Photo: Ferrari Media Centre

F1: Verstappen fastest in Qualifying but grid penalty gives Leclerc Pole Position

Max Verstappen was fastest in qualifying as he put in three purple sectors but the two-time World Champion won’t be lining up on the front row as he faces a five-place grid for taking a fifth gearbox this season.

Therefore, the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc will start first for the race on Sunday. It’s the second year in a row that Ferrari has inherited pole position from the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.


The F1 circus traveled to Belgium and the final grand prix qualifying session before the summer break started with a 10-minute delay. Qualifying of course taking place on Friday due to the Sprint format being used this weekend.


As the fans waited patiently, so did the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell who sat at the end of the pint lane for at least six minutes waiting for the light to go green.

Ten minutes after the original start time and cars were on the track and there was a lot of spray with drivers opting for the intermediate tyres as they tried to fight their way through the spray and keep their cars within track limits.


Lando Norris took his McLaren for a brief dip in the gravel which he managed to save before any impact with the barrier. Logan Sargeant was late to join the qualifying party as his Williams remained in the garage for the start of Q1.

The drivers were well aware that the track was developing and that the fastest times would come as Q1 drew to an end, with Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Logan Sergeant, Zhou Guanyu and Alex Albon all being eliminated.


Alex Albon made it back-to-back Q1 eliminations after he had three consecutive Q3 appearances, but Hungary and Belgium have seen his Williams not make it any further than the first part of qualifying. More problems may face Albon as a potentially dangerous rejoining of the track will see him called to the Stewards after the session.


It was a step back from Nico Hulkenberg’s Q3 appearance last time out in Hungary as he faced a hydraulic issue which meant he didn’t take back to the track with enough time to put in the lap he would’ve wanted.

There was also a disappointing elimination for Daniel Ricciardo, who put in a lap that would have taken him to Q2, but was deleted for track limits and saw him qualify in P19, not the second weekend back in F1 he would’ve wanted.


Q2 was well underway and drivers continued to remain on those intermediate tyres. With 12 minutes remaining, Lando Norris was still yet to leave the pitlane after that Q1 incident the team confirmed they were checking his car over.

Lewis Hamilton took his car wide and that would be a good explanation as to why his Mercedes was so far down the standings with eight minutes to go.


Valtteri Bottas was the first driver to switch onto the softs which was quickly replicated by Oscar Piastri and Esteban Ocon. The Alpine driver’s qualifying came to a sharp end after his Alpine hit the wall he would have to hope his work from earlier would be enough to get him through to Q3, which it wasn’t and he was eliminated.


The track was drastically ramping up as each new driver to cross the line improved on their previous laps. Verstappen only just managed to get his Red Bull through to Q3, after a final lap that could be described as scruffy for the defending World Champion. It would still be no shock that after appearing in Q3 at every race this season except for Jeddah where he qualified P15.


Q3 saw Yuki Tsunoda, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon all eliminated and out of qualifying with the top ten progressing to the shootout for pole position.


Spa-Francorchamps is a very significant track here for many drivers as they remember those drivers who lost their life pursuing their dreams including Pierre Gasly’s close friend Anthoine Hubert, who tragically lost his life in 2019. Young FRECA driver, Dilano van ‘t Hoff, also lost his life at the circuit a short time ago, with Gasly leading a special track run and paid tribute to both motorsport stars taken for too soon.


There was a short delay in Q3 starting as marshalls had to take to the track and clear up the gravel which was made after Ocon hit the wall and ultimately destroyed his front wing. The French driver will be hoping to finish the race on Sunday with a positive result after two DNF’s in a row.



The Aston Martins were first to take to the track, coming out two by two with the McLaren pair followed by the Mercedes’. This was changed when Max Verstappen took to the track with Charles Leclerc behind him then Sergio Perez and finally Carlos Sainz.

All the drivers made it round to start one final flying flap with George Russell being the last to cross the line before the chequered flag with two seconds to spare.


At the end of the session, it was Verstappen fastest overall but it will be Leclerc starting on Pole Position, being joined by Sergio Perez on the front row for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

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