Max Verstappen took his sixteenth career Formula 1 victory in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, but the way he happened was not the way the Dutchman wanted it to.
Heavy rain at Spa-Francorchamps prevented any green flag running, with the race only being run to the minimum distance behind the safety car. This meant by taking pole position on Saturday afternoon, the Red Bull Racing driver was able to take the win with his only concern being the need to stay on the extremely wet track.
Verstappen felt there was a small window to get some action, but once that window passed without getting on track, it was always going to be difficult to get some racing action in. And in the end, only half points were awarded even if the race was run completely behind the safety car.
“It is always good to win and the points are important but today is not how anyone wants to do it, especially on our 50th start with Honda,” said Verstappen. “In hindsight it was very important to get pole yesterday and although it’s a big shame not to do some proper racing laps, as I really love coming to this track, it was just impossible in these conditions.
“I thought maybe at 15:30 the conditions were a bit better than just now when we tried to re-start but the visibility was still very low and I understand why we couldn’t race today.
“For me in the lead the visibility was a lot better, even with the Safety Car ahead, but the guys behind me couldn’t see a single thing and if someone went off at Eau Rouge and bounced back onto the track they could have been T-boned at high speed which we do not want.
“It was also extremely low grip and because it kept raining all afternoon it just didn’t improve.”
Verstappen was full of praise for the fans who stuck around at Spa-Francorchamps despite the rain consistently falling hard, and he believes they were the real winners from the day.
“I think today the big credit goes to the fans around the track who stayed here the whole day in the rain, wind and cold,” he said. “It must have been horrible to sit in those conditions so a big thanks goes to them and they should be the real winners from today.”
Verstappen will now turn his attention to his home Grand Prix at the Circuit Zandvoort next weekend, and he is confident he can push to regain the lead in the Drivers’ Championship as he sits only three points behind Lewis Hamilton with ten races to go.
“Now we have to keep on pushing and trying to re-gain the championship lead,” said the Dutchman. “I’m confident we have a good car and there is a long way to go so we just need to make sure we get the best performance out of it for the rest of the season.”
“The lap to grid was my mistake” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez should have started seventh, but the Mexican crashed on the way to the initial grip at Les Combes, with the Mexican heavily damaging the right-front corner of the car.
The delays in the start gave Red Bull the chance to repair the car and get him out on track for the race, but the lack of green flag running, and the subsequent declaration of the race left him twentieth and last at the chequered flag, although he moved up to nineteenth after a penalty for Lance Stroll.
Pérez apologised for making the mistake on the way to the grid that ultimately cost him a seventh-place finish, but he also thanked the team for working incredibly hard to repair the car for a possible restart.
“It was a strange afternoon and I have to say thank you to the fans, they were incredible for staying with us in the rain and cold,” said Pérez. “It’s a shame we couldn’t put on a good race for them today but we as a sport tried our best to race but it just wasn’t possible.
“The lap to grid was my mistake, the conditions and visibility were extremely poor and I just went on the kerb and lost it. I always knew there was a small chance we could get the car back out and the Team was pushing hard, really showing the spirit of Red Bull Racing which was nice to see.
“My Team did what they do best and they repaired the car so quickly it was incredible. I really wanted to repay them for their hard work during the race but that didn’t happen, luckily we are racing again in a few days and we all look forward to Zandvoort now!”