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Max drops out in Belgian Grand Prix: 'Think Kimi did not expect me'

Published on 01 September 2019 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen had to cease the fight during the Belgian Grand Prix after a DNF in the first lap. The Dutchman had a bad start and came into contact with Kimi Räikkönen in the La Source-hairpin, after which the steering rod of the RB15 broke. Because of that Verstappen failed to steer into the Eau Rouge and ended into the barriers. The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver came out of the car unharmed, but it was the end of his race. Charles Leclerc took his first win in his Formula 1 career keeping ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Valtteri Bottas completed on behalf of Mercedes the podium.

“I had a bad start”, says the disappointed Verstappen. “I do not know why, but we will look into that later. My reaction was not very good and I had some wheelspin, wat was not ideal. When getting to the first corner, I braked a bit later than the cars in front of me. That went well, but I think Kimi did not expect me and kept going on his normal line. The steering rod broke, causing me to go straight ahead in Eau Rouge.” The incident was called a racing-incident by the stewards, so there will not be any penalties for both drivers. It does not matter much to Max: “It does not matter anymore, it is what it is. He did not do it on purpose.”

The last time Max dropped out was last year during the Hungarian Grand Prix. This DNF means the end of a long series: “It is not nice, but after what happened yesterday, it does not really matter”, the Dutchman refers to the fatal accident of the Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert, who lost his life. Subsequently the Dutchman looks ahead to the next race in a weeks’ time in Monza: “It will not be an easy race, but we will try to make the most of it.”

It is a couple of minutes after three when the lights on Spa-Francorchamps go out and the first race after summer break gets underway. Straight away it goes wrong for Max Verstappen, who on the inside of La Source tries to pass Kimi Räikkönen. The two hit each other, the steering rod of the Dutchman breaks, causing him not much later to come to a stop in the barriers along Eau Rouge. It means a premature end of Max’ home race and also the end of a long series of point scoring finishes.

At the front of the field Lewis Hamilton passes Sebastian Vettel, but the Germand manages to come back past the championship leader in the Kemmel Straight, just before the safety car comes out on track and neutralises the field. After a couple of laps it looks like the safety car will go in, but because Carloz Sainz - who already had issues at the start of the race - stops his McLaren in the Bus Stop chicane, the safety car stays out. At the restart Charles Leclerc keeps the lead and increases the gap to his teammate every lap. After ten laps it is Leclerc, Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Norris and Grosjean who form the top six.

Sebastian Vettel is in lap fifteen the first driver of the top teams who comes in for a new set of tires. His teammate follows six laps later, but then comes out behind Vettel. In lap twenty-three Lewis Hamilton also comes in, to come out as fourth on the asphalt in Spa. Valtteri Bottas is not much later the last of the leaders who comes into the pits, after which the top six is formed by Vettel, Leclerc, Hamilton, Bottas, Norris and Kvyat. In the following laps Charles Leclerc comes closer to his Ferrari colleague. At the moment the gap is less than a second, the team asks Vettel to let his teammate go past.

The race pace of the Mercedes is in contract to Friday and Saturday very good. In lap 31 Hamilton closes the gap to Vette and in the Bus Stop-chicane Hamilton takes his chance. It does not work out, but not much later the Brit manages to overtake the Ferrari driver in the Kemmel Straight. Then Vettel decides to come in for a new set of soft tires, on which from P4 he will set the fastest lap.

The rest of the race is dominated by an advancing Lewis Hamilton, who closes in on race leader Leclerc. However, the Monegasque does not make any mistakes and takes the chequered flag with little under a second ahead of Hamilton. With this the Ferrari driver takes his first victory in the Formula 1. Valtteri Bottas completes on behalf of Mercedes the podium in P3.

The last lap is characterised by Antonio Giovinazzi who overreached himself in Pouhon and ends in the barriers. The Alfa Romeo driver steps out of the car unharmed. Also Lando Norris does not finish the race, as technical failure stops his car while entering the last corner. Alexander Albon finishes his debut with Red Bull strong, fighting his way back to fifth place.

Results Grand Prix Belgium:

1Charles LeclercLECFerrari441:23:45.71025
2Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes44+0.981s18
3Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes44+12.585s15
4Sebastian VettelVETFerrari44+26.422s13
5Alexander AlbonALBRed Bull Racing Honda44+81.325s10
6Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes44+84.448s8
7Daniil KvyatKVYScuderia Toro Rosso Honda44+89.657s6
8Nico HulkenbergHULRenault44+106.639s4
9Pierre GaslyGASScuderia Toro Rosso Honda44+109.168s2
10Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes44+109.838s1
11Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault43DNF0
12Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari43+1 lap0
13Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari43+1 lap0
14Daniel RicciardoRICRenault43+1 lap0
15George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes43+1 lap0
16Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari43+1 lap0
17Robert KubicaKUBWilliams Mercedes43+1 lap0
18Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari42DNF0
0Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault1DNF0
0Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda0DNF0