SPA-FRANCHORCHAMPS, Belgium—Even if he was close to striking the barriers at Puchon in the second session of qualifying Friday afternoon, Max Verstappen concentrated in the final minutes to take another pole, this time for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, by recording a time of 1:46:148 ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.
Despite the pole time for the Dutchman, Verstappen will still have to start the race in sixth because of too many components being used during the season.
"It was very tight.” Admitted Verstappen. “Of course, the conditions are very tricky, the track was really drying quickly and yeah, my final lap, i just didn't have that confidence in Q2 to push more and I was very lucky to be in P10.
In Q3, you have two tyre sets and you can push a little bit more, you can risk a little bit more and that's what we did on that final lap.”
The track was wet at the beginning of qualifying, but as the sessions moved on, the circuit began to dry as the Sun appeared just following the second session, and many drivers changed to slick tyres. This made the times drop rapidly. Leclerc began with having the best time of the opening session, as the Wiliams pair of Alex Albon and Logan Sargant, along with Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, Haas F1’s Nico Hulkenberg and Alpha Tauri’s Daniel Ricciardo, who had recorded the sixth fastest time of that opening session, but his time was deleted because of exceeding track limits.
The drying circuit gave McLaren’s Oscar Piastri the second session’s best time as the Alpine pair of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly with Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen failed to advance.
For the rest of the top ten, Mercedes had Lewis Hamilton take fourth with his teammate George Russell eighth, the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz fifth, with McLaren finishing with Piastri and Lando Norris sixth and seventh. The two Aston Martin’s of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll took ninth and tenth.
Saturday will have another sprint race for the season, but a predicted rain forecast, and a long circuit might make for exciting racing. But Verstappen knows that he has won before with a penalty and it might be challenging, but the result for qualifying will have to be accepted.
"I know that I have to drop back on Sunday with the penalty,” added Verstappen, “I have but it was the best I could do today."
By Mark Gero