The Saturday in F1 Belgian GP saw a jumbled up grid eventually even though Red Bull and Ferrari ended up at the front of the order.
The weather remained cloudy at Spa-Francorchamps for F1 Belgian GP qualifying as Red Bull retained top spot courtesy of Max Verstappen. The Dutchman showed good pace all-through which he will need on Sunday to climb back up the order.
His teammate Sergio Perez improved his pace from Friday to end up third and will start from the front-row alongside pole-sitter Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard took Charles Leclerc’s help but his last lap was a scrappy one which left him 0.6s down.
The Monegasque too didn’t look to have that strong pace as he will have to climb back up the order too. While Red Bull seem to have the advantage at the moment and Ferrari chasing them, Mercedes were further down the pack among Alpine and McLaren.
Verstappen: “The car was good all weekend. And that’s, of course, very nice start like that. Of course, you’re making changes to the car, even before qualifying, and I think they worked even better. Very pleased. Of course, you never know what the margin is going to be but the feeling in the car was very good all weekend. I think with the pace we have in the car, I want to move forward and I want to be at least on the podium. Surviving, of course, lap one, that’s the most important, but then after that I need to pass a few cars, before, of course, you get into a competitive position. But it’s a bit like Hungary as well. Of course, it’s a bit further back now but the basics are the same.”
Sainz: “In terms of overall feeling it was okay. We don’t have any big balance issues. Of course, the whole weekend, we just have a pace deficit to Red Bull and Max. It’s a bit puzzling because we we’ve been on the pace all year. You know, we’ve been fighting for pole all year, but for some reason at this track, this weekend, I don’t know if it’s temperatures, the efficiency of their car or whatever it is putting them with a healthy – very healthy – margin ahead that is making our life a bit more difficult. But even like that, we executed a good Quali as a team and we managed to put ourselves on pole for tomorrow and we will try and win from there.
“As for the race, not entirely, no – especially with the pace Max has. I think, as soon as there’s either a Safety Car that can help him close the gap, or even with the pace that he has, that if you translate it into 44 laps, it’s… he can come back, and we’ve seen him do it before. I mean, that will not be my focus, obviously, the first and second stint it will be a straight battle with with Checo and the Mercedes, if they have the race pace, and we will try and pull away for sure but I wouldn’t discard the two guys at the back making it through.”
Perez: “It was going well. Q3 wasn’t as straightforward. On my first lap, I ended up being the lead car, basically, and without any circulation around here you can lose a bit. Still, the lap wasn’t very, very clean so there was more to come and then on my second lap we ran out of time. There was a lot of traffic ahead. Yeah, I just ended up too close to the cars ahead and I had no grip so I ended up going straight into turn five. As for the race, I think certainly you don’t want to be leading into Eau Rouge if there’s a car behind, really close by. But yeah, hopefully we can make the most out of it, get a good start and get the lead from Carlos early on.”
Leclerc: “There’s some potential obviously because we didn’t prepare qualifying as much as we normally do. But when you see the gap to Max, it’s… a bit worrying. They are extremely quick, and it’s been the case since the beginning of the weekend, and we cannot explain quite why, so we need to work. We’ll try our best tomorrow, but they seem to have found something this weekend. They are way too fast, there’s nothing that we could have done. Or nothing that would have changed anything for our starting position tomorrow. We had to beat Max in qualifying but today the car is just not at that level.”
Hamilton: “I mean, obviously everyone is working for improvements. And we came here very, very optimistic that we are going to be able to be close [the gap to Red Bull and Ferrari]. Half a second, who knows, but to be 1.8s behind is a real kick in the teeth. But it is what it is. It’s a car that we continue to struggle with and I definitely won’t miss it at the end of the year. For me, it’s just about focusing on how we build and design next year’s car. The other two teams ahead of us are in another league, but our car looks so much different to theirs. So, we will do the best we can for the rest of the season. I don’t know. We can say top five, that would be nice, but the car is not particularly top five speed this weekend, so just keep it on track and see where we come.”
The rest of the Top 10 had the Alpine duo who performed the towing game as well like Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso taking help from Esteban Ocon who has penalty. They beat McLaren where Lando Norris Norris did make it inside but has a penalty as well.
Daniel Ricciardo missed on it but will start from inside the Top 10. The surprise one to make it in on their own pace was Williams’ Alexander Albon who has looked strong all-through the weekend and maintained his pace when it mattered.
