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  1. F1

Formula 1: Chequered Flag - Belgian GP Review

Max Verstappen climbed from 14th on the grid to take a dominant victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, as his quest for a second straight F1 title took another favourable turn.

The Dutchman was truly in a class of his own at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps and was clearly undeterred at the prospect of having to start 14th.

Even though the Austrian team knew that Verstappen was going to start well down the grid, there was little doubting the fact he and the car had the pace to climb up the field.

However, even the most staunch of Red Bull backers may have been surprised at how easily Verstappen crushed the rest of field the field.

His nearest tile rival Charles Leclerc, also starting from the "back" of the grid, finished fifth on track but was demoted to sixth after speeding in the pit lane.

It means Verstappen's nearest title vial is now his team mate Sergio Perez who completed a one-two for Red Bull and who is now 93 points adrift of the Dutchman, who is now 1/33 to retain his title.

Red Bull blitz the rest of the field

For much of the season, Red Bull and Ferrari have been evenly matched in terms of raw pace, with Leclerc often outperforming Verstappen in qualifying.

Race day has proved to be a different story, with Red Bull coming on top thanks to Verstappen's new-found maturity as a driver and their smarter racecraft - in comparison with the often baffling decisions made by the Scuderia, which appear to have cost Leclerc dearly this season.

However, at the longest and one of the most intense circuits on the F1 calendar, there was no arguing with the fact that Verstappen and Red Bull were peerless.

A strong opening lap saw Verstappen climb to eighth before the safety car emerged, meaning he would get more life from the soft tyres he opted to start on.

He scythed his way through the field and by lap 18, he overtook pole-sitter Carlos Sainz to take the lead, after Perez put up little resistance in allowing Verstappen up to second.

Verstappen had to do the same following the first round of pit stops, but from there on he waved goodbye to the rest of the field to take his ninth win of the season.

More frustration for Leclerc

Even though Ferrari were well outpaced Red Bull at Spa, Leclerc - 12/1 to be crowned world champion - must be wondering what he has to do to catch a break.

While his team have often been at fault for costing him points - the bizarre hard tyre call at Hungary before the summer break being the most obvious example - this time it was a mix of misfortune and an error from the driver himself.

He was forced into an unscheduled stop early in the race after one of his wheels started overheating due to loose debris which put him to the back of the field.

Even with the aid of DRS, Leclerc could not cut through the field as quickly as Verstappen and ended up finishing fifth on the road.

His day was then summed up by being slapped with a time penalty for speeding in the pit lane, meaning was eventually placed sixth and leaving Leclerc 98 points off the championship lead and now surely out of the picture as far as 2022 is concerned.

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Hamilton's promising form comes to an end

In the five races prior to Spa, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished in the top three - a hat-trick of thirds were followed by second places at Paul Ricard and the Hungaroring.

However, his race in Belgium was over before the end of the first lap after an incident with old team-mate and rival Fernando Alonso going into the Les Combes chicane, following the long straight after Eau Rouge.

With Fernando Alonso's Alpine on the inside and looking to overtake Hamilton, the Briton turned in on the Spaniard's front wing and was launched into the air before landing heavily, which caused race-ending damage to his Mercedes.

He was told to stop on the track by his race engineers and a rueful Hamilton later admitted liability ofr the accident, saying he didn't see Alonso in his blind spot.

Hamilton's marooned car, plus Valtteri Bottas' Alfa Romeo - beached in the gravel after taking evasive action following spin from Nicolas Latifi's Williams - saw the safety car emerge, a decision which ultimately went some way to determining the eventual outcome of the race.

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