Lewis Hamilton criticised Formula One’s stewards after he was penalised for colliding with Sergio Perez in Saturday’s rain-hit sprint race in Belgium.

Max Verstappen overcame Oscar Piastri’s impressive challenge to land another win ahead of Sunday’s main event in Spa-Francorchamps.

Piastri finished runner-up with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly a surprise third. Hamilton crossed the line in fourth, but was demoted to seventh after he was dealt a five-second penalty for making contact with Perez as they diced for position through Stavelot.

Perez sustained race-ending damage in the accident – with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner accusing Hamilton of putting a big hole in the side of his driver’s machine.

But Hamilton, drawing on a famous quote from his childhood hero Ayrton Senna, said: “As Ayrton said, if you no longer go for a gap that exists, then you are no longer a racing driver.

“That is what I did. And when I watched it back it feels like a racing incident to me.

“The conditions were tricky out there. We are doing our best and it wasn’t intentional. He was slow and I went up the inside and I was more than half-a-car length alongside.

“I feel like we should not be deterred from racing. It would have been nice to finish fourth but I don’t really care about finishing fourth, I want to win.”

The four FIA stewards here – including former British grand prix driver Derek Warwick – also punished Hamilton with two points on his licence.

Surmising the lap-six flashpoint, the quartet determined: “Hamilton was attempting to pass Perez on the inside at Turn 15.

“While Perez was giving little room on the inside for Hamilton, Hamilton drove onto the kerb and subsequently understeered into Perez. The stewards consider that Hamilton was predominantly at fault for causing a collision.”

However, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff backed his superstar driver, adding: “It was absolutely a racing incident. This is a sprint race. We want to see them racing.

“The argument about the damage isn’t valid because he (Perez) was going backwards before then. Massively backwards. And then when you look at that corner, they were side-by-side, and it takes two to tango. It’s a racing incident. For me that’s really clear.”

The start to Saturday’s dash around Spa-Francorchamps was delayed just six minutes before it was due to begin after the heavens opened. A 30-minute postponement ensued.

One formation lap behind the safety car became five in a bid to make the track safe enough to race with visibility caused by spray a major concern ahead of this weekend’s event.

Only four weeks ago, Dutch 18-year-old Dilano Van ‘t Hoff lost his life after a crash during a rain-hit Formula Regional European Championship race.

The approach from race director Niels Wittich resulted in Saturday’s round being reduced to just 11 laps.

But Wolff added: “You can absolutely understand that everyone wants to play it safe.

“We have had terrible accidents here – the last one under similar conditions in the race where drivers couldn’t see because of the spray. So the approach needed to be on the super-safe side and that was right thing to do.”

By the time the safety car peeled in, the track was good enough for the intermediate tyres. And Piastri benefited from being among 10 of the 20-strong field to change from the full wets before a proper racing lap had even taken place.

Verstappen switched to inters at the end of the first lap round allowing Piastri to lead an F1 race for the first time in his career. But on the sixth lap – following a safety-car period to deal with Fernando Alonso crashing out – Piastri’s defence lasted only a handful of corners.

Verstappen tracked Piastri through the fearsome Eau Rouge-Raidillon section and then blasted by on the Kemmel Straight to claim another win and extend his championship lead from 110 points to 118.

Asked if it was a mistake not to stop for inters at the very start of the race, Verstappen said: “No, it was just a safer call.

“I could have come in first and be blocked by other cars in the pits. We lost one position but we knew we were quick and when we put the inter tyres on we were flying.”

Max Verstappen overcame Oscar Piastri to win Formula One’s sprint race at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Pole-sitter Verstappen fell behind Piastri after the Australian moved from wet tyres to intermediate rubber a lap earlier before blasting back into the lead at the midway stage of a frantic rain-hit dash at Spa-Francorchamps.

Rookie Piastri finished runner-up with Pierre Gasly a surprise third for Alpine. Lewis Hamilton finished fourth but was hit with a five-second penalty for colliding with Sergio Perez, dropping him to seventh.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were promoted to fourth and fifth respectively for Ferrari with McLaren’s Lando Norris sixth. George Russell took the final point in eighth.

Perez was forced to retire from the race allowing Verstappen to extend his championship lead from 110 points to 118 ahead of tomorrow’s 44-lap Grand Prix.

