Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified for the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix, but Carlos Sainz will start on pole position for Ferrari after grid penalties came into play at Spa-Francorchamps.
With seven drivers – Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas – receiving grid penalties, the rest of the field essentially faced the top 13 positions on the grid.
As a result, in the messy Q3 lap for P2, Sainz will start first ahead of Sergio Perez, while Verstappen and Leclerc will drop to P15 and P16 respectively after qualifying P1 and P4 overall.
Ocon qualified fifth ahead of Fernando Alonso in P6 ahead of Alpine, but the Frenchman will fall behind Leclerc. Lewis Hamilton took P7 ahead of Mercedes teammate George Russell, while Alex Albon reached Q3 for the first time this season and qualified ninth for the time being.
Of course, those four drivers will each promote three places, while 10th place qualifier Lando Norris will start 18th on the grid.
Daniel Ricciardo missed the top 10 by finishing 11th for McLaren in Q2, while Pierre Gasly finished 12th ahead of AlphaTauri. Zhou Guanyu, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher were eliminated in Q2 from P13 to P15 respectively. However, penalties for others see Ricciardo, Gasly and Stroll starting in the top 10 on Sunday – and Zhou and Schumacher starting in the back row.
Q1 was delayed by 25 minutes and when the session started it was Verstappen who set the benchmark for Sainz and Perez as Sebastian Vettel was knocked out in P16 by 0.002s, followed by Williams’ Nicholas Latifi in P17 – that pair would promote in a P10 respectively and P11 on the net.
Kevin Magnussen van Haas finished 18th due to a lock-up at Turn 8, Yuki Tsunoda next in P19 after getting badly stuck in the last chicane, and Valtteri Bottas rounding out the standings in P20. That trio jumps to P12, P13 and P14 respectively for Sunday’s race.
AS IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Verstappen sets the pace in one take
Grid penalties were the talk of the town in the paddock at Spa-Francorchamps on Friday and Saturday. Those hit with back-of-grid penalties for the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix are: FP2 leader Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris, Ocon, Zhou and Schumacher. Meanwhile, Bottas has 20 penalty spots for his component picks.
Sainz and Perez would therefore have an excellent chance of taking pole, as two of the 13 drivers are not waiting for penalties ahead of Sunday’s grand prix – but they would all have to wait as Q1 was 25 minutes late on a Porsche Supercup crash and the resulting repairs.
However, it was Verstappen who proved the driver beat in Q1 when he set the early goal of 1m 44.581s, Sainz dropped to P2 with 0.469s and Perez third with 0.796s to leave Leclerc almost a second behind in P4 – with Stroll, Latifi, Schumacher and both Alfa Romeos in the provisional drop zone.
Mercedes struggled to warm up their tires and started Q1 with a series of flying efforts with Russell finishing 10th and Hamilton 11th. There was still time to improve the whole field, although neither the Red Bulls nor the Ferraris came out for a second run.
With raindrops reported by Eau Rouge, Russell rounded out the top five by 1,069 seconds, with Albon finishing sixth to split the Mercedes while Hamilton took P7. As a result, Norris remained eighth – Ricciardo dropped to P13 due to a track limit violation.
Ocon finished just ahead of Alonso as Alpine took P9 and P10, leaving Gasly in 12th place.
Stroll finished 14th, Schumacher tenth behind P15 – as Vettel was knocked out of Q1 by a margin of 0.002s over his compatriot. Latifi and Magnussen were next on the board as they missed Q2, the Haas driver locked up in Turn 8.
Alfa Romeo driver Bottas’ run of 148 Q1 progressions came to an end when he was eliminated in P20, behind Tsunoda – who locked up at the last chicane to finish P19 ahead of AlphaTauri.
Eliminated: Vettel, Latifi, Magnussen, Tsunoda, Bottas
Q2 – Leclerc leads Red Bulls as Albon makes it
Verstappen came out swinging in Q2 with a time of 1m 44.723s, his team-mate Perez down just 0.071s with his effort – while Sainz was a further six tenths behind P3 and team-mate Leclerc was sixth fastest after reporting his car ” jumping like crazy in the top of slow turns”.
Ricciardo was on P15 after the first runs failed to set a time, joining Albon, then Zhou, Stroll and Schumacher in the provisional drop zone.
When Ricciardo emerged, he was towed by McLaren counterpart Norris – Alpine followed suit, while Ocon Alonso dragged the straight away from Kemmel. Meanwhile, Red Bull decides to forgo another run.
Leclerc eventually jumped to P1 with a time of 1m 44.551s, leaving Verstappen in second with 0.172s and Perez 0.243s in P3. Sainz finished fourth in Q2, 0.867 seconds off the pace, after also deciding against another run – with Hamilton finishing fifth and Russell sixth.
Ocon finished eighth and dragged Alonso to ninth on his second run, while McLaren repeated Alpine’s teamwork with ninth-place Norris trailing Ricciardo – but the Australian could only finish eleventh and missed Q3 by a tenth of a second.
It was Williams’ Alex Albon who finished 10th in Q2, reaching the top 10 shootout for the first time this season and guaranteeing at least P6 on the grid.
Knockout: Ricciardo, Gasly, Zhou, Stroll, Schumacher
Q3 – Verstappen puts on a show, but Sainz secures pole
Verstappen, Ocon, Norris and Leclerc were the four drivers in Q3 who would be relegated to the back of the grid. Despite that, the Dutchman took his first flying lap to the top, a time of 1m 43,665s, giving him a six-tenths lead over Sainz in P2.
“Wait, what kind of tires are those?!” a stunned radio message came from Leclerc as he came forward for the top-10 shootout. Anticipating penalties, he would drag Sainz to help the Spaniard fight for pole – but the team had mistakenly put the Monegask with the wrong set of soft tyres.
Meanwhile, Perez had his lap of P3 disallowed for track limits, Leclerc completed his lap to take that third place despite the tire confusion.
The second runs came in and Verstappen decided to remain fastest man on track at the end of qualifying, while Leclerc emerged only to drag his teammate Raidillon and up the Kemmel Straight. The execution might have left something to be desired as Sainz lost three tenths in sector 1 alone and kicked up gravel to lose even more time in sector 2. He didn’t improve.
But neither were the top four, and while it was a qualifying win for Red Bull, Sainz would start on pole position after taking P2 in Q3 – Perez to join him on the front row, while Verstappen would drop to 15th and Leclerc 16th for Sunday ‘s race .
Although Ocon rounded out the top five, he will start 17th, with sixth place qualifier Alonso finishing third on the grid. Hamilton joins Alonso in row two and qualified seventh ahead of Mercedes teammate Russell, with Albon starting the race sixth and finishing ninth on Saturday.
Rounding out the top 10 in Q3, Norris will start 18th behind Ocon.
“It was okay. Happy to start on pole. Obviously not happy to see the gap to Max this weekend and the gap Red Bull has on us. We have to keep digging to see why Red Bull is so fast on this track and why we are chasing them but to start from pole is a good place to start and we will try to win from there tomorrow” – Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
Sainz and Perez lead from the front row, Verstappen and Leclerc chase the pack from P15 and P16, when the Belgian Grand Prix starts on Sunday at 1600 local time. Go to the RACE HUB for the full program.