was more difficult for Daniel, as he spent a good part of the race in traffic. We weren’t able to get him into free air to put together a strong sequence of laps, as he was able to do in Hungary to good effect. It was unfortunate, however, his strong performance in the Sprint race yesterday highlights we are making progress. We still have work to do to get the car where we want it, but we have more updates coming, and everyone in Faenza, Bicester and Trackside is focused on pushing hard to develop the car and improve our competitiveness".
Franz Tost, Team Principal, concludes:
"We started the race with Yuki in P11 and Daniel in P19, so we decided to split the strategy between the two cars: Yuki started on the medium compound, and Daniel on the soft tyre. Yuki managed a fantastic start and ended up in P8, keeping his position for a very long time. I think some cars were staying out, postponing their pitstop, just waiting for more rain to come later in the race. Yuki was in P6 at one point, but of course, certain other cars were faster and could overtake us. In the end, Yuki finished P10 and scored one point for the team, which is very important. What is even more relevant is that the aero development is going in the right direction, and this is evidence of the fact that people in Bicester are doing a good job. As for Daniel, he started towards the back of the grid today as his lap time got deleted in qualifying on Friday, because of violating track limits in Turn 4. It's a shame as he showed great performance yesterday, being close to scoring a point in the Sprint race. Starting further back today was really difficult because it’s really hard to overtake. We still miss some load on the car, but I’m convinced that when Daniel is more familiar with the car and tyres, he'll do a really good job. In general, the team did a very good job. We haven’t scored a point in a long time, so we're very pleased and are looking forward to the second half of the season because I think we can still improve our performance".
Alex Albon ran in the points for much of the race, when he started to struggle with tyre wear and had to make an unexpected pit stop:
"I had a good start today; however, I was almost surprised I fell out of the points in the mid stint, but I was just struggling so much with degradation. The whole weekend was tricky, and the race was just the same. We're running low downforce, which is fun but going through sector two, it degs the tyres so much. The amount of deg was a bit of a wakeup call, particularly on that Medium tyre. I was having to over-push the tyre to stay in front in sector two and as soon as I tried to manage the tyre, I was immediately under fire from cars behind, so it's a vicious cycle. I think we need to go away and work out why we struggled so much this weekend, as at the end of the day, this downforce is going to be similar to Monza and that's our next occasion to likely score points. We'll need to make sure we learn from this weekend, so when we come back to tracks that suit us, we don't have this problem again".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, analyzes the race and the strategies put into place by the teams:
"Finally, a day with reasonable weather, rain only making an appearance briefly without having any significant impact on the way the race played out. Coming into this final part of the weekend practically in the dark, increased the number of unknown factors and, along with the large number of dry weather tyres available, as they were only used for a few laps in yesterday's qualifying, this gave the teams a wider than usual range of possible strategies. Degradation on the Soft and Medium tyres was in line with our simulations given the relatively low track temperature. These low temperatures also meant the Hard was not very competitive and it was only used by one driver for a few kilometres. In terms of performance, the other two compounds were up to the task and the stint lengths varied according to whether a driver chose to push right from the start to make the most of the available grip, or manage the situation to lengthen the stint as much as possible, which was the case for the three drivers who only made a single pit stop. Finally, I would like to congratulate the fans (380.000 attendance) who put up with some very wet weather. They were rewarded with a great show, partly down to the Sprint weekend format which meant that, right from Friday, there was plenty of excitement on track. Formula 1 is soon going to take a short break, although we still have two more days of testing on Tuesday and Wednesday here at Spa, working with Aston Martin and McLaren. The daily work programme will depend a lot on what the weather has to offer".
The drivers will now have a four-week summer break before the next stop in Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix, which will take place from August 25-27.