The third sprint weekend has come and gone and it resulted in an unsurprising Verstappen win for both the sprint and the Grand Prix, however, things weren’t as predictable as the results may seem, at least not for the sprint.
Spa was an interesting track to choose as the third sprint weekend. The fast-sweeping nature of the track combined with the tumultuous weather would make for an uncertain race.
Before the sprint shootout could even get started on the Saturday morning, the clouds decided to open and a downpour of torrential rain was let loose on the track. Given Spa’s dangerous history, especially in the wet, it was only right that the session was postponed until the track was safe to race.
Once we finally did get going, the wet track allowed for a relatively mixed-up grid to form for the sprint later in the afternoon. The cars that had prioritised a wet race setup over a dry race setup came alive during the sprint shootout. This saw the likes of Piastri’s McLaren slot into P2 and the Ferraris have a short-lived resurgence as they occupied P3 and P4.
As the afternoon rolled around so did the rain and the delays, the downpour on Saturday again caused a late start to the sprint leading to an 11-lap race by the time the green light got going.
The race kicked off with Verstappen taking a clear lead, the McLaren of Piastri managed to hold on to P2 and Gasly hauled his Alpine up into P3 following crucial pit stops on the first lap. As Verstappen chose not to pit on the first lap, it meant that by the time he got around to the pits on his second lap, he would have to overtake Piastri who momentarily led the race. Verstappen would quickly fly by the McLaren to regain the lead following his pit stop.
As things began to settle down we saw contact between Checo and Hamilton which brought a quick end to Checo’s race as the gaping hole in his sidepod confirmed that there would be no way for him to carry on. We also saw an uncharacteristic mistake from Alonso as he spun out of the race following his teammate, Lance Stroll, who made the same mistake earlier in the day during the sprint shootout.
The 11 laps of racing flew by and whilst it was a welcomed surprise to see relatively new faces in the top 3, it didn’t create much hope for Sunday as the Grand Prix was set to be a dry race which would presumably see things return to normal programming.
The first competitive session of the weekend took place on Friday and with the news of Verstappen taking a 5-place grid penalty it ensured that we would get someone else on the pole for the Grand Prix. Perhaps the only shock of the session was seeing Ricciardo finish in P19 as his final flying lap was deleted due to track limits.
As we got to the final race before the summer break, Leclerc would start on pole, however, there was a sense that Verstappen taking the lead off the Ferrari driver would be inevitable. As the lights went out, we saw Piastri and Sainz collide at turn 1 putting an immediate end to the race for the McLaren. Sainz managed to continue despite the obvious hole that had been created in his sidepod which slowed him down as he dropped like a stone to the back of the grid. Ferrari finally made some sense of the situation and Sainz retired on lap 23.
As the race progressed we did see overtake after overtake which kept the race alive in the midfield, however out-front, Verstappen was rapid and easily took the lead from his teammate to finish 22 seconds in front of Perez by the time the chequered flag was shown .
The win never really looked in doubt for Verstappen, and as we go into the summer break it’s hard to look past anyone other than Red Bull winning any of the 10 remaining races.