Magnificent Verstappen surges to dominant Belgian Grand Prix win

By Sports Desk August 28, 2022

Max Verstappen produced a scintillating drive to surge from 14th on the grid to win the Belgian Grand Prix and further extend his huge championship lead.

The reigning Formula One champion was fastest in Saturday's qualifying session but was one of several drivers to take a grid penalty for a power unit change, leading to him starting on the seventh row.

Yet, just as in the Hungarian Grand Prix before the mid-season break, when he started in 10th, Verstappen expertly worked his way through the field to prevail and claim a second successive win at Spa-Francorchamps.

The raw pace of the Red Bull allowed Verstappen to easily make his way to the front after a chaotic start and a second lap safety car, and he was never threatened after overtaking Carlos Sainz for the lead on lap 18. His team-mate Sergio Perez made it a Red Bull one-two, with the Ferraris of Sainz and Charles Leclerc sandwiched by Mercedes driver George Russell on a day that saw Verstappen's lead stretched to 96 points.

Fernando Alonso got a lightning start to put his Alpine ahead of Perez into the first corner, with the Red Bull man also overtaken by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.

Yet the good work of the two former McLaren team-mates was soon undone when they collided going into the Les Combes chicane, sending Hamilton airbone as he suffered damage that ended his race.

The next lap then saw the Williams of Nicholas Latifi spin into Valtteri Bottas' Alfa Romeo, prompting a safety car as the latter ended up beached in the gravel.

Sainz locked up at the bus stop chicane at the restart but was still able to stay ahead of Perez and retain the lead.

Yet he soon began losing time to the Red Bulls and had both in his mirrors by the time he pitted on lap 12, Verstappen's spectacular charge through the field rewarded with the lead as he passed Perez while Sainz was in the pit lane.

Sainz was back ahead when Verstappen pitted for medium tyres four laps later, but Ferrari's lack of pace was encapsulated as Leclerc was unable to get past Perez on warmer tyres following the Mexican's pit stop and Verstappen succeeded in breezing past Sainz for the lead.

That set the stage for a serene second half of the race for Verstappen, whose title battle with Leclerc is turning into a procession for the Dutchman.

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  • What next for Red Bull, Christian Horner and Max Verstappen? What next for Red Bull, Christian Horner and Max Verstappen?

    Reigning world champion Max Verstappen opened the 2024 Formula One season with another commanding victory but it is the controversy surrounding his Red Bull team that provided the headlines in Bahrain.

    Team principal Christian Horner has faced intense scrutiny following allegations made against him by a female colleague – claims he has always denied – and the drama continued to unfold in the paddock at the season opener.

    With claims and counter-claims coming from different names in and around the Red Bull garage, the issue will now roll on into the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix this weekend.

    Here, the PA news agency answers some of the key questions that hang over the ongoing situation.

    Where did all of this start?

    Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner was being investigated following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner emphatically denied the claim and the 50-year-old stayed on as team principal after Red Bull confirmed that the grievance has been dismissed last week. But, just 24 hours later, messages and a number of images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media – on the eve of race in Bahrain.

    What did Horner have to say about the email?

    The Red Bull boss, who is married to former Spice Girl Geri, released a statement as news of the anonymous email broke. “I will not comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate I have always denied the allegations,” it read. “I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully co-operated with it every step of the way. It was a thorough and fair investigation conducted by an independent specialist barrister and it has concluded dismissing the complaint made. I remain fully focused on the start of the season.” Horner was then questioned several times while in the paddock but refused to speak on the subject.

    What impact did it have on the team over the race weekend?

    On the surface, at least, very little. Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position and bar an early charge from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, the Dutchman never looked like being challenged on race day. He did, however, say after qualifying that Horner had been “a little bit distracted” and was twice asked if he had full confidence in his boss – not offering a definitive answer to either question.

    Race won, case closed?

    Not at all, no. Not only does the complainant have a right to appeal against the decision to allow Horner to continue but Verstappen’s father – former F1 driver Jos – has said he believes the situation “is driving people apart”. Having been close to his son for all of his three championship wins, Jos does wield some power and his words could worry those within the Red Bull set-up as they look to keep their all-conquering title winner happy. “There is tension here while he (Horner) remains in position,” Verstappen Snr told the Daily Mail. “The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can’t go on the way it is. It will explode. He is playing the victim, when he is the one causing the problems.” Red Bull later dismissed such claims, telling the PA news agency the team remains “united”.

    So what happens next?

    The teams are currently preparing for the second race of the new season in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Verstappen will face the media on Wednesday where he will no doubt be asked about his father’s comments. His reply to such questions could set the tone for the weekend as Horner will once again aim to keep things focused on the track rather than a situation away from it that does not seem to be going away any time soon.

