Max Verstappen makes feelings about Oscar Piastri clear after Belgian GP fight

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Piastri led Verstappen for the first half of the Sprint but was eventually overtaken by the Red Bull (Image: HOCH ZWEI/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
Piastri led Verstappen for the first half of the Sprint but was eventually overtaken by the Red Bull (Image: HOCH ZWEI/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Max Verstappen relished the fight against "fresh blood" and was left impressed by Oscar Piastri after their tussle in the Belgian Grand Prix Sprint.

Saturday's short-form race began behind the safety car due to heavy rain at Spa-Francorchamps. When enough water had been displaced, the green flags flew and, at the first opportunity, Piastri pitted for intermediate tyres.

Verstappen waited for an extra lap and, by the time he emerged after his own stop, the Formula 1 rookie had the lead. He held on until mid-way through the 11-lap dash, but eventually could not resist the pace of the Red Bull.

Regardless, it was an impressive accolade for someone so inexperienced at this level. And Verstappen is impressed with what he has been seeing from Piastri, the first F1 rookie in 10 years to lead a lap.

"Yes, it's always good," he told reporters when asked about the emergence of a new rival to battle with. "I mean, I've been in that position as well, where the younger guy comes in.

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"It's nice and it's great and Oscar's having a very strong season in general. But I think also this weekend, he has been really on it. So it's always nice to, for the first time, basically race him."

As much as he enjoyed being at the head of the field for a few laps, Piastri knows it would have taken a miracle for him to be able to hold off the double champion. He said: "We tried our best. We boxed when the safety car came in. We led a few laps. But we were no match for Max.

"I thought the safety car was going to be in my favour, as it meant less [sic] laps to try and hold him behind. But I looked out of turn one and I feel like I got a decent restart. I looked at the top of Eau Rouge and he was basically on top of me already. I couldn't keep him behind on the straight."

He held on to second to score seven points for McLaren and hoped for a heap more in Sunday's main event. But his Grand Prix was over after just a few seconds, as he picked up terminal damage to his car in a turn one collision with Carlos Sainz.

Piastri admitted he was partially to blame as he "could have braked a bit later and been further alongside" as he attempted the overtake". The Ferrari racer was unwilling to accept any responsibility and claimed a lack of experience on the 22-year-old's part was the cause of the incident which ruined both their races.

Daniel Moxon

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