F1 – Belgian GP – Sprint

Bonjour, MiniFans! We have a new sprint weekend upon us, this time in Spa Francorchamps. In the sprint shootout, the qualifying session for the sprint race, Verstappen was yet again on pole, but followed extremely closely by Piastri and Sainz, a top three separated by only 25 thousandths on a quickly drying track that rewarded those who managed to score their laps right at the end.

A delay in the sprint shootout due to weather conditions meant that the sprint would also start later than expected. This meant that the rain expected for after the race would start falling right before the start, forcing yet another delay without notice as to when it would begin. A second heavy shower drenched the circuit, but it was expected to be the last one, so once it was over, a sweeper and a tractor used to help drain water away from the track did their rounds to try and help get rid of some of the extra water. Despite all this, the formation lap was decreed to happen behind the safety car with full wet tyres.

The decision of a rolling start was only communicated after seeing the amount of water that the cars were lifting from the track and five full formation laps behind the safety car, leaving eleven laps of racing. Once the lights of the safety car were turned off, it was a matter of who would stop by their garage to change tyres, as pretty much every team was ready with intermediates. Verstappen didn’t go in, but Piastri and Sainz both did, as did half the grid, including Hamilton and Pérez, both of whom overtook the Ferrari in the pitlane. Verstappen waited until the following lap, to try and avoid some of the traffic, but he still lost first place to Piastri because he still encountered the other half of the grid.

Gasly had managed to slot himself in third via not backing down in the pitlane fights, but even with the lack of DRS due to the session being a wet one, Pérez was soon breathing down his neck. A bit further ahead there was a similar battle between Verstappen and a Piastri that was managing his lead pretty well for a rookie. A virtual safety car turned into a full safety car due to the presence of a towing vehicle halted these battles after Alonso spun and got stuck in the gravel.

A very short-lived safety car led into Piastri’s first time commanding a restart. The Australian rookie did a good job, but the slowed down portion of the race had allowed Verstappen to get very close and overtake him in a very quick move. Behind them, Gasly was creating a small train and the battle between Pérez and Hamilton ended in a small touch that made debris fly off of the Red Bull and earn an investigation. The collision did something to Pérez’s car, who complained about a lack of rear grip as he kept dropping places and eventually retired the car.

All the problems that Pérez was having didn’t translate to the other driver involved in his incident, as he was soon back right behind Gasly. However, it did coma back to him in the shape of a five-second penalty and he didn’t seem to be able to overtake the Alpine. The final lap saw an attempt or two at successless overtakes and the only three positions gained in the last stages were thanks to Hamilton’s penalty.

It’s not the first time that the race direction decisions stare right back into their face. This time, the mostly unnecessary delay in the sprint shootout meant that the sprint would be delayed as well, due to the mandated time that has to pass between both of the sessions. The wait and the formation laps taken behind the safety car made it so the full wet tyres were discarded almost instantly as soon as teams could make the decision. The events led to yet another Verstappen win, but two podium finishers who had yet to climb up there this season, as Piastri and Gasly flanked him.

MiniDrivers – F1
2023 Belgian GP
Sprint Race