  • Red Bull ‘united’ amid claim it could be ‘torn apart’ if Christian Horner stays Red Bull ‘united’ amid claim it could be ‘torn apart’ if Christian Horner stays

    Formula One’s crisis-hit Red Bull team insists it remains “united” after Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, claimed it is “in danger of being torn apart” if Christian Horner remains in his role.

    A defiant Horner has said he is “absolutely confident” he will stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season after overseeing Verstappen lead a one-two finish from team-mate Sergio Perez at the opening round in Bahrain.

    Horner has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks following allegations against him made by a female colleague. Horner has always denied the claims.

    But speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper following Saturday’s 57-lap race, Verstappen Snr added further fuel to the fire when he said: “There is tension here while he (Horner) remains in position.

    “The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can’t go on the way it is. It will explode. He is playing the victim, when he is the one causing the problems.”

    Responding to Verstappen Snr’s comments, a Red Bull Racing spokesperson told the PA news agency on Sunday: “There are no issues here. The team are united and we are focused on racing.”

    During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour”.

    But hundreds of WhatsApp messages, appearing to be exchanged between Horner and the complainant, were then leaked to the F1 world.

    Verstappen Snr, who is not an employee of Red Bull Racing, has been accused in some quarters of attempting to oust Horner from his job.

    But the 51-year-old father of Red Bull’s three-time world champion continued: “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

    Horner strode hand-in-hand with wife Geri in the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before Saturday’s race.

    Red Bull’s majority shareholder, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, also joined the duo on the team’s terrace in a public show of support for Horner.

    Speaking after the chequered flag had fallen, Horner was asked if he is confident he will stay on as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season. He replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

    He continued: “I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife, an incredible team and everybody within that team.

    “And my focus is on going racing, winning races, and doing the best I can.

    “It was a day about starting the season in the best possible way. My focus is on this team, my family, my wife and racing.”

    Horner was also quizzed about the leaked Google file which was sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

    “I am not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source,” Horner said. “I am not going to comment on what motives whatever person may have for doing this.

    “Obviously, it has not been pleasant with some of the unwanted attention, but the focus is very much on the cars and my focus has been on what is happening on track and the result (on Saturday) demonstrates where the focus is and we move onwards.

    “There was a full, lengthy internal process that was completed by an independent KC and the grievance that was raised was dismissed. End of. Move on.”

    Horner is set to be back in the spotlight on Thursday when the cars hit the track in practice for the next round in Saudi Arabia.

  • Jos Verstappen warns Red Bull risks being ‘torn apart’ if Christian Horner stays Jos Verstappen warns Red Bull risks being ‘torn apart’ if Christian Horner stays

    Christian Horner’s leadership has been cast into fresh doubt after Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, claimed Red Bull is “in danger of being torn apart” if the under-fire team principal remains in his role.

    A defiant Horner said on Saturday night that he is “absolutely confident” he will stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the Formula One season after overseeing Verstappen lead a one-two finish from team-mate Sergio Perez at the opening round in Bahrain.

    Horner’s job has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks following allegations against him made by a female colleague. Horner has always denied the claims.

    But speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper, Verstappen Snr added further fuel to the fire when he said: “There is tension here while he (Horner) remains in position.

    “The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can’t go on the way it is. It will explode. He is playing the victim, when he is the one causing the problems.”

    During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s company, Red Bull GmbH, following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour”.

    But hundreds of WhatsApp messages, appearing to be exchanged between Horner and the complainant, were then leaked to the F1 world.

    Verstappen Snr has been accused in some quarters of attempting to oust Horner from his job.

    But the 51-year-old father of Red Bull’s three-time world champion continued: “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

    The PA news agency has approached Red Bull Racing for comment.

    Horner strode hand-in-hand with wife Geri in the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before Saturday’s race.

    Red Bull’s majority shareholder, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, also joined the duo on the team’s terrace in a public show of support for Horner.

    Speaking after the chequered flag had fallen, Horner was asked if he is confident he will stay on as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season. He replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

    He continued: “I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife, an incredible team and everybody within that team.

    “And my focus is on going racing, winning races, and doing the best I can.

    “It was a day about starting the season in the best possible way. My focus is on this team, my family, my wife and racing.”

    Horner was also quizzed about the leaked Google file which was sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

    Horner said: “I am not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source. I am not going to comment on what motives whatever person may have for doing this.

    “Obviously, it has not been pleasant with some of the unwanted attention, but the focus is very much on the cars and my focus has been on what is happening on track and the result today demonstrates where the focus is and we move onwards.

    “There was a full, lengthy internal process that was completed by an independent KC and the grievance that was raised was dismissed. End of. Move on.”

    Horner is set to be back in the spotlight in just four days when the cars hit the track in practice for the next round in Saudi Arabia.

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