The Saturday in F1 Belgian GP saw quite the hefty crash, which eventually paved way for an exciting result in the end amid wet conditions all-through.
It was a dramatic end to Saturday in F1 Belgian GP, with the rain making it hugely tricky for the drivers. While Red Bull’s Max Verstappen taking pole wasn’t as surprising, but Williams’ George Russell ending up second shocked the whole grid.
All-through F1 qualifying, it looked like McLaren’s Lando Norris will certainly be in the hunt for a Top 5 finish at least, but the Brit’s huge accident at the start of Q3, ended any chances for him to set any laptime, allowing others to pounce on the opportunity.
Russell was one of the biggest beneficiaries, but his teammate Daniel Ricciardo did not disappoint in fourth, just behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. The Australian got the better of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who ended up outside Top 5.
Talking about the session, Verstappen was pretty relaxed with Red Bull’s pace, as Russell explained how he managed to set a fast lap using an old set of inters. Hamilton, meanwhile, added on the challenges they had all-through.
Verstappen: “I think all qualifying it was pretty tricky because conditions-wise with the track but also to get the tyres in the right window. It was really difficult to find a gap, to not have problems with the visibility. Overall it was important to stay on track and do your laps at the right time.
“It was just building up like that through Q1 and Q2 and then we had quite a long break because of the crash and then to go straight into Q3 with conditions like that it was very tricky, because the track looks very wet and you want to go out on an extreme but these tyres were extremely slow so then you go out on an inter, which is not really made for a lot of water on track. It was difficult. We had a good Friday straightaway out of the box.
“The car felt quite decent. There were no big dramas. There are always things to fine-tune but it felt quite good, and today in the wet, it’s never easy, it’s always moving around – but yeah, it’s alright. You just need to make sure that in the race we have a clean first lap and then we’ll see. Again, changing conditions and a lot of things can happen.”
Hamilton: “These guys did a great job in the final stages of Q3. I think my first lap was OK but yeah, just difficult for everyone. Really happy to see Lando is OK. He was looking incredibly quick. I think he’d probably be up here with us, or maybe even squeeze me out potentially. He had some great pace.
“It was just a tricky session for everyone with the rain more intense in different parts of the circuit. A real struggle, I would say, with our car. As you’ve seen with Valtteri as well, the car was a bit of a handful today but I’m really happy to be on the second row. I think our race pace should be a little bit stronger than our pace in qualifying – but I still think it’s going to be a handful, particularly if it’s going to be these conditions.”
Russell: “Its an incredible team effort. I think the car was really on it in these wet conditions and there’s so much that has to go right, all the little details, to give the driver the confidence, because we aren’t doing many laps, the conditions are so tricky, constantly changing, you’ve got to have that confidence to be able to extract the most, and obviously we had the extreme tyres on at the start, which were the incorrect tyres.
“I only had one lap at the end. I think being in Q3 gave me the fortunate… I was in the fortunate position that I could put it all on the table, and just absolutely go for it. I was definitely not expecting to be on the front row this weekend, that’s for sure. For the race, we’ve obviously got to be realistic, we’ve got incredibly fast cars behind us but if the conditions stay the same, we’ve got a car that’s probably quick enough on merit in the top ten.
“But if we’re starting from the front row, there’s no reason why we can’t try to hold that position for the majority of the race. But I don’t think I’m going to do anything stupid with the cars around me that are clearly going to be faster than us – but there’s no reason why we can’t finish, if conditions are like this, top five, and just maximise it. Points is an absolute minimum.”
There teammates had a mixed run, though, with Nicholas Latifi doing a good job in 12th, where he gets to start from 11th. Despite the early spin, the Canadian bounced well to register best-ever qualifying result. While he had a smile, there was some sadness on the side of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
They ended up seventh and eighth, where Bottas will eventually start from 13th due to his penalty. Perez rued the final lap non-improvement despite the Red Bull F1 car having a front-row pace. On the Finn’s side, he revealed that his build-up lap was compromised due to traffic which meant the tyres did not have enough temperature for the pace lap.
In the midfield fight, with Norris out, Ricciardo stepped up to fourth as Ferrari had a disaster after being knocked out in Q2. Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel did well in the Top 10 along with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. The disappointment list had Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, who couldn’t improve either.
For the Australian, it was more about getting more confidence in the car in the wet, as Vettel talked about being a touch greedy on his final lap, which cost him a place. Teammate Lance Stroll did not have enough time in the end on fresh set of intermediate and finishing 15th means, he will drop right to the back due to his penalty.
Alonso, meanwhile, reckoned their pace dropped a bit in the wet and his confidence was tiny bit less considering he hasn’t had much time in damp conditions. Having to chase the chequered flag, he pushed hard on his outlap, which further damaged his tyres. He agreed that Ocon had a better pace, who managed to find a place in the Top 10.