Six minutes before the race was due to get under way, the FIA announced the start would be postponed following heavy rainfall in the area.

A 30-minute delay followed before a rainbow emerged over Spa-Francorchamps and the weather improved.

At 5:35pm local time, the Safety Car led Verstappen et al on five formation laps in an attempt to clear the spray and aid the drivers with visibility.

FIA race director Niels Wittich’s decision over when to enable the start of the race was heightened following the death of 18-year-old Dilano Van ‘t Hoff at a rain-hit Formula Regional European Championship (FRECA) race four weeks ago.

The safety car peeled in, paving the way for a rolling start and a shortened 11-lap dash to the chequered flag.

But, before a proper racing lap had even taken place, half of the 20-strong field came into the pits to change from the full wets to the intermediate tyre.

Among them was Piastri, Perez and Hamilton with Verstappen staying out on track.

Verstappen immediately knew he was on the wrong rubber, calling on his team to change him to the intermediate tyres.

In Verstappen came at the end of the opening lap, but by the time he emerged, Piastri had done enough to leapfrog him and lead a Formula One race for the first time in his career.

Gasly, Perez and Hamilton benefited from their early stops to move up the pecking order.

On lap three, the Safety Car was back out after Fernando Alonso crashed. The double world champion, who turned 42 on Saturday, lost control of his Aston Martin through the left-hander Turn 11, pirouetting through the gravel and nudging the barrier.

Piastri headed the field when the race restarted on lap six, but his defence lasted only a handful of corners.

Verstappen tracked Piastri through the fearsome Eau Rouge-Raidillon section and then blasted by on the Kemmel Straight.

Asked if it was a mistake not to stop for inters at the very start of the race, Verstappen said: “No, it was just a safer call.

“I could have come in first and be blocked by other cars in the pits. We lost one position but we knew we were quick and when we put the inter tyres on we were flying.”

Piastri, 22, said: “I feel very happy. We tried our best and led a few laps but we were no match for Max.

“I thought the safety car would play in my favour with less laps to try and hold him behind. I got a good restart but by the top of Eau Rouge he was on top of me already. I could not keep him behind on the straight.”

Further back in the battle for fourth, Hamilton attempted to muscle his way past Perez but the Mercedes man made contact with his Red Bull rival. Perez briefly remained ahead before Hamilton drove round the outside of the Mexican at La Source.

Perez sustained damage in the accident and fell down the field, sliding through the gravel and then being ordered by his Red Bull team to retire the car.

The stewards investigated the flashpoint and slapped Hamilton with a penalty, demoting him down the order.

Verstappen remained in control of the race, taking the chequered flag 6.6 sec clear of Piastri to rack up yet another win in a one-sided campaign.

Max Verstappen will start on pole position for Saturday’s sprint race after beating McLaren’s Oscar Piastri to top spot by just 0.011 seconds.

Verstappen qualified fastest here on Friday for Sunday’s Grand Prix, but he will line up in sixth after serving a grid penalty for a gearbox change.

But for the 15-lap dash in the Ardennes, the Red Bull driver begins from the front after edging out the impressive Piastri in wet-dry conditions at Spa-Francorchamps.

Carlos Sainz finished third, just 0.025sec adrift of Verstappen, with Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc fourth.

Lando Norris took fifth for McLaren, while Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who appeared to trip over one another in the closing moments, only seventh and 10th respectively for Mercedes.

“It was difficult, but we stayed calm,” said Verstappen. “The gap to second was not as big as yesterday, but there was no need to risk it all.

“My second sector was a bit careful – turns eight and nine were very slippery so I left a bit of time on the table – but I am still on pole and that is what counts.

“Let’s see if it rains in the afternoon. I will try to have a clean start and have good vision and that is very important when it is wet.”

The start of qualifying was delayed following heavy rainfall in the area, but the sun suddenly broke through allowing the action to get under way 35 minutes later than advertised.

The final running took place on an almost dry track and the times tumbled as grip improved and the clock ticked down.

Rookie Piastri, 22, looked to have done enough to take the spoils when he crossed the line fastest, only for Verstappen to steal his thunder

“There wasn’t much left in that lap,” said Piastri over the radio. “Probably 11 milliseconds.”

