Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen roared to a crushing eighth win in a row, one short of the all-time record, in a Red Bull one-two with Sergio Perez at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Red Bull’s 13th consecutive victory made the team the first in the sport’s 73-year history to win the opening 12 races of a season, one more than McLaren managed in 1988 with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
Verstappen, who started sixth after a five-place grid penalty, extended his championship lead over Perez to 125 points — effectively five races — after taking the chequered flag 22.3 seconds ahead of the Mexican.
“I knew we had a great car, it was just about surviving turn one,” said the double world champion, who has now won in Belgium for the last three years in a row including from 14th on the grid last year.
“From there onwards we made the right overtakes and moves.”
He is heading for a third title with plenty of races to spare, the only real doubt being where he might seal it.
Charles Leclerc, who started on pole for Ferrari, completed the podium with Lewis Hamilton fourth and securing fastest lap for Mercedes.
The one-two was Red Bull’s fifth of the season and so comfortable for Verstappen that his feisty radio chats with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase provided much more of a talking point.
They also showed his supreme confidence.
“I could also push on and we do another stop? A little bit of pit stop training,” Verstappen suggested with 14 laps remaining. ”No, not this time,” came the reply.
Lambiase had earlier told Verstappen sharply to “use your head a bit more” and questioned whether it had been sensible for the driver to push so hard on the tyres on his out lap after a stop.
“Max, please follow my instruction and trust it,” Lambiase told his driver as early as lap 12 after his word had been questioned.
Perez made an aggressive start from second on the grid, tucking in behind Leclerc through the tight, opening La Source corner and then blasting past on the Kemmel straight to seize the lead.
Verstappen was already up to fourth and chasing Hamilton. He passed the seven-times world champion on lap six at Les Combes and pulled off a similar move on Leclerc three laps later at the same place to start the chase of Perez and a private Red Bull battle.
By lap 16, after both had pitted with Verstappen’s stop half a second faster, the Dutch driver was right on Perez’s tail and perfectly placed to blow past the Mexican on the Kemmel straight and pull away.
Perez never got another chance after that.
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri was the race’s first casualty, the Australian rookie stopping by the side of the track after Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz squeezed him against the wall at La Source on the opening lap.
“I don’t know what he was doing. I was there and he just turned in like I didn’t exist,” said the Australian rookie who finished second in Saturday’s sprint.
Sainz’s sidepod was holed in the contact and the Spaniard dropped down the field before pitting to retire at the end of lap 23, with the car wheeled into the garage.