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Max Verstappen storms to Belgian GP win after starting 14th and extends title lead after Hamilton crash

Let’s distribute the trophy now.

There’s no point in dragging this out and waiting for the end of the season.

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Max Verstappen wins in Belgium for the second consecutive yearCredit: Alamy
Sir Lewis Hamilton crashed out on the opening lap

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Sir Lewis Hamilton crashed out on the opening lapCredit: Reuters
Hamilton was sent flying after colliding with Fernando Alonso

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Hamilton was sent flying after colliding with Fernando AlonsoCredit: AFP

Max Verstappen has it all wrapped up – and we still have eight races to go.

If there was a dark cloud over his maiden F1 world title – won at the controversial Abu Dhabi GP last December – there is simply nothing but brilliance to his performances this season.

He crashed qualifying on Saturday – only to be relegated to 14th on the grid due to engine and gearbox penalties.

But it only took him 12 laps on Sunday to take the lead – including three behind the safety car – and 15 laps to take the lead.

Hamilton mocked by fans after arriving at Belgian GP wearing knit balaclava
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No wonder he hailed it as his most dominant victory of his 29 F1 victories as he opened up a 93 point lead over Sergio Perez and a whopping 98 points over Charles Leclerc.

He said: “It’s been my most dominant weekend if you look at the whole weekend. The car was amazing right from practice.

“You don’t expect it to be this good, but it’s nice when things surprise you and it was so good to drive.

“I stayed out of trouble on the first lap and it wasn’t easy. I knew with the car we shouldn’t take too many risks, but that makes it even harder to stay out of trouble.

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“Once it calmed down, I started overtaking one by one and at the end I knew there was a chance to win.”

Verstappen’s pace wasn’t even close to being matched by his own team-mate Perez, who said the Dutchman was ‘on another planet’.

He added: “I was really hoping for more today. It was a good opportunity, but Max was just flying. He was on another planet and was untouchable.”

The Mexican has now replaced Leclerc in second place in the standings after a disappointing weekend for the Monaco-born driver.

Leclerc had also been subject to grid penalties, but he was also undone by other complications of Ferrari strategy.

His own title challenge was crippled by reliability and tactical errors – while he was also partly responsible for losing more ground on the champion-elect.

Leclerc had fought his way back to fifth, although he was forced to stop early when a visor tear caught in his brakes.

After much talk on the radio, Ferrari called him for fresh tires with two laps to go in a bid to get the fastest lap bonus point.

But he couldn’t improve on Verstappen’s lap time as he was caught by Fernando Alonso.

To add insult to injury, he was also caught accelerating into pit lane, triggering a five-second penalty that dropped him to sixth in the final standings.

Leclerc said: “It’s more frustrating to see the delta of pace that there was between Red Bull and us, which we have to work on.

“If you look at Red Bull, they were on another level, and they found something this weekend that worries us a bit.

“At this time, we do not fully understand [it]. “They are still extremely fast on the straights, it feels like they have no downforce, but then they come into the corner and they are as fast as us, or faster.

“So it’s a little worrying.”

Perhaps what should be most worrying for him – and the rest of the field – is that the next race is Verstappen’s home race.

He has thrived there in 2021 and is expected to do the same next Sunday, which surely makes it a case of when – not if – he wins the title.

Lewis Hamilton crashed out on the opening lap after colliding with Alonso – with the Briton taking blame for the crash.

Hamilton OUT after crashing into Alonso on the first lap of the heated Belgian GP
Fury says he

He said after the race: “Looking back he was in my blind spot, I didn’t give him enough space.

” It’s my fault. “I couldn’t see it. I feel sorry for the team and I need to recover and get back on the treadmill.”