Piastri shines as Verstappen continues his charge
Oscar Piastri was the star of sprint race Saturday in Belgium, securing second place in both the sprint shoot-out and race to firmly showcase his skills that have remained dormant for most of 2023.
The Melbourne driver was in scintillating form, leading for the opening parts of the sprint race after changeable conditions saw a delay and safety car start and an early pit stop to change tyres to help him leapfrog eventual sprint race winner Max Verstappen.
Piastri knew that ultimately he would be overtaken by the two-time world champion, but a second-place finish and sprint race podium was just rewards for the Aussie who has been in top form over the last three rounds.
(Photo by news.com.au)
It was also an important turn of form for Alpine and Pierre Gasly, with the Frenchman taking third amidst a week of turmoil for the French team that has seen a mass exodus of staff firings and changes.
The win for Verstappen meanwhile continues the perfect season for Red Bull, with the team still undefeated in both sprint and main races in 2023.
For the main race, Verstappen won’t start on pole, despite setting the fastest time during qualifying on Friday.
The Dutchman’s time of 1.46.168 secured him pole position, but he will start sixth due to a gearbox change. The beneficiary of this penalty will be Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who will start on pole for the second time in 2023.
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez will be thankful sprint results don’t make out the grid anymore due to his retirement in the sprint race, and he will start in second for the main race tonight.
The other drivers moving up the grid due to Verstappen’s penalty will be Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz and Piastri, after he out-qualified teammate Lando Norris, who will start in seventh. The remainder of the top 10 will be made up by George Russell, Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.
Daniel Ricciardo looked set to make it into Q2 again and outperform teammate Yuki Tsunoda; however, his last lap time (that had seen him go into sixth in Q1) was deleted for exceeding track limits, and he will start second last on the grid in 19th place.
With rainy conditions all weekend hampering dry running time, and a dry race on the agenda for Sunday, all is setup for an entertaining race in which Piastri will be hoping to add another Australian to the list of F1 podium finishes.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 1:46.168 2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.820 3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +0.877 4 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.919 5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.984 6 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.197 7 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.501 8 George RUSSELL Mercedes +1.637 9 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +1.675 10 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +2.673 11 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri 1:53.148 12 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.523 13 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +1.012 14 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.456 15 Esteban OCON Alpine +3.224 16 Alexander ALBON Williams 2:00.314 17 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo +0.518 18 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.221 19 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +1.845 20 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +2.852
SPRINT RACE RESULT
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 2 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +6.677 3 Pierre GASLY Alpine +10.733 4 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +12.648 5 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +15.016 6 Lando NORRIS McLaren +16.052 7 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +16.757 8 George RUSSELL Mercedes +16.822 9 Esteban OCON Alpine +22.410 10 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +22.806 11 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +25.007 12 Alexander ALBON Williams +26.303 13 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +27.006 14 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +32.986 15 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +36.342 16 Logan SARGEANT William s+37.571 17 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +37.827 18 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +39.267 Did not finish Sergio Perez Red Bull – lap 9 – crash damage Fernando Alonso Aston Martin – lap 4 – spin
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here