Norris: “I think I’m reasonably happy with today and we got the maximum we could actually achieve. Of course, we weren’t going for outright position, and maybe we could have got P7 if we had used a set of new tyres, which would have been a little bit nicer, but we had to make sure we were in the best place strategy-wise for tomorrow. We’re still not where we want to be on pure pace, so hopefully tomorrow we can change a couple of things and try to move forwards and get into the points. It’s going to be a long race, but you never know. Overall, we’re in a good place so we’ll try our best.”
Alonso: “I am happy with our performance today and it’s a positive result for the team with both cars qualifying inside the top six positions. We gave each other the tow during the session, and it worked really well. It will be exciting tomorrow and, like in Canada, it’s another opportunity to attack inside the top three at the start. Tomorrow, I want a clean race to capitalise on this position. We’ll be wary of those behind us, as there are some fast cars starting towards the back of the grid. We’ll be aiming to be in the top five or six positions by the chequered flag.”
Albon: “Very good, very good, really happy. I wouldn’t say we expected that result – but we’ll definitely take it. It felt like just hard work and getting the most out of what we had. Made some good changes form FP3, and even the circuit itself, it suits us more than other circuits. We’ve been competitive since FP1. P6 tomorrow, I believe it is. I’m very happy. I was looking at Max’s lap time and I feel like he’s going to be past us by Lap 3!. So we are going to have to do our own race, it’s not like Monaco where you can hold on to your position. You need a quick car to stay in front. Overtaking here is on the easier side, so we will need to see what we’ve done. No one has really done any long runs, which is making it a little bit more unpredictable, but we also have a slippery car so hopefully that makes it more difficult to overtake.”
Outside the Top 10, the likes of Aston Martin were left a bit disappointed having looked good early in the session and to have eventually missed out on a Top 10. Likewise, Haas were not happy to see Kevin Magnussen get knocked out in Q1.
The Dane was the one without the penalty but teammate Mick Schumacher made it in. On Alfa Romeo side, Valtteri Bottas sacrificed his session to help Zhou Guanyu’s whose grid position was to be determined where he was to finish in Q2.
Gasly: “It was a good Quali today, I’m really happy about my lap and how the car performed. The balance was great, and I felt like we maximised the package. We’re still not showing our full potential, so we’ve got some work to do as a team to make it into the top 10, but today I think we managed to get the best out of the car. We start P8 tomorrow, thanks to the penalties of some drivers, so we’ll have to make the most of that opportunity come the race. There’s going to be some fast cars behind us trying to move forward, so it’s going to be a hard race, but we’ll try our best to hold our position and to stay in the points.”
Guanyu: “I think we can be happy with where we are, also taking into consideration how we did this morning: I even think something more was possible, as I did a few small mistakes in the last flying lap and had a massive lock-up in turn one. It was tricky out there, we struggled a bit with the cooler weather conditions and with the balance, but we gave everything we had. Valtteri gave me his slipstream, it was not planned but it was nice of him as it helped me getting into Q2. Overall, I am quite satisfied with how we did today, although obviously I am starting from the back tomorrow due to penalties. Everything could happen on this track, so hopefully we can put up a good performance and gain some positions to get back into the points.”
Magnussen: “It was a bad lap and I made a couple of mistakes. It seemed like everyone found a lot of lap time unfortunately, so that second lap was where it needed to be. I don’t know if we had the pace to be that far up anyway, but a lot of people have penalties tomorrow, so we’ll gain a few positions back and then hopefully our pace is better in the race. It’s Spa, so there are always opportunities it seems and I’m looking forward to it as always.”
Vettel: “I know I could have gone faster today; I did not drive a perfect final lap. I struggled a little to string it together this afternoon – I just did not have quite as much trust in the car as I did in FP3. And that led to the car sliding around – it was not too bad but it has a large impact, especially around a longer lap such as this. We will gain some starting positions tomorrow due to the grid penalties applied to other drivers – we will not keep everyone behind us, but it gives us more of a chance. It is a new day tomorrow and we have the chance to score points.”
Here’s provisional starting grid: https://www.fia.com/sites/default/files/decision-document/2022%20Belgian%20Grand%20Prix%20-%20Provisional%20Starting%20Grid.pdf
Here’s how F1 Belgian GP qualifying panned out