When the lights turned off, Leclerc, who was in the front position, quickly moved in front of Perez to stay in first place at La Source. At the same time, Sainz, who started in fourth place, made a mistake and crashed into Piastri, who was right behind him in fifth place on the inside.
The McLaren was pinched against the inside wall, damaging its suspension and ripping the side of the Ferrari’s right-side sidepod, with Piastri slowing on the run downhill to Eau Rouge and later stopping on the first lap of 44.
Perez utilized the impressive straightline speed of his RB19 to overtake Leclerc and take the lead as they approached the Kemmel straight for the first time. He swiftly established a significant advantage that even the DRS system couldn’t bridge.
By the conclusion of the first lap, Verstappen had managed to move up to fourth place from his unusually low starting position on the grid. This was due to him receiving a penalty for using his fifth gearbox of the season during this weekend’s race. Throughout the initial stage of the race, Verstappen stayed behind Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes, who had started in third place, as well as Leclerc. Meanwhile, Perez maintained his lead and continued to increase the gap between himself and the other drivers.
However, when Hamilton was no longer able to use DRS to his advantage against Leclerc on lap six, Verstappen quickly took the opportunity to overtake him on the Kemmel straight. Utilizing DRS himself, Verstappen had the necessary speed to make a maneuver towards the inside and secure third place.
He proceeded to chase after Leclerc, who had managed to maintain a somewhat stable lead of just over two seconds. However, as the first 10 laps neared their end, the gap had once again increased to three seconds.
During the ninth lap, Verstappen made a move on Leclerc’s outer side while they were racing along the Kemmel straight. Leclerc, in his Ferrari, tried to protect his position by staying on the inside, but Verstappen’s strategy proved more effective. He braked later and managed to overtake Leclerc at the initial section of Les Combes.
Perez maintained his lead over his team-mate, just as he did over Leclerc at the beginning of lap 10. However, Verstappen slowly closed the gap during the subsequent part of the race.
During the 13th lap, Perez’s advantage decreased to 2.4 seconds, prompting him to enter the pits. His pit stop took almost a second longer than usual, accompanied by noticeable sparks emitting from his left-rear wheel. Coincidentally, Leclerc also made a pit stop from third place at that moment, where both drivers switched from soft tires to mediums.
Verstappen was called into the pits towards the end of the next lap after being questioned about the possibility of continuing on his soft tires until the expected rain came around halfway through the race, but he rejected the idea.
The second pit stop for Red Bull was one second faster than the first, resulting in Perez’s lead over Verstappen decreasing to 1.5 seconds on Verstappen’s out-lap. On the following lap, the lead decreased even further to 1.1 seconds, and soon after, Verstappen was able to activate DRS on the Kemmel straight for the first time.
The next time around, Verstappen took the lead at the same spot, using the outside line and DRS to gain an advantage on the straight. He effortlessly moved ahead of Perez, who followed closely behind his teammate.
Verstappen remained focused to counter Perez’s DRS challenge on the same lap, and quickly built a significant lead of almost four seconds before the rain started on the 20th lap.
Initially, there was still daylight, but the lap times of the leaders increased by almost three seconds. Verstappen had a close call when his car almost lost control while passing through Eau Rouge on the following lap.
However, his momentum was not affected by this, as he quickly established a lead of over five seconds ahead of Perez. The rain, although not as heavy as the downpours that caused delays during the sprint qualifying and race, continued to fall lightly.
Around the midpoint, the intensity significantly decreased, and Verstappen continued to push forward, widening his advantage to nearly 10 seconds as the front-runners readied themselves for another set of pit stops.
The leaders opted for using the soft tires for a longer period of time, which proved to be more effective than the majority of competitors who had full tanks. Therefore, they decided to use the red-walled rubber for the final stretch towards the finish line.
Hamilton, who began to catch up with Leclerc in fourth place while using the medium tires, eventually fell behind again as time passed. He made his first pit stop on lap 27.
Leclerc was called in on the following occasion to protect against the Mercedes, as it had to contend with Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin upon the Ferrari’s return.
This phase cut Leclerc’s advantage, such as the undercut’s power, that Hamilton was the closest he had been to the Monegasque driver since Verstappen came by in the early laps, but again the Ferrari was able to pull away.
Red Bull employed a similar strategy by having Perez make a pit stop on lap 29 and Verstappen on lap 30. Following this, the race leader achieved a fastest lap that was almost two seconds faster than Perez’s previous personal best.
Verstappen proceeded to extend his lead and ultimately secured a dominant win with a commanding advantage of 22.3 seconds over Perez, who finished 9.9 seconds ahead of Leclerc.
Hamilton was slightly behind the final podium position when he made a pit stop with two laps remaining. During this pit stop, he switched back to the medium tires for the last part of the race. Hamilton took advantage of this opportunity to set the fastest lap, beating Verstappen’s time. Hamilton completed the final lap in 1 minute and 47.305 seconds, while Verstappen’s fastest time was 1 minute and 48.922 seconds, set earlier in the race after his second pit stop.
Hamilton made a third stop because Alonso was more than a pitstop behind in fifth place, having successfully navigated through several battles in the pitstop stages.
George Russell took sixth having started on the contra-strategy with mediums for the opening stint, which meant he ran long and also had to put in several passes to rise from his eighth-place starting spot.
That included a late pass on Lando Norris, who was one of the first to stop as McLaren struggled for pace early on – his machine’s added downforce from its big rear wing being a boon during the brief rain shower and a hindrance when defending against rivals.
Norris ultimately secured seventh place, while Esteban Ocon executed a sequence of daring overtakes towards the end of the race to climb up to eighth position. This included a strong maneuver through the initial section of the Les Combes chicane, overtaking Yuki Tsunoda from AlphaTauri. Tsunoda ultimately finished behind Lance Stroll in 10th place.
Sainz was the race’s other retirement – the Spaniard stopped in the Ferrari garage just before half-distance as he ran at the rear of the pack showing little pace in his damaged car.