Verstappen dominated Saturday’s qualifying session by setting a time of more than six tenths faster than second-placed Carlos Sainz, but will relinquish pole to the Ferrari driver due to an engine-related grid penalty.
With Verstappen beating the five other drivers who have been relegated to the back of the grid for exceeding the power limit, the damage from Verstappen’s engine change is limited to 15th on the grid ahead of Charles Leclerc’s second Ferrari.
Historically, drivers starting from that position have tended to lose around 10 seconds in the first two laps until DRS becomes available, although with a clean start Verstappen may be able to narrow his gap to Sainz and team-mate Sergio Perez at the front of the race. field.
With competitors stunned by Red Bull’s dominant form over the first race weekend after the summer break, Mercedes’ Russell thinks Verstappen will be able to “cut” through the field and even win the race.
“I think Max will go through it and probably win the race quite comfortably,” Russell said after qualifying, a depressing 2.1 seconds behind the Dutchman.
“I think he and Red Bull are miles ahead of everyone. I don’t really know about Charles, to be honest.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo By: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
When asked whether winning for the tens of thousands of Dutch fans who flocked to Spa is a possibility, Verstappen replied: “A podium should be the minimum with a car this good. It would be a shame not to. .”
For Russell, however, the options to move the order on Sunday are much more limited in the Mercedes.
He explained that the Brackley team failed to get the tires in the right window just one race after the Briton took pole when he qualified eighth behind teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Penalties for Verstappen, Leclerc and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon will now see Russell start fifth and fear he and Hamilton, who starts fourth, will end up in “no man’s land”.
“I think we should be able to beat Fernando” [Alonso, who starts third] and we’ll probably end up in no man’s land behind the front four and ahead of everyone else,” Russell said.
“We know we don’t have a car that is two seconds off the pace, so we obviously didn’t do well today. This is a bit of a one-off, but still it’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow when you put it on pole in the last race.”