Alex delivered a brilliant debut drive for the Team at Spa-Francorchamps to claim his best ever F1 finish of fifth place at the Belgian Grand Prix. There was misery for Max, however, with the Dutch driver crashing out after just two corners following a collision after the start.
Max’s race was over within moments of the red lights going out to signal the start. The Dutchman’s start from P5 on the grid was not ideal and Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, starting from seventh place, immediately drew alongside the Red Bull.
Max responded by taking a tight line down the inside into the La Source hairpin. As he approached the corner, though, Kimi Räikkönen was already turning in and the pair clashed, with the Alfa Romeo being pitched into the air.
Max’s RB15 suffered damage in the incident and though the Red Bull driver attempted to carry on, his front-left suspension collapsed as he exited Eau Rouge. He arrowed off track and his race ended in the barriers on the left side of the circuit.
Max’s crash brought out the safety car and behind it the order settled. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc led ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel and the Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Following the resumption Alex found himself in P14, sandwiched between the Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and 15th-placed Daniel Ricciardo. That became 13th when Hulkenberg pitted on lap 11 and Alex then set off in pursuit of Alfa’s Antonio Giovinazzi who was a second ahead. The Alfa driver then passed Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and soon after Alex did the same on lap 15 claiming P12 with a good move through the Bus Stop chicane.
At the front, Vettel was the first of the frontrunners to pit, with the German taking on medium tyres on lap 15. He re-joined in fifth place and was soon setting purple times as the new front three of Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas continued to circulate.
Alex, meanwhile, continued his rise up the order. Thanks to pit stops from the soft-tyres starters ahead of him, the Thai driver found himself in eighth place on lap 20, 1.5s behind Giovinazzi.
Race leader Leclerc made his sole stop on lap 21, but he re-joined behind teammate Vettel and after Hamilton and Bottas had made their visits to the pit lane, the German emerged as the new race leader, two seconds clear of the younger Ferrari driver.
Vettel’s lead didn’t last long, however. Leclerc quickly closed the gap and on lap 25 Vettel was told to let his teammate past. At the start of the next tour he obliged, drifting off the racing line on the run down to Eau Rouge to let his young teammate re-take the lead. The German then came under heavy pressure from Hamilton. He defended well for a number of laps but on lap 31 Hamilton got close enough and passed
Earlier, Alex had pitted for soft tyres on lap 23. He emerged in P15 but again began to power through the pack. On lap 30 he moved into the points when he passed Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly with a good move into Les Combes and he then made a great move down the inside of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo on the run towards Pouhon to claim eighth place on lap 33.
The second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat was the next target and on lap 38 he closed to within 0.4s of the Russian’s gearbox as they barrelled down towards Eau Rouge. That was close enough for a challenge and Alex got the job done with ease as the pair powered down the Kemmel Straight.
Alex now set off in pursuit of sixth-placed Perez, though the Mexican driver was nine seconds up the road. That was no deterrent to the Thai driver though and by lap 42 he had reduced the deficit to the Racing Point to just two seconds.
And in a frenetic final two laps, the Red Bull driver continued his rise. At the start of lap 44, McLaren’s Lando Norris, who had been running fifth stopped just beyond the start-finish straight and then with pace in hand Alex made his move on Perez on the long run to Les Combes. It was a brave one too, with the new recruit putting a wheel into the dirt on the right side of the track as the Mexican tried to defend.
There was no denying Alex’s pace, however, and as Leclerc crossed the line to take his first grand prix victory ahead of Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel, Alex was powering towards his best ever F1 finish.
Behind the Red Bull, Perez clung on to sixth ahead of Kvyat and Hulkenberg took eighth place ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly. The final point on offer went to Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.