Race Weekend Central

Max Verstappen Survives Chaotic Qualifying for Pole in Belgium

Max Verstappen topped Friday’s (July 28) qualifying session at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps after barely escaping a shock elimination from Q2 earlier in the day.

Verstappen, though technically on pole, was assessed a five-place grid penalty after swapping gearboxes on his RB19 on Friday morning. Second-place-qualifier Charles Leclerc will start in first place for the Belgian Grand Prix. Sergio Perez, who qualified third, will inherit second place on the grid while Verstappen will start from sixth once his penalty is taken into account.

“It was very tight!” Verstappen told Sky Sports’ Tom Kristensen after the session.

“Of course the conditions, they are very tricky. The track was drying quickly and my final lap, I just didn’t have that confidence in Q2 to push more. I was already lucky to be in P10. But then, of course in Q3 you have two tire