SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen extended his lead in the Formula One world championship with a crushing victory in the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Verstappen started 14th on the grid but scorched through the field to cruise to victory ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who started on pole, in third.
Charles Leclerc, Verstappen’s nearest challenger in the title race, struggled in the other Ferrari to find his groove after starting 15th.
A late battle with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso saw Leclerc overtake the two-time world champion to snatch fifth, behind the Mercedes of George Russell.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton retired on the opening lap after his Mercedes collided with Alonso’s car.
Verstappen has now won nine of this season’s 14 races and sits 92 points ahead of Perez who has taken over second spot from Leclerc, who is a further three points behind.
The Dutch flyer, who is already in sight of a second successive world title, was one of eight drivers to be relegated down the grid after implementing a power unit change.
In spite of being quickest in qualifying he started 14th but quickly carved his way through the field to install himself in the easy chair up front.
Perez proved a useful buffer in second place although he also had a comfortable afternoon as all the other cars struggled against the Red Bull pace.
Russell’s fourth was small compensation for Mercedes after Hamilton’s first lap exit.
Alonso called Hamilton an “idiot” over the radio and the Briton later took full responsibility for the collision which occurred when he cut in front of the Spaniard, after both had slipped past Perez on the opening turn.
“Looking back he was in my blind spot, I didn’t give him enough space. It is my fault,” Hamilton told Sky.
“I could not see him. I am sorry to the team and I need to recuperate and get back on the treadmill.”