Not even the handicap of starting sixth and behind the other Red Bull could stop Max Verstappen romping to victory in the Belgian Grand Prix.
This was the defending champion’s eighth successive victory – and 10th in 12 races – as his unstoppable journey to a third world title continued to flow like hot lava.
He extended his championship lead going into the summer break to a Grand Canyon-like 125 points.
The decisive move came on lap 17 of 44 when he deployed DRS and powered past eventual runner-up Sergio Perez, serving as a benchmark of Verstappen’s greatness, who was helpless to resist the advance on the Kemmel Straight.
To rub in his degree of superiority Verstappen then set a lap two seconds faster than the Mexican.
Max Verstappen (above, left) romped to victory in the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon
The Dutchman won his eighth consecutive race with a dominant drive at Spa-Francorchamps
It was another one-two for Red Bull, who’ve amazingly won 22 of the last 23 Formula One races
By this point, Verstappen had passed Lewis Hamilton at Les Combes, on the inside. He made a move on Charles Leclerc at the same point moments later – this time on the outside, very impressively braking late as he ran out of straight road.
Wisely, the bookmakers had the Dutchman as 2-9 favourite beforehand despite his starting in sixth – the result of a gearbox change that robbed him of the front-running advantage his pole position would normally have conferred.
A few spots of rain briefly fell and Verstappen almost lost it at Eau Rouge. ‘F***,’ he exclaimed. As you might on one of the most difficult corners in the world at 180mph.
That wobble apart, nothing was going to stop him. Verstappen is now one short of Sebastian Vettel’s nine wins in a season, set a decade ago at a period when Red Bull were almost as dominant as they are now.
Indeed, the Milton Keynes-based team have won 22 of the last 23 races. Incredible. As well as incredibly tedious for the audience.
Light relief came in comedic exchanges between Verstappen and his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, known as GP. It mirrored their sharp words in qualifying on Friday, when Verstappen nearly exited in Q2. He apologised for his rant afterwards.
This time, another lovers’ tiff. Whether it was premeditated or not, who knows. The first spat of the race came prior to the first round of stops, when Perez was still leading.
Verstappen wanted to double stack rather than allow his team-mate the undercut. Pressing GP, his race engineer said: ‘So don’t forget, Max, use your head please.’
Sergio Perez (second left) and Charles Leclerc (right) made up the rest of the podium at Spa
All smiles: Verstappen is congratulated by team principal Christian Horner (right) afterwards
Verstappen’s victory came despite a frosty exchange with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and took the fastest lap point on the final lap
Verstappen inquired: ‘Are we both doing it or what?’ GP: ‘You just follow my instruction.’
Verstappen: ‘No, I want to know if both cars do it.’ GP: ‘Max, please follow my instruction and trust it, thank you.’
Later, after a second change of tyre, GP said: ‘You used a lot of tyre on the out lap, Max, I’m not sure that was sensible.’
The champion’s response? Setting the fastest lap. Take that, GP, you punk! Later, GP implored: ‘I’d ask you to use your head.’
Max rejoined: ‘I could push on and do another stop. A little bit of pit stop training.’
‘Not this time,’ said GP, as straight as a Boycott forward defensive.
Verstappen’s margin of victory was an absurd 22.3sec from Perez. Leclerc was third for Ferrari, with Hamilton fourth, though with the comfort of the fastest lap obtained right at the death.
George Russell was sixth and Lando Norris seventh, faring better than his McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri, who was tagged by Carlos Sainz on the opening corner. The colliding pair were the afternoon’s only two retirees.