Norris: “I mean, I’ve been better. Yeah, but I’m good. I think just a bit bruise, obviously it’s quite a big impact. And I think that my body has just been thrown around a little bit, but, no, I’m good. I’m, I think ready to race. Everything was going extremely well. Since the first lap in Q1 things were going perfectly and the car was feeling hooked up, I felt confident in the car. I guess, it was tricky going out in Q3 because even on the out lap I was saying how wet it was and saying it should be stopped or something because I was aquaplaning quite a bit, so it was just a difficult situation to be in: how much do you want to push and how much do you not?
“I think it’s a combination of pushing a bit too much for the weather at that point, aquaplaning a little bit in the middle of Eau Rouge, which obviously doesn’t end too well and ends up being the way I was in the end. Of course, I feel bad because things were going very well, the car was on fire, Q1 and Q2 were extremely good and I think I could quite easily have fought for pole position, but I’ve now given the team a lot of work to do and probably a very late night, but not a lot I can do now.
“It is different tarmac strip at the bottom. It definitely makes a lot trickier, especially in those conditions, when it’s that wet. I think it was one of the first laps where it basically wasn’t flat out. And it wasn’t like I tried to do it flat out on my first attempt, I still lifted and whatever. But I think you get these tram lines from where people go. And as soon as you go at the speed I was going, a little bit offline, you just kind of hit all the standing water, and the wet tyres, with how much water was coming down, these bumps as well in the bottom of Raidillon going through Eau Rouge, it was too much for what I had to do.
“I think at the end of the day I guess my mistake, and my bad. But I didn’t feel like I was taking too many risks at the same time. I think it was just the conditions were was so tough. And from what I heard a lot of other drivers were complaining that it should get stopped at the same time. So yeah, of course, I was frustrated and annoyed, but we’ll try and make up for it. I’m just excited [to go racing], I am ok. Obviously the car wasn’t and the boys have got a big job to do to putting everything back to how it should be. And, I don’t think we know just yet the extent of everything and where I’m going to be starting on the grid.
“Also, I’m very happy for George as well. I was watching him in the ambulance on the way I wanted to watch qualifying still then and cheering on George to go for the pole. So, I am excited to get out, anything can happen and we got a good pace. It was really nice to drive and it’s cool. It’s fun conditions to drive in, maybe not quite at bit. The whole of Q1 and Q2 was challenging, but it’s what we love as drivers.”
Leclerc: “I think in qualifying we weren’t that bad; I think we maybe went a little bit early in the last run of Q2 with the tyres but in the car I was frustrated. But I have to say now I completely understand the choice once the team explained to me the reason. There was some rain on the radar and it’s always so difficult to know if it’s going to be five minutes early or five minutes late and today it was five minutes late. It’s life, it’s part of racing, and we’ll try and maximise the race result.”
Ricciardo: “It was a good session, if I look back, obviously the end result is good. And I think to get to that in these conditions, obviously these conditions, definitely require significant amount of confidence and feel with the car, so I think I chipped away at it. I was definitely a bit off in Q1 and I think Q2 made a good step and then by Q3 I was getting a bit better, and getting a bit closer to the edge. So, maybe if there was Q4, I’d be further up again. But, yeah, generally happy just to come back from the break as well and get out on the front foot, and yeah, just kind of have a good solid session in the wet and keep it steady and that we’re at the pointy end, which is nice.”
Alonso: “It was not a good day from my side. I have to say that on the last lap, it was all down to the outlap, to be honest, because we had no time to cross the line. So, I had to race with Stroll all the outlap just to make on time to start the time lap. And I finished the tire on the outlap. That’s as simple as that. In Q1 I was I think like half a tenth in front of Esteban. In Q2 attempt one I was half a tenth behind Esteban, so we were always you know half a tenth up and down.
“And then on the last attempt, as I said, I finished the tire on outlap, fighting with Stroll for the time. So even with that, imagine that I put the lap together and I’m P11 or P10, you know, and you are into Q3, then if you see our times in Q3 we are one second from the guy in front of us in P8. So there is something definitely missing on these conditions. So we are investigating that and hopefully we can improve for next time. But yeah, it’s a little bit of a mix. Lack of my experience in wet, a little bit of bad luck with timings, and a little bit of more work that we need to do as a team to be more competitive in these conditions.”
At the back, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen rued the lack of running earlier in the day, which left him too much to do in a quick Q1 session. He couldn’t push enough, as Antonio Giovinazzi didn’t get time for a one final push. On Haas’ side, Nikita Mazepin admitted to lack of experience on tyre side and a switch to intermediate, he didn’t get the confidence soon enough. The lack of experience also played a role in AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda’s ouster.
Here’s onboard of George Russell’s lap: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-belgian-gp-qualifying-onboard-for-george-russells-brilliant-p2-lap.1709357500745043895.html
Here’s Sebastian Vettel stopping to check on Lando Norris: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-belgian-gp-qualifying-vettel-stops-to-check-norris-is-ok-after-crash.1709349804469828953.html
Here’s a frustrated Charles Leclerc on radio: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-belgian-gp-qualifying-q2-exit-disappoints-leclerc.1709347310980246927.html
Here’s how F1 Belgian GP qualifying panned out