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5 things we learned from 2023 Belgian Grand Prix

The sprint was more exciting than the actual race

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is the longest circuit on this year's calendar. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

The 2023 Belgian Grand Prix was the last round before Formula 1 went into its summer break. And for that weekend, the sprint format returned with two separate sessions to determine the starting grid. So, here are the five things we learned from the event.

Oscar Piastri has been impressive in the past few races. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

1. Oscar Piastri narrowly missed out on pole position for the sprint. A wet-to-dry session is always tricky, but that didn’t stop the McLaren rookie from delivering another outstanding result. It may have only been the sprint shoot-out, yet being 0.011 second behind Max Verstappen (Red Bull) was nothing to scoff at.

Lewis Hamilton was penalized for his contact with Sergio Perez. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

2. The sprint race was action-packed. A rolling start on wet tires resulted in a good chunk of the drivers entering the pits at the end of the formation lap, to immediately switch to intermediates. Verstappen was late to the party, going in on Lap 2. So, Piastri took the lead before losing it on Lap 6 to the Dutchman.

In spite of the sprint only having 11 laps, there were two retirees. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) slipped onto the gravel on Lap 3, bringing out the safety car. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG) and Sergio Perez (Red Bull) made contact on Lap 6, with the latter being unable to finish.

In the end, the podium consisted of Verstappen, Piastri, and Pierre Gasly of Alpine (from first to third)—a rather unusual lineup.

Charles Leclerc lost the lead to Sergio Perez on the first lap. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

3. Charles Leclerc inherited pole position (and still lost it to Red Bull). While Verstappen set the fastest time in qualifying, he was denied pole position due to a grid penalty for exceeding the allotted gearbox allowance. This dropped him down to P6, and promoted Leclerc (Ferrari) to P1.

In spite of that, the reigning world champion easily took the lead from Perez on Lap 17 of 44. And he effortlessly won the race while sounding like a brat on the radio with his race engineer.

Do you think Piastri was too eager going into the first corner? PHOTO FROM MCLAREN

4. Massive heartbreak for Piastri. After his P2 finish in the sprint, Oscar’s race was over by the first corner on the first lap after he got squeezed to the inside by Carlos Sainz (Ferrari). The damage on his car was so bad that Piastri immediately dropped to the back of the pack and retired from the race. The Ferrari driver lasted longer, but with damaged bodywork, he was swallowed by the rest of the pack with the team retiring Sainz on Lap 23.

The midfield was where the action was at. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

5. The midfield was tight. If you still want to see anything exciting in Formula 1, the best place to look isn’t at the top, but in the middle of the pack. The retirements of Piastri and Sainz meant that more points were up for grabs.

Standout drivers included Esteban Ocon (Alpine), who went from P14 to P8 and also had an impressive overtake on Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) on Lap 38. The Japanese driver himself drove well, scoring another point for his team in P10 with one of the worst cars on the grid.

Because of the monthlong summer break, the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix will be held on August 27.

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.