Verstappen is on course to gallop to his third world championship in as many years and the Dutch driver will be expected to extend his 110-point lead over team-mate Sergio Perez later on Saturday, with the Mexican only eighth on the grid.

Eight points are awarded for the winner of the 15-lap dash, with a sliding scale down to to eighth place.

The result of Saturday’s sprint, which could take place in the wet with more rain forecast, has no bearing on Sunday’s 44-lap main event.

Lance Stroll’s gamble to switch from wet rubber to slicks with a couple minutes of Q2 remaining backfired as he crashed out.

The Canadian driver lost control of his Aston Martin through the left-hand ninth corner, skidding through the gravel and into the tyre barrier.

The front of Stroll’s machine was heavily damaged in the accident and the running was suspended.

His crash meant team-mate Fernando Alonso, who turned 42 on Saturday, did not post a time, leaving him a disappointing 15th on the grid.

Saturday’s race is due to get under way at 5:05pm local time (4:05pm BST).

Max Verstappen vowed to kiss and make up with his race engineer following their X-rated row in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying.

Verstappen finished fastest in a wet-dry session at Spa-Francorchamps, but he will start Sunday’s 44-lap race from sixth following a gearbox penalty.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is promoted to pole position, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez second. Lewis Hamilton, on pole a week ago in Hungary, will line up in third.

Verstappen made it into Q3 – the final phase of qualifying – by the skin of his teeth and vented his anger at long-serving race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, known as GP, following the close-call.

“I should have just f****** pushed two laps in a row like I said,” said Verstappen, who sneaked through in 10th place.

“But you are through, Max,” replied Lambiase.

“I don’t give a f*** that we are P10, mate. It is just s*** execution,” came Verstappen’s fiery response.

Lambiase snapped back: “OK, and then when the track was two seconds quicker for your final lap and you didn’t have any energy left, how would that have gone down?”

A surly Lambiase added: “But you tell me what you want to do in Q3 and we’ll do it. Tyre sets, fuel, run plan.”

After returning to finish eighth tenths clear of Leclerc, Verstappen issued an apology.

“Sorry to GP for being such on the rant,” he said over the radio.

Lambiase replied: “Slowly getting used to it, Max.”

Speaking afterwards, Verstappen added: “It happens sometimes. Most of it is blocked off.

“We are mates. We can get quite emotional, quite vocal. We sort it out afterwards.”

Verstappen’s grid drop for exceeding the allocated number of four gearboxes will provide his rivals with forlorn hope they can end his seven-race winning streak.

However, the Dutchman, a winner of nine of the 11 rounds so far this season, started this race from 14th last year owing to engine penalties and still took the victory in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion faced a post-qualifying investigation from the stewards after he ran off the circuit at Eau Rouge before re-joining in front of team-mate George Russell in Q2.

Russell was forced to slow down to avoid making contact with the sister Mercedes. Race control noted the incident and confirmed they would investigate.

Hamilton finished nine tenths slower than Verstappen, with Russell even further back in eighth, 0.8sec adrift of his team-mate.

“It was definitely very hectic because it was consistently drying up,” said Hamilton after the running started on a wet track.

“It was difficult to see with the spray. I was head down, just maximining as much as I could.

“At the end, I was still a good chunk off Max. But I am really happy with the result I’ve got.”

Carlos Sainz qualified fifth for Ferrari, one spot ahead of Oscar Piastri, with Lando Norris seventh in the other McLaren.

Daniel Ricciardo finished a commendable 13th on his F1 comeback but the Australian will line up from the penultimate spot on the grid.

Ricciardo temporarily hauled his AlphaTauri through to Q2 only to see his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits.

“F***, I am sorry,” said Ricciardo when informed of the chalked-off lap. “I just lost it through Turn 3. I am sorry.”

Spa-Francorchamps is hosting the sport’s third sprint event of the year with a shortened race on Saturday to come before Sunday’s main event – the concluding round ahead of the sport’s summer shutdown.

Max Verstappen took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix despite an X-rated radio row with his race engineer.

Verstappen was embroiled in a squabble with Gianpiero Lambiase after he only just made it through to Q3 during a wet-dry session at Spa-Francorchamps.

But the championship leader regained his composure at the business end of qualifying to demolish the opposition, finishing eight tenths clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with Sergio Perez third in the other Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton qualified fourth.

