Verstappen pips Russell for Belgian Grand Prix pole.
Max Verstappen secured his sixth pole position of the season in one of the most incredible qualifying sessions of the season. Verstappen squeezed out Williams‘ George Russell to take pole position, with Mercedes‘ Lewis Hamilton starting P3. McLaren‘s Daniel Ricciardo shares the second row with Hamilton as Aston Martin‘s Sebastian Vettel and AlphaTauri‘s Pierre Gasly start on the third row. Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Pérez, who recently signed a new one-year deal with the team, starts seventh ahead of Ocon, who will start eighth, as Bottas who originally finished eighth will drop down to 13th due to grid penalties for his role in the opening lap crash in Hungary. Lando Norris rounds off the top 10 after the McLaren driver sat out the final qualifying session following a major crash that had brought out the red flag. Norris himself might end up starting outside the top 10, though, given the damage sustained from his crash; he might begin the race from the pit lane.
A wet qualifying session saw plenty of surprises as both Ferraris failed to make it to Q3 as did Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. With the weather forecasted to be wet on Sunday as well, it will not come as a surprise if we see a shock podium or surprise winner once again. George Russell, who starts on the second row for only the second time in his career and the first time in a Williams car, will be raring to go out on Sunday to maximise what will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, starting on the front row in a Williams. Incidentally, Williams’ last front row start also came during a wet session, four years ago at the 2017 Italian Grand Prix. All eyes will be on the young Brit to see if he can manage to hold on to his sensational qualifying effort or if he falls through the grid like a stone.
Qualifying Session 1 – (Eliminated – Antonio Giovinazzi, Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen and Nikita Mazepin)
Persistent rainfall meant a delayed qualifying finally got underway with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly the first to break into the 2:10s. Although most of the grid started on Wets, it was both the Williams drivers who went the quickest of the session on the Inters.
As the rest of the field put on the Inters, normalcy resumed with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz going top of the table with a 2:02.057s, but was quickly replaced at the top by McLaren’s Lando Norris with a 1:58.776s, the first man to break into the 1:50s. With less than two minutes to go, the elimination zone had Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin, Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel, all of whom were on the cusp of elimination. Vettel put in a better lap to get himself out of the elimination zone but that left Yuki Tsunoda, with neither Haas nor Alfa Romeo able to have either of their drivers get out of Q1. Up top, Norris ended the session with a 1:58.301s, the fastest of the session.
Qualifying Session 2 – (Eliminated – Charles Leclerc, Nicholas Latifi, Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll)
It was the Williams of Latifi who led the cars away from the pit lane as Q2 got underway. The McLaren of Lando Norris once again set the benchmark time for the session with a 1:57.235s. Norris stayed on top right throughout as all the cars set their initial timings, and it was Verstappen who was closest to the Brit, three-hundredths down on the McLaren.
With just over four minutes to go, Verstappen finally managed to topple Norris with a 1:56.559s to go top of the table. As the cars set off for the final flying laps, both Mercedes drivers found themselves in a spot of bother being P11 and P12. Hamilton managed to put in a solid banker lap to go P2. His teammate followed suit and slotted in P3 just behind him. At the drop of the chequered flag, both Ferrari drivers along with Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll were eliminated. The Scuderia were the shock of the session and misjudgement on the weather led to the Italian team seeing their drivers miss out on Q3 for second year running at Spa.
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Qualifying Session 3 – Verstappen masters the wet conditions
Like Q2, the final top 10 shootout also got underway with a Williams leading the cars out of the pit lane. As the rain came down heavier, the teams shifted back to the Wets from their sets of Inters on which they had set their Q2 times.
Norris set out to put in the opening time of the charts but on his first flying lap had a major crash heading into Raidillon, which saw the McLaren driver lose it and take a heavy impact onto the barriers before bouncing back on to the track. Fortunately, the young Brit walked away from the high impact crash without any serious injuries, but the event brought out the first red flag of the session and ruled the McLaren driver out of it.
As the session resumed, the remaining Alpine of Esteban Ocon was the first on the track. It was Lewis Hamilton though who got the first time of session on board with a 2:01.552s with just over three minutes to go. Verstappen, who was quicker than Hamilton in the first sector, could only manage P2, almost a second behind his championship rival.
As the cars started the final flying laps, George Russell drove the wheels of his Williams to take an incredible provisional pole to everyone’s shock, but the Williams driver’s joy was short lived as Verstappen took away pole position with a sensational 1:59.765s lap.
The Starting Grid
*Based on damage sustained.
Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll will both start five places below their final positions as they will be taking grid penalties for causing crashes at the Hungarian Grand Prix.