F1 preview: A lap of the Belgian Grand Prix
Max Verstappen finished a staggering eight-tenths clear of his nearest challenger in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. However, the Red Bull star accepting a five-place grid penalty means it’s Charles Leclerc who will start Sunday’s race on pole, with Lewis Hamilton missing a golden chance to notch a second qualifying triumph on the trot.
Hamilton may have fancied his chances coming into the race weekend. The Brit clinched pole position in Hungary last time out, and with four career victories, he is the most successful driver among the current crop around Spa Francorchamps.
He and his fellow F1 competitors were initially kept waiting as organisers delayed the start of qualifying by 10 minutes to let the track dry out as much as possible. Once underway, Leclerc set the pace in a damp Q1, with Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon the biggest casualties to fall early on.
Oscar Piastri impressed by sitting top of the leaderboard at the end of the second qualifying session, which finally saw intermediates give way to soft-compound tyres.
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And there was a very nervy moment for Verstappen, whose decision to take a new gearbox will see him start Sunday’s main event in P6, as he narrowly squeaked through to Q3 in 10th place, sparking a fiery row over the team radio.
In predictable fashion, the Dutchman came good when it mattered. A blistering final flying lap saw him shoot up to the top of the pile, finishing almost a second clear of Leclerc and Sergio Perez. However, the penalty means that Verstappen’s dominance counts for little as Perez and Leclerc will share the front row.
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RESULTS IN FULL
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – five-place grid penalty.
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
6. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)
7. Lando Norris (McLaren)
8. George Russell (Mercedes)
9. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
11. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri)
12. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)
13. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
14. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
15. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
16. Alex Albon (Williams)
17. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
18. Logan Sargeant (Williams)
19. Daniel Ricciardo (Alpha Tauri)
20. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)
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