Max Verstappen fastest in Spa qualifying but hands pole to Leclerc after penalty

Max Verstappen fastest in Spa qualifying but hands pole to Leclerc after penalty

Max Verstappen produced the fastest qualifying time but had to give Charles Leclerc the pole position for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix after he was handed a grid penalty.

The Red Bull driver set the best time in Q3 by eight tenths of a second, but due to a five-place grid penalty for exceeding his gearbox allotment, he will give Leclerc the pole position for the race on Sunday. Leclerc will start alongside Sergio Perez on the front row, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton starting third.

The start of the first qualifying session was delayed by ten minutes to give the track time to dry out after heavy rain disrupted the Formula 2 qualifying session, which was run in the hour before Q1.

Before the session started, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in their two Mercedes lined up at the end of the pit lane for more than seven minutes. They were eager to get to work on the drying track.

All cars joined the track running on intermediate tires when the course was open for action. Russell set the record first, but his teammate Lewis Hamilton eclipsed it immediately.

On his first timed lap, Lando Norris outperformed the Mercedes duo by four tenths, but Russell later reclaimed the lead with his second attempt.

As the track began to gradually dry out, Oscar Piastri brought McLaren back to the top of the timings. Meanwhile, Norris stumbled on the exit of Courbe Paul Frere with his race engineer Will Joseph describing the damage to his rear as significant.

With less than half the session left, Williams replaced Logan Sargeant’s gearbox in the wake of his crash in free practice. He was the last driver to set a time, which put him in the drop zone alongside the two Alfa Romeos and the two Haas drivers.

Max Verstappen rose to the top of the times with a 1’58.932 with less than five minutes left, and Zhou Guanyu pulled out of the drop zone, putting Esteban Ocon in danger. However, when the track continued to dry up, it became better and better every time with the drivers recording faster times.

Daniel Ricciardo needed to make time if he wanted to advance since Valtteri Bottas was also making progress. The timing screens showed green sectors even though Alexander Albon seemed to have taken a safe course. Ricciardo improved his lap time, but the track limits prompted the deletion of his time, knocking him out of qualifying.

Charles Leclerc was the last driver to improve, moving Albon from first to sixteenth and ultimately out. Zhou and Sargeant’s FW45, which he thanks for their work on the repair, joined the Williams in getting eliminated.

Nico Hulkenberg, the session’s slowest driver after suffering from a hydraulic issue with his car, joined Ricciardo on the back row of the grid. Haas managed to get him back out onto the circuit in the final minutes, but he was unable to start a lap.

Similar to the first session, Q2 got underway with the Mercedes duo parked at the end of the pit lane. Although the track was still much too wet for slick tires, dry lines were beginning to appear through the circuit.

On his first lap of the session, Hamilton turned in a time of 1’58.024 outpacing his teammate once more. Bottas and Kevin Magnussen, though, swiftly overpowered the Mercedes up until Piastri took one full second off of them both.

Verstappen posted the fastest time with a 1’55.535, four tenths faster than teammate Perez. Red Bull’s first laps were unquestionably superior to the others. At Raidillon, Hamilton veered off the track in an effort to let teammate Russell pass, but re-joined ahead of Russell. The Mercedes driver will be investigated after the session for rejoining the track dangerously.

Several teams were now debating whether to switch to slick tires over the radio waves, with the clear majority concluding that the timing was appropriate. Piastri set a personal best in the first sector after Bottas was the first to use a pair of soft tyres, but he did not do any better throughout the lap.

Others ran into issues. Esteban Ocon skidded off the track at turn nine and smacked the barrier damaging his front wing, displacing an advertisement board in the process. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen ran off outside the white lines and had his first push lap disqualified. However, the track remained green.

Norris was at his lowest point in the final moments. Through the use of slick tyres, he was able to overtake Bottas and move to the peak of the list. With his penultimate lap, Yuki Tsunoda managed to avoid the drop zone, forcing Stroll, Leclerc, Ocon, Magnussen, and Fernando Alonso to speed up in order to guarantee their move to Q3.

