Max Verstappen stormed to pole in F1 Belgian GP in tricky conditions ahead of Charles Leclerc who will start on pole with Sergio Perez in third.
The drying conditions prompted for a 10 minutes delay to start the first part in F1 Belgian GP qualifying. They still had to use the intermediate tyres with the times improving until the last lap which saw Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on top with a 1m58.300s lap.
He headed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton as McLaren’s Lando Norris managed to save him in 14th after an early off moment which perhaps damaged his front wing and the floor. The off for Williams’ Alexander Albon wasn’t good for him.
He did so on his final attempt which left him only 16th with a 2m00.314s lap as he will be investigated for unsafe rejoining when he did so. Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu (2m00.832s) was 17th with Williams’ Logan Sargeant (2m01.535s) was 19th.
He did a late run due to a precautionary gearbox change just at the time when the session started. AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo (2m02.159s) was 19th after his fast lap was deleted for an off at Turn 3, while Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg (2m03.166s) rounded the 20 runners.
The second part in F1 Belgian GP qualifying saw drying conditions in sun light where they started on intermediate compound but switched to soft. McLaren’s Oscar Piastri ended up top with a 1m51.534s lap from Ferrari pair of Carlos Sainz and Leclerc.
The replays showed Leclerc being impeded by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen likely impeding him, with the Dane having a gravel moment in the same corner as Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. The Dane did not hit the barrier as the Frenchman did, who damaged his front wing.
Red Bull’s Verstappen breathed a sigh of relief after ending up just 10th with both Magnussen and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly unable to improve despite being behind him. AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was knocked out in 11th with a 1m53.148s lap.
He headed Gasly (1m53.671s), Magnussen (1m54.160s), Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas (1m54.694s) and Ocon (1m56.372s) to round out the 15 runners. Post session, a radio between Verstappen and his engineer was played about a fierce debate about run plan.
The final part in F1 Belgian GP qualifying saw soft tyres to start with where Ferrari’s Leclerc set the pace with a 1m47.911s lap, taking provisional pole from Red Bull’s Verstappen and the other Ferrari of Sainz rounding the Top 3.
The McLaren pair of Piastri and Norris were in the Top 5 where the latter seemingly had damage. The Mercedes did an extra run on the first set of tyres, leaving it late for their final run. It was a storming run from the reigning F1 champion.
Verstappen set a 1m46.168s lap to take F1 Belgian GP pole by 0.820s but the Dutchman has a five place penalty for a gearbox change. Leclerc (1m46.988s) ended up second but will assume pole from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez (1m47.045s) who did well to end up third.
Mercedes’ Hamilton (1m47.087s) was fourth from Ferrari’s Sainz (1m47.152s) with the McLaren pair of Piastri (1m47.365s) and Norris (1m47.669s) only in sixth and seventh after running well early on. Mercedes’ George Russell (1m47.805s) was eighth.
The Aston Martin pair followed the Mercedes where Fernando Alonso (1m47.843s) was ahead of Lance Stroll (1m48.841s) to round out the Top 10.
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Here’s more on penalty to Max Verstappen: https://www.fia.com/sites/default/files/decision-document/2023%20Belgian%20Grand%20Prix%20-%20Infringement%20-%20Car%201%20-%20RNC%20Changes.pdf
UPDATE: The FIA cleared Hamilton off unsafe joining where Russell noted that he knew his teammate’s programme. They reprimanded Albon for unsafe joining, while handed a 3-place grid drop to Magnussen for impeding Leclerc for the main race.