However, Verstappen will only start Sunday’s race from sixth position as he serves a five-place grid drop for exceeding his gearbox allocation.

Verstappen made it into the final phase by the skin of his teeth in 10th place and then vented his anger at his long-serving engineer.

Verstappen accused his team of “s*** execution”, claiming he should have pushed harder on an earlier lap after the field switched from wet to dry rubber.

“I don’t give a f*** that we are P10, mate”, he yelled over the radio.

Lambiase snapped back: “OK, and then when the track was two seconds quicker for your final lap and you didn’t have any energy left, how would that have gone down?”

A surly Lambiase added: “But you tell me what you want to do in Q3 and we’ll do it. Tyre sets, fuel, run plan.”

But after taking pole, Verstappen, 110 points clear at the standings and on a run of seven-consecutive wins in his all-conquering Red Bull machine, said over the radio: “Sorry to GP for being such on the rant.”

Lambiase replied: “Slowly getting used to it, Max.”

Hamilton secured pole a week ago in Hungary, but he is facing an investigation from the stewards after he ran off the circuit at Eau Rouge before re-joining in front of team-mate George Russell in Q2.

Russell was forced to slow down to avoid making contact with the sister Mercedes. Race control noted the incident before confirming they would investigate.

It was an underwhelming afternoon for the Silver Arrows with Hamilton nine tenths slower than Verstappen, and Russell ever further back in eighth, 0.8sec adrift of his team-mate. Lando Norris finished seventh, a spot behind Oscar Piastri in the other McLaren.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified a commendable 13th on his return a week ago, but the Australia will line up from the penultimate spot on the grid on Sunday.

Ricciardo temporarily hauled his AlphaTauri through to Q2 only to see his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits.

“F***, I am sorry,” said Ricciardo when informed of the bad news. “I just lost it through Turn 3. I am sorry.”

Formula One has announced the venues for the six Sprint weekends during the 2023 season, doubling the amount from the 2022 season.

The Sprint moves the standard qualifying session to Friday, with a 100-kilometre dash on a Saturday deciding the grid for the main race on a Sunday.

For the 2022 season, four new venues will host Sprint events in Azerbaijan, Belgium, Qatar and the United States (Circuit of the Americas).

Interlagos in Brazil will stand as the only venue to have hosted Sprint events in each season from 2021, while Austria's Red Bull Ring featured the revised format last season.

Speaking on the increase of Sprint events, Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali said: "We have seen a hugely positive reaction to the F1 Sprint events during the first two years of its running, and we can't wait to bring even more action to fans with six events next year, including our first US F1 Sprint in Austin.

"The introduction of the F1 Sprint has created a race weekend that includes three days of competitive racing action and brings more entertainment to fans of the sport as well as additional value for key stakeholders including teams, broadcasters, partners, and host venues."

Previously, Silverstone, Monza and Imola have hosted Sprint events but, for 2023, those races will have the regular qualifying format, along with the rest of the calendar.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes the Silver Arrows' struggles at Spa will spur them on at the Dutch Grand Prix next time out. 

Wolff's team endured a torrid time at last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton crashing out of the race after being sent airborne by a collision with Fernando Alonso approaching the Les Combes chicane.

Team-mate George Russell, meanwhile, was beaten to third spot by Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who followed Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez home.

Spa represents the first time both Mercedes drivers have missed out on the podium since May's Monaco Grand Prix, but Wolff says the disappointment will drive them on in Zandvoort.

"Belgium was a challenging weekend for us as a team, but those weekends are the ones that really fire you up and make you dig deeper," he said.

"There were such big extremes across the weekend; from the pace differences on Saturday and Sunday, to the difficult first lap for Lewis and George's late charge for a podium.

"We've been working hard to understand our Spa struggles and thankfully we don't have long to wait until we can utilise and maximise those learnings. 

"What will make the difference for the rest of this season is how quickly and effectively we can continue learning, to deliver our best performance this year and next.

"The Dutch Grand Prix is next, and it was a real party atmosphere last year. It's an interesting, old-school track with sweeping bends, banked corners and a lot of character.

"So, we're excited to be back there and to take on the circuit's challenges with this year's car."