The two Aston Martins performed better, putting the championship leader in danger of slipping up. Tsunoda was eliminated as a result of Verstappen’s advance, which was only good enough for him to finish tenth and sit on the edge. Ocon suffered damage and was in the garage while Bottas was also knocked out.

Only Pierre Gasly had the ability to eliminate the world champion with his final lap, and even then, he only managed to move up to 12th place saving the Red Bull driver from a shocking annihilation Verstappen’s dissatisfaction with race engineer Giampiero Lambiase’s instructions was made clear in a brief radio exchange.

Gasly was in the twelfth spot when Tsunoda was eliminated. The stewards indicated they would look into Magnussen’s apparent infringement against Leclerc on the Ferrari driver’s penultimate timed lap after the driver was eliminated in 13th after going off at turn 11. The final two drivers to be eliminated, Bottas and Ocon, finished in positions 14 and 15 respectively.

The crucial last round of qualifying was postponed so that gravel could be brushed off the track at turn nine. By the time the pit lane opened for the championship shootout, the sun had more time to dry off more of the moisture within the track surface.

All ten cars started on soft dry tyres, but the track was still very wet when the engines weren’t running. The first cars to cross the starting line for their first timed laps were the two Aston Martins, with Alonso setting the fastest opening sector of all before setting a record of 1’49.164.

At the conclusion of the initial runs, Leclerc’s Ferrari was in front of the timing screens with a provisional pole time of 1’47.931, which was just over a tenth of a second quicker than Verstappen’s opening attempt. Four tenths behind his teammate, Sainz placed third.

Piastri and Norris’ McLarens placed fourth and fifth, respectively, but Hamilton and Russell’s Mercedes could only complete sixth and ninth on their two push lap attempts.

Pole-sitter for now the first challenger to start his final flying lap was Leclerc, who promptly set a purple opening sector. He kept at that speed for the remainder of the lap, beating his own pole mark by almost a full second, but Verstappen was closing in even faster.

With his penultimate lap, Sainz passed Piastri for second place, the Ferrari driver being two tenths faster. After finishing his lap, Verstappen comfortably recorded the fastest time with a commanding lead of more than eight tenths of a second. Perez was a few hundredths slower than Leclerc and finished third.

Verstappen will place sixth, splitting the two McLarens on the starting grid for Sunday’s race, while Hamilton finished fourth between Perez and Sainz. Russell will start ahead of the two Aston Martins driven by Alonso and Stroll in eighth place, after Norris in seventh.


1Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing1m58.515s1m52.784s1m46.168s
2Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1m58.300s1m52.017s1m46.988s
3Sergio PerezMEXOracle Bull Racing1m58.899s1m52.353s1m47.045s
4Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team1m58.563s1m52.345s1m47.087s
5Carlos SainzESPScuderia Ferrari1m58.688s1m51.711s1m47.152s
6Oscar PiastriAUSMcLaren F1 Team1m58.872s1m51.534s1m47.365s
7Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1m59.981s1m52.252s1m47.669s
8George RussellGBRMercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team1m59.035s1m56.605s1m47.805s
9Fernando AlonsoESPAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team1m58.834s1m52.751s1m47.843s
10Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team1m59.663s1m52.193s1m48.841s
11Yuki TsunodaJPNScuderia AlphaTauri 1m59.044s1m53.148s 
12Pierre GaslyFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1m59.511s1m53.671s 
13Kevin MagnussenDENMoneyGram Haas F1 Team2m00.020s1m54.160s 
14Valtteri BottasFINAlfa Romeo F1 Team Stake1m59.484s1m54.694s 
15Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1m59.634s1m56.372s 
16Alex AlbonTHAWilliams Racing2m00.314s  
17Zhou GuanyuCHNAlfa Romeo F1 Team Stake2m00.832s  
18Logan SargeantUSAWilliams Racing2m01.535s  
19Daniel RicciardoAUSScuderia AlphaTauri2m02.159s  
20Nico HulkenbergGERMoneyGram Haas F1 Team2m03.166s

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