Max Verstappen was in a league of his own at the Belgian Grand Prix, after making his way from P14 on the grid to claim his ninth victory of the 2022 Formula 1 season.
The Dutchman had qualified on pole but was awarded a grid penalty after taking onboard a new power unit, exceeding his legal limit.
The reigning World Champion made light work of the entire field, extending his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to 93 points over team-mate Sergio Pérez.
Verstappen made his way into the lead by Lap 12 despite his lower-midfield starting position, after having been superior over the entire grid all weekend.
Many had wondered if Red Bull Racing would be slower at Spa-Francorchamps, after the FIA’s technical directive was introduced.
This saw many teams have to increase their ride height in order to reduce porpoising.
Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff had been a leading figure in getting the TD introduced, not only due to the Silver Arrows having been victims of the porpoising phenomena but also after believing that Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s cars were illegal.
In actual fact, the TD has seen Mercedes fall backwards and Red Bull become even faster, leaving Red Bull boss Christian Horner very grateful for his counterparts’ intervention!
“On the face of it I’d probably have to thank Toto for the TD!” Horner joked to the media.
“In all seriousness, I think this circuit has played to our strengths.
“We have a very efficient car, we’ve found a very good setup and Max has just been in phenomenal form the very first lap in first practice.
“Obviously, strategically we chose to take the penalty here. 14th became 13th technically (because of Pierre Gasly last minute penalty starting from the pitlane). So many penalties were taken. This was the starting point with everybody else.
“But of course, Max still had to navigate his way through the pack. He did that very, very efficiently over the first couple of laps. As a result Max hit the front far quicker than we could have ever expected,” he admitted.
“The soft tyre seemed to work for him very well as well in that first stint.
“Thereafter the pace that we had with both Max and Checo was enough to easily pass Carlos and bring home probably one of the most dominant performances that we’ve had as a team since either 2010 or 2013.
Pérez claimed second place at Spa, bringing home a comfortable one-two for the Austrian team.
Horner believes the race was one of the team’s most successful for around 10 years, back when the team were unbeatable.
“I think it’s right up there with that period,” the Red Bull boss mused. “I don’t think we’ve ever won a race starting from 14th on the grid.
“As I said a phenomenal performance. A lot of credit has to go into the people of the team behind the scenes. What you see here is obviously the end product and the drivers obviously having to optimise that to the best.
“It’s what goes on behind the scenes and all the unsung heroes back in Milton Keynes that have done a tremendous job with this car and obviously with the power unit,” the Briton added crediting the whole team.
Despite finishing second, Pérez was a long way off his team-mate’s pace; however, Horner put this down to Verstappen simply being untouchable at the circuit, after being over half a second quicker than everybody all weekend.
“Max was quite simply in a league of his own today, and not just today. All weekend,” he claimed.
“He has excelled here in the past and today he has basically smashed it out of the park. I mean, he did a lap on mediums that still stood as the fastest lap despite Charles Leclerc having a go at the end on a set of soft.
“So, he qualified on pole on two sets of soft tyres throughout the whole of qualifying and didn’t even do the last run. It’s been a huge performance by him this weekend,” Horner insisted.
Some questioned if Red Bull’s breathtaking pace was due to a new lightweight chassis, something they’d reportedly fitted for the Belgian GP.
Horned denied the rumour, insisting that the car ran the same chassis as it has done over recent rounds.
“Well, no, we didn’t bring it,” he said when asked about it.
“And no, we don’t have one…so no, it wasn’t a factor in the performance.
“A lot was made and a lot of expectation was placed on that TD. Arguably perhaps it’s hurt others more than its hurt ourselves. We haven’t really changed how we operate, the car.
“Obviously, grounding here is always an issue because of Eau Rouge. But that’s not unique to us. That’s the same for every team,” the 48-year-old explained.