Max Verstappen has once again produced an incredible recovery drive for the second consecutive race in 2022. After winning from 10th in Hungary, Verstappen went on to win in Spa from an even lower starting position, fully capitalising on the lack of pace from Ferrari and the carnage of the opening laps.
Eight drivers had engine penalties heading into the race, and the latest of which was Yuki Tsunoda, who had to start from the pit lane. His AlphaTauri team-mate also had to start from the pit lane.
A dramatic start saw Carlos Sainz remain in the lead, whilst Sergio Perez dropped back with a slow start, dropping places to Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton would then make hard contact with Fernando Alonso at Les Combes, which sent the Mercedes into the air and ultimately put Hamilton out of the race on the first lap due to the damage sustained.
Valtteri Bottas and Nicholas Latifi nearly made contact as well on the second lap, with Bottas getting beached on the gravel trap at Les Combes trying to avoid the spinning Latifi, and had to retire from the race.
The safety car was deployed after this, and the race restarted in lap 5. Charles Leclerc had to pit during the safety car period due to ‘smoke’ on his front right tyre – confirmed to be a stuck helmet tear off in his brake ducts.
By the second lap of the restart, Max Verstappen got past Daniel Ricciardo and was, incredibly, up to 6th place, and immediately started to pressurise those ahead. At the front, the order remained Sainz, Perez, Russell.
While Verstappen got up to the podium positions by lap 8, with a simple DRS move along the Kemmel Straight, Charles Leclerc struggled to get past midfield runners, and was running 14th by lap 9.
The stand out performer at the start was the retiring Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel, who went from 10th to 5th – before eventually losing a place to the recovering Verstappen - avoiding all the chaos from the first few laps.
By lap 11, Verstappen was on the back of his team-mate Perez, but wasn’t immediately let through, with the Dutchman showing his frustration over the radio. “We’re losing a silly amount of time,” he said.
At this point, Ferrari decided to pit race leader Carlos Sainz to try and remain ahead of the charging Red Bulls, but lost a bit of time stuck behind Ricciardo in the McLaren. Verstappen finally got ahead of Perez and started to fly at the front of the field.
A flurry of pit stops in the midfield was started by Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly pitting on lap 10, allowing Leclerc to jump up the order, as he got up to 5th place on lap 14 after overtaking Stroll’s Aston Martin.
Sergio Perez had to fend off Leclerc after his pit stop, which he managed to do. On lap 16, race leader Verstappen finally made his first pit stop, switching his soft tyres for the medium compound, and came back out very close to Carlos Sainz, who pitted four laps earlier.
Max Verstappen took the lead of the race on lap 18, after getting past Carlos Sainz with the help of DRS, and started to onde again scamper away at the front.
Ferrari pondered their options with Leclerc, with the target being a lowly P5 finish. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez made his way through Sainz on lap 21, making it a Red Bull 1-2 by the half way stage of the race, with Verstappen 6.8s ahead of Perez.
In the middle of the pack, a great fight took place for 8th place between Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon, with the Alpine driver ultimately winning out.
Lance Stroll was also showing impressive pace for Aston Martin, and even tried to overtake Ricciardo up Eau Rouge, but to no avail.
His team-mate Sebastian Vettel rapidly closed the gap to rival of old times Fernando Alonso, struggling with tyre wear on his medium tyres, like his fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who had to stop for new hards on lap 26. Ferrari did a double stack, as Leclerc pitted shortly after for another set of medium tyres.
Red Bull responded on the next lap, with Perez also switching to the hard compound. Mercedes reacted on lap 30, bringing Russell in for his final stop.
Fernando Alonso was on a mission slicing his way through the pack, after his second pit stop dropped him down to 13th, he fought his way back to P8 by lap 30.
On lap 31, race leader Verstappen made his final pit stop, and went to a new set of medium tyres to complete the remainder of the race. Meanwhile, Leclerc made his move on his former Ferrari team-mate Vettel, to take 5th place on lap 32.
Vettel, meanwhile, pitted again on lap 34 for a new set of mediums, and immediately got in a fight with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon down the Kemmel Straight, with shades of Hakkinen, Schumacher and Zonta in the 2000 Belgian GP.
George Russell closed the gap to Sainz to just 2 seconds by lap 37, as the Spaniard continued to discuss strategy with his team over the radio, exploring the possibility of tthree-stopping.
Alex Albon found himself once again embroiled in a multi-car fight in the late stages of the race, with Lance Stroll, Lando Norris, Zhou Guanyu, Yuk Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo all fighting over the last points paying position that Albon held with 5 laps to go.
At the front, Verstappen continued to lead comfortably, 17 seconds ahead of team-mate Perez, who was a further 9 seconds ahead of the struggling Carlos Sainz.
Ferrari failed to set the fastest lap with Charles Leclerc on the final lap, pitting for a new set of soft tyres, as the Monegasque had to get past Alonso’s Alpine in the process and was 0.6s off setting the best time of the day
But the biggest honors once again went to Max Verstappen, as he crossed the line to win in Spa, followed by his team-mate Sergio Perez. Carlos Sainz completed the podium.
George Russell finished P4 after a very decent race for Mercedes. Leclerc didn’t even manage to finish in P5, as in his pit stop for a fastest lap attempt, he sped in the pit lane, and was given a 5s time penalty, finishing P6 behind Alonso.
The top tem was completed by Ocon, Vettel, Gasly and Albon.
Verstappen now leads the championship by 93 points over team-mate Sergio Perez, and is 98 points clear of rival Charles Leclerc, as F1 heads to the second part of its triple header next week in his home race at Zandvoort.