Mercedes are 159 points adrift of Red Bull at the top of the constructors' standings with eight races of the 2022 campaign remaining, while Russell and Hamilton sit fifth and sixth, respectively, in the drivers' championship.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says they are in a "dungeon" following a dismal Belgian Grand Prix that saw Lewis Hamilton crash out on the first lap.

The Silver Arrows, last year's constructors' champions, have suffered a disappointing 2022 campaign compared to rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.

Seven-time world drivers' champion Hamilton, pipped in controversial circumstances by Max Verstappen last season, has been off the pace in 2022, while the Dutchman's win at Spa edged him closer to another title.

Wolff admitted it has been a frustrating season for the Briton and team-mate George Russell, acknowledging it has been hard to be on the outside looking in at glory this year.

"They say you never lose [but] you learn," he was quoted by the Guardian. "I can tell you it is ******* difficult.

"All these nice Instagram posts and everything we have talked about over the eight years, about how we are going to take this when you arrive in the dungeon.

"To stick to your principles and your values, to keep the spirit up and continue to relentlessly seek to get better? Phew. There is more to write a book about this year than there is about the last eight years."

Hamilton saw his race come to a premature end after a collision with Fernando Alonso, but the major issues plaguing Mercedes have been race-to-race inconsistency rather than one-off errors.

"It's very difficult to cope with these swings," Wolff added. "We had a totally sub-par performance in qualifying, [and] then in the race, sometimes we go three seconds a lap faster.

"There are big question marks about what is going on. It's not where we should be with the structure and knowledge to understand a racing car but we don't with this one.

"Whatever we decide for next year, it needs to be carefully evaluated because clearly our data does not give us the results, doesn't correlate it with the reality. We have massive swings in performance we can't really get on top of.

"In this moment to take a decision for next year, changing a concept dramatically, how can you be sure that is the better direction to go because clearly you would be starting a way back?"

Charles Leclerc is struggling to see how he and Ferrari can get back into title contention after a tough weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix.

A dominant race for Red Bull on Sunday saw the Austrian team take first and second place, with drivers' championship leader Max Verstappen topping the podium from Sergio Perez.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was third, while Leclerc's dwindling title hopes took another knock when he crossed the line fifth before a penalty for speeding in the pit lane nudged him down a spot.

Leclerc now sits third in the standings with 186 points, a daunting 98 points behind Verstappen. Perez sits five points ahead of Leclerc now, too, and although there are eight races remaining, defending champion Verstappen practically has another title in the bag.

In the constructors' standings, Red Bull have 475 points, well ahead of Ferrari whose haul of 357 puts them second.

Leclerc took responsibility for his excessive pit-lane pace, saying it was "my fault... it's a mistake and that's it".

Reflecting on the bigger picture and looking at what improvements Ferrari might make, with time running out, Leclerc said: "It starts to look very difficult.

"Especially with the pace they've shown this weekend, it's going to be very, very difficult. But I'll keep my head down, try to focus race by race and try to do my best."

Speaking on Sky Sports, Leclerc was asked whether he was still in championship contention.

Again, he answered: "It starts to look very difficult."

Team-mate Sainz agreed Ferrari were left in a sticky position after an arduous weekend.

"Unfortunately it was harder than expected," said the Spaniard. "We had a lot of over-heating on the tyres, we were sliding around a lot, and for some reason our package wasn't quite there this weekend, but in the end we finished on a podium and we will take it.

"The first two laps were strong, but then we went into high degradation and I realised we were degrading more than what we should. Unfortunately we couldn't put up a stronger fight and we had to survive. We will have to learn why at this track we were not so competitive."

Sainz believes there could be stronger results ahead for Ferrari at the Dutch Grand Prix, which comes next, but he does not expect Red Bull to drop off and predicted they will be strong in Italy in two weeks' time.

"Zandvoort should be a better track for us," Sainz said. "Monza should be advantage for Red Bull there, but we will try and win it in Zandvoort."

Max Verstappen hailed an "amazing" weekend after winning the Belgian Grand Prix in dominant fashion to extend his drivers' championship lead.

The Red Bull driver started from 14th on the grid after a penalty for a power unit change, but a superb drive stormed him to a second successive win at Spa-Francorchamps.

In a chaotic race that saw a safety car on just the second lap, Verstappen weaved through the field to make it a Red Bull one-two as Sergio Perez also took advantage of the quick Red Bull car.

