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.
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