Max Verstappen says his ‘worst nightmare’ came true at 2022 Belgian GP

Max Verstappen now has a 93-point lead in the Drivers' Championship.

Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen made lightwork of the entire field at the Belgian Grand Prix, after successfully winning the race despite starting from P14.

The Dutchman qualified on pole; however, was dropped to P14 following a grid penalty for new engine components, exceeding his legal limit.

This didn’t bother the 24-year-old, who throughout the weekend had been over half a second faster than everybody else, regardless of the tyre compound.

Incredibly, the Red Bull Racing driver was already into the top 10 by the end of the first lap, before making his way into the lead on Lap 12.

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After making his first stop on Lap 16, the Dutchman dropped behind Carlos Sainz but was back ahead of the Spaniard and into the lead once again two laps later.

Verstappen went on to cruise into the distance and claim his ninth victory of the 2022 season.

His race could’ve ended on the very first lap, as the Dutchman had to make his way through an onslaught of chaos started by Sir Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso colliding at Les Combes.

Gravel and dirt were kicked-up all around the circuit, resulting in Verstappen pulling off a tear-off on the first lap.

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Whilst this is usually meaningless in regard to the race, it turns out this ruined Charles Leclerc’s GP.

Leclerc started the race from P15, after he too was awarded a grid penalty for new engine components, again exceeding his legal limit (he surpassed this back at the Canadian GP).

Leclerc was bizarrely brought into the pits on lap four, after being told a tear-off was stuck in his front-right brake duct, affecting its cooling.

Footage has since shown that it was in fact Verstappen’s tear-off that Leclerc caught, in a wildly unfortunate circumstance.

Verstappen was asked about it during the post-race press conference before it was revealed who’s tear-off it was.

The Dutchman hoped it wasn’t his, insisting that it’s a drivers “worst nightmare” when it happens.

“So much dirt, I pulled off my tear-off because I barely could see anything,” said Verstappen.

“Carlos told me it was a tear-off, I didn‘t know. I hope it is not mine! But there were a lot of stuff. It is super unlucky when that happens.”

“On a track like this you are taking them off really quickly. And that is the worst nightmare. Unfortunately these things do happen.”

Leclerc eventually finished sixth, after a late five-second time penalty demoted him behind Fernando Alonso.

The Ferrari driver was awarded the penalty after speeding in the pit-lane by just 1kph; however, it was as a result of Leclerc’s speed sensor failing due to the tear-off incident.

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Team principal Mattia Binotto confirmed after the race that it was Verstappen’s tear-off that Leclerc caught and explained how the Monegasque driver was “unlucky” to have exceeded the pit-lane speed limit.

“The reason we over-sped is because simply it was really borderline,” Binotto explained.

“Unluckily we were not using our normal sensors measuring the speed because they had been failed during the overheating of the front-right due to the [tear-off] of Max and our recovery simply strategy maybe was not [so] accurate.”

The FIA confirmed Leclerc broke the 80kph pit lane speed limit by just 1kph.