The impressive victory means Verstappen now holds a 93-point lead over second-placed team-mate Perez in the drivers' championship standings.

And the Dutchman was delighted after the race, telling Sky Sports: "It was amazing this weekend. We were super competitive from the get-go. I knew that we could have a really good result.

"Winning from P14, even with that car, is always a bit difficult because you don't know in general what is going to happen but luckily I stayed out of trouble, even though there was a lot of stuff going on.

"I was literally just trying to avoid everything and once everything calmed down with the safety car, I was just overtaking cars every lap.

"Once I realised we were in P3, even on the soft compounds, we were very quick and I knew I had a good chance of winning the race."

When asked if this was the best he had felt so far in his Formula One career, Verstappen replied: "It's difficult to say. I'm just enjoying the moment.

"Everyone within the team knows we are having a good time but we are also very focused on what we want to achieve. At the moment we are achieving that, but we always want more."

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.

The Belgian Grand Prix will be part of the Formula One calendar in 2023.

Speculation has persisted over the future of the event, held at the historic and much-loved Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Stavelot, as F1 continues its expansion into non-traditional markets.

There will be a third race in the United States, held in Las Vegas, on the schedule next year, while F1 bosses had been in talks about a return to South Africa.

However, those discussions have reportedly collapsed, paving the way for Spa to keep its spot.

"Formula 1 can confirm that the Belgian Grand Prix will be on the 2023 calendar following an agreement to extend our partnership together. Further details on the 2023 calendar will be announced in due course," an F1 statement read.

Speaking to Sky Sports, F1 president Stefano Domenicali said: "We have to congratulate the job [the race organisers] did. You've seen the investment they did. You see the number of people that are coming here. Incredible crowd, incredible attention to the people, and this is great for the sport.

"We always said that the race is a part of our tradition, and it has a very important space in our calendar, and this is a fact that we wanted to share in this moment."

Spa's long-term future as a fixture of the F1 season remains in question.

There have been suggestions it could become a biennial grand prix, though such a change would raise doubts over the circuit's ability to raise the finances to maintain the standards F1 requires while only racing once every two years.

The Belgian Grand Prix was first held in 1925. Since the inaugural F1 world drivers' championship in 1950, it has only been absent from the calendar on six occasions.

Repair work at Spa meant the race was not held in 2006; the last time the Belgian Grand Prix was not included on the calendar.

Sunday's race will be the 55th edition of the race to be held at Spa, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz starting first on the grid following a raft of penalties, including for title rivals Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

Carlos Sainz profited from Max Verstappen's grid penalty to secure pole for the Belgian Grand Prix but admitted to being concerned by the gap between Ferrari and Red Bull.

Verstappen topped the timesheet in Saturday's delayed qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of the first race following the mid-season break.

But the reigning champion – who holds an 80-point lead over Charles Leclerc at the top of the standings – will start in 15th after being penalised for using too many engine parts.

The Dutchman is one of seven drivers taking grid penalties, along with Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas.

That effectively meant the rest of field were facing off for the top 13 positions on the grid, and it was Ferrari driver Sainz who will will start Sunday's race at the head of the pack.

Whereas Verstappen looked comfortable throughout and delivered a time of 1:43.665 seconds with his first Q3 flying lap, Sainz's Q3 lap was rather scrappy.

Despite claiming pole, the Spaniard – who is fifth in the standings – was not entirely pleased with how things played out.

"I'm happy to be starting on pole, but I'm obviously not so happy to see the gap to Max this weekend and the gap Red Bull have on us," he told Sky Sports.

"We need to keep digging to see why Red Bull are so fast around this track. But to start from pole is good and we will try to win tomorrow.

"I think our race pace is better than our qualifying pace, but there is still something to find."

The past seven winners of the Belgian Grand Prix have started from the front row of the grid, six of them from pole.

But after finishing 0.632s clear of the field in qualifying, Verstappen – last year's winner on this track – is hopeful of climbing from towards the back of the pack into the top three.

"It was an amazing qualifying but the whole weekend we have been really on it," he said. "With a car like this it would be a shame to not be on the podium.

"The car has been working really well and we have basically been trying to fine tune it and it all came together in Qualifying.

"Of course, I had to be careful with the amount of tyres I was using, but I was very happy with my lap. It is an amazing track with amazing fans and I hope they had a good day."

