With the ‘most complete drive of F1 career,’ Max Verstappen wins Spa after starting 14th

Max Verstappen Spa
Alessio Morgese/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen quickly carved his way through the field from 14th to win the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday and widen his lead in the title race.

Verstappen, who in the final race before F1′s summer break drove from 10th to win the Hungarian Grand Prix, produced another imperious drive and moved closer to a second straight world title.

“It’s been a weekend I couldn’t have imagined before,” Verstappen said. “But I think we want more of them and we’ll keep working hard.”

His lead in the standings is now 93 points — but it is over Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez because Charles Leclerc dropped to third in another poor Ferrari showing.

“It was quite a hectic first lap to try and stay out of trouble. So many things were happening in front of me, picked the right places to pass people, looked after our tires,” Verstappen said. “Once we were in the lead, it was all about managing everything but this whole weekend has been incredible.”

Verstappen was leading the race by Lap 12, and he earned a bonus point for fastest lap. His third straight win was his ninth this season and 29th overall.

“Amazing Sunday guys, haha!” Verstappen said on his radio after crossing the line.

“Max you have been brilliant, class of your own all weekend,” team principal Christian Horner replied.

The 24-year-old Verstappen — the youngest driver to win a race when he was 18 — said it was probably the most complete drive of his career.

“If you look at the whole weekend, yes,” he said. “This track just seemed to be perfect for the car.”

Perez finished second to jump ahead of Leclerc in the season standings.

“It’s a great team result,” Perez said.

Carlos Sainz Jr. started from pole for Ferrari and finished a disappointing third. Leclerc started 15th and finished fifth behind the Mercedes of George Russell, but Leclerc dropped to sixth after he was handed a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

That pushed Alpine driver Fernando Alonso into fifth, and Leclerc, who is now 98 points behind Verstappen in the standings, was shocked by the penalty and appeared defeated in the championship race.

“I didn’t even know, no one told me,” a surprised Leclerc said of the penalty. “Why did I get the penalty?”

“I’m not focusing so much on the championship now. Red Bull were on another planet today,” Leclerc added. “We need to know why we’re so far away.”

Lewis Hamilton’s bid for a sixth straight podium ended on the first lap when he clipped Alonso and briefly went airborne.

Sainz started from pole because Verstappen and Leclerc were among several drivers to be hit with grid penalties. Sainz got away at the start and Russell and Hamilton zoomed past Perez and behind Alonso.

Hamilton then overtook Alonso on the outside but clipped the side of his Alpine, sending Hamilton’s Mercedes up in the air. Race stewards reviewed and took no action, though Alonso clearly felt Hamilton had not left him enough room as he tried to regain the position.

“What an idiot closing the door from the outside,” Alonso ranted. “We had a mega start but this guy only knows how to drive and start in first.”

Hamilton later cut off an interviewer who attempted to relay Alonso’s comments to him.

“It doesn’t matter what he said,” said Hamilton, who added he didn’t see Alonso “in my blind spot.”

But in a separate interview, Hamilton accepted he hadn’t left enough room for Alonso.

“It was my fault,” Hamilton said. “I paid the price. I was ahead though.”

For Hamilton it was the fifth time he’s retired on Lap 1, with three retirements coming at the 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) Spa-Francorchamps circuit — the longest in F1 and one of the best for overtaking, as Verstappen showed.

Seconds after Hamilton pulled over, Nicholas Latifi slid across the track and nudged the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas into the gravel, bringing out the safety car.

Hamilton stood next to his car as smoke billowed out, then walked slowly back to the team garage. He was later issued a warning for refusing to visit the medical center.

Bottas, his former Mercedes teammate, was also out while Leclerc came in early as his team changed his tires and removed some debris from another car stuck inside Leclerc’s front right wing.

Later, Ferrari made yet another bizarre call in this strange season of botched strategy decisions when the team called in Leclerc for new tires with one lap remaining in a futile bid to score the fastest lap. Leclerc was overtaken by Alonso as he came out of the pits, and then had to overtake the Spaniard back, consequently failing to register the fastest lap.

Esteban Ocon of Alpine was seventh and followed by Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin, Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri and Alex Albon of Williams.

Next up for Verstappen? His home race in the Netherlands, where he won in style in Zandvoort last year.

“I am going to enjoy today and then next week we’ll see what we can do,” said Verstappen, who is on pace to beat Vettel’s season record of 13 victories set in 2013.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage