F1 Belgian GP: Verstappen tops qualifying, Sainz inherits pole

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The defending champion chose not to take part in the final shootout in Q3, knowing he will start from the back of the grid due to a drop for exceeding his piece allowance.

Nevertheless, his banker lap was so emphatic that he outperformed the session by six-tenths of a second, as a sloppy Sainz last flying lap meant the Spaniard failed to improve on death.

Sergio Perez will join the Ferrari on the front row of the grid, while Leclerc will meet Verstappen as the pair are poised to finish in 15th and 16th place.

Verstappen was in a league of his own after the first round of flying laps in the climax to qualifying, the Dutch ace romping to a 1m43.665s – the only sub 1m44s round of the weekend.

That gave him an amazing 0.632s in hand on Sainz, while Perez was third and a further two tenths back before his lap was marked for crossing the track limits in Raidillon.

Leclerc, meanwhile, was fourth after initially being sent off on a set of scrubbed softs.

Although Alpines, Mercedes, Lando Norris and Alex Albon were also released on used rubber, Ferrari admitted via team radio that this was a mistake.

Team boss Mattia Binotto even looked intimately pointing a gun to his head on the pit wall after Leclerc crossed the line.

Leclerc then ducked back out of the pits after his only attempt to get Sainz out of La Source and drag his teammate down the long Kemmel straight.

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Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

Photo by: Erik Junius

But the tactic proved futile as Sainz missed his personal best in the first sector before cutting the gravel through Les Fanges to finish in a 1m44.714s and failing to improve.

That made his previous 1m44,297s his best attempt, but the British GP winner has no penalties to carry over to the grid and will start first.

Perez also failed to improve on his second attempt, while Esteban Ocon (also destined to be sent to the back of the grid) pipped Alpine teammate Fernando Alonso for a team 5-6 result.

Lewis Hamilton led George Russell for seventh and eighth place, the W13s were about 1.8 seconds behind Verstappen.

Mercedes appears to be on the back foot for what was arguably its best shot at a 2022 race win, given Verstappen and Leclerc’s reprimand.

Albon shone in Q3 as Williams let his straight-line speed count in the opening sector (Albon ran the fastest of all), while the Thai-Brit clocked ninth and is poised to finish sixth.

Norris, meanwhile, opted for a second flying lap and finished 10th in Q3, but he too has to sit out penalties.

Albon’s late sprint across the finish line in Q2 left Daniel Ricciardo 0.1 seconds behind, although the outgoing McLaren driver will start in seventh place, subject to grid penalties.

Ricciardo initially stayed in the garage to pin all his hopes on one flying lap, and with team-mate Norris destined to start at the back, Ricciardo got a drag from the Briton.

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The McLarens teamed up on the Kemmel straight, but even the Australian ran slower than Norris’ likely unassisted lap to finish 10th before Albon improved across the line.

That demoted Ricciardo, where he was joined on the sidelines by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Zhou Guanyu in the Alfa Romeo, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher, who was 15th fastest.

Neither Red Bull needed a second bite of the icing so he stayed in the garage, leaving the door open for Leclerc to finish late in Q2 with 0.15s thanks to his 1m44.551s effort.

However, his banker was only good enough for sixth – the Ferrari driver had mowed the grass in his “very strange” car before losing the rear end via the Bus Stop chicane.

Perez finished Q2 just 0.07s adrift of Verstappen was a bit flattered by him running fresh soft Pirellis as the defending champion practiced his trade on a scrubbed set of tyres.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin

Photo By: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Sebastian Vettel was the first driver to miss a Q2 appearance, the outgoing Aston Martin driver was eliminated again in the first 18-minute session.

The four-time champion crossed the line just 0.002 seconds adrift of the cut-off, which had put his effective protégé Schumacher in 15th place following the Haas driver’s late improvement.

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With Verstappen well ahead of Sainz by 0.5s after their bench laps, neither Red Bull nor Ferrari drivers opted for a second flying lap as they occupy the top four.

The remaining 15 cars, with Ocon then fifth, started with 3m30s to go and felt the advantage of the track evolution as all those in the bottom five started to improve.

Yuki Tsunoda was 15th at the time and the first driver to be in danger, and the AlphaTauri driver didn’t take his chances when he locked up en masse in the Bus Stop chicane to finish the corner before being duly bumped to 19th .

He was only faster than Valtteri Bottas, but the Alfa Romeo driver was already destined to start at the back of the grid due to a 20-place penalty for replacing parts – just like Norris, Schumacher, Ocon, Zhou, Leclerc and Verstappen.

As a result, it seems likely that despite his mistake, Tsunoda will start the race in 13th place.

Kevin Magnussen was only 18th, behind Nicholas Latifi in 17th place – Canadian Williams teammate Albon used the low downforce FW44 to destroy the fast opening sector and climbed to sixth in Q1.

The start of qualifying was delayed 25 minutes, it was announced 15 minutes before the start of the session, due to repairs to the Les Fagnes barrier following a Porsche Supercup shunt.

F1 Belgian GP Qualifying Result

Q3

Starting position

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