Verstappen is set to start one place ahead of title rival Leclerc, while team-mate Sergio Perez is second after finishing 0.165s behind Sainz.

Fernando Alonso, who is on his best run since 2018 after collecting points in each of his past eight races, is third ahead of Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Red Bull are seeking a fifth win in Belgium – only in Mexico (six) would they have more – with Perez looking to overhaul Sainz.

"P2 is not the worst place to be around here and I think if I am able to get a good run at Carlos, it will be different and I will be on the other side of the row," Perez said.

"I am looking forward to tomorrow and I think there will be a great race ahead of us. It'll be very important to get a good start and do our own race and I think that will be the key."

Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali hinted the Belgian Grand Prix could remain part of the sport's calendar beyond this year amid speculation the Spa race is set to be cut.

Belgium will host the first race since late July on Sunday, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull looking to consolidate strong leads at the top of the standings.

Several changes to the F1 calendar are planned ahead of the 2023 season, with the maiden Las Vegas Grand Prix set to take place alongside returns for races in China and Qatar.

The Belgian Grand Prix, which has been a fixture in the calendar for several decades, had been slated as one of the races that could make way, but Domenicali insists such a decision is yet to be taken.

"You never saw something [from] me saying that Belgium will be the last year," he said.

"I would be prudent on that comment, I would say, I would be very prudent. That's the only thing I would say. It's true that we are working and discussing with other promoters to see if they're ready for a full commitment already.

"There has been always a point that we have discussed to find the mix of the races where we're going to have at least one third in Europe, one third in the Far East area, and the other one in the Americas and Middle East. So we want to be balanced.

"Of course, we're talking about a business where investment, the financial contribution, is very important, but we have always said that the traditional races, the races that we know cannot bring the money that the others are bringing, have full respect from us.

"There is a lot of respect for these places. But if you recall, Belgium, there were some periods where it was not in the calendar, and they came back again. The memory sometimes is short. It's a great place, no doubt about it. And that's why we are discussing."

Meanwhile, Domenicali revealed talks are ongoing concerning the future of the French Grand Prix, and said a race in Germany could be set to return to the calendar. 

"We are talking with the French federation, and with the government, because more and more the future also is related to promoters that see that as investment for the country, for the community," he added.

"So the discussions are very, very open for a great future. 

"We really hope that Germany can be back around the table. But one thing is to say is we'd like to have the [German] Grand Prix. The other thing is to put on the table the things that are needed to discuss about the Grand Prix.

"So hopefully soon – with something that could happen soon – they will have a different situation to discuss with us."

Ross Brawn has defended the FIA's handling of the Belgian Grand Prix and insisted drivers deserved to be awarded points from the shortest race in Formula One history.

Torrential rain prevented any competitive racing at the Spa-Francorchamps track on Sunday, with Max Verstappen awarded the victory when the red flag was raised after just two laps were completed behind the safety car.

Lewis Hamilton, who was third behind George Russell, branded the event a "farce" and claimed the drivers were only sent out for financial reasons.

Regulations ensured only half the usual points were awarded, but Fernando Alonso stated it was "shocking" that any were given out on a "terrible day”.

F1 managing director of motorsport Brawn knows the outcome was "not ideal" but did not see any alternative.

"I feel terrible for the fans, who turned out in their thousands and braved consistently wet conditions in the grandstands to support their heroes," said Brawn in his column. "They showed such dedication and will never forget this weekend.

"Unfortunately, the weather worked against us. It was relentless. The FIA tried everything they could, sending the cars out twice behind the safety car to assess the conditions. It wasn't so much the intensity of the rain that was the problem, more that it was consistent which led to very poor visibility.

"It's pretty rare to see a weekend where the weather has been so intense, so consistently. Every effort was made to get the race under way safely and normally, there is a window when you can bring the safety car in, but that wasn't possible.

"At the end of the day, safety comes first. And it wasn't safe enough to continue the race. So the FIA did the best they could in what have been very challenging circumstances, of which we've not seen in decades.

"Half points were awarded. It's not ideal but if you can't reward someone for the race, reward them for the bravery in qualifying.

"A lap like George Russell did in qualifying in the absence of a full race should be rewarded. As I say, it's not ideal, but it's where we are. The weather just wasn't in our corner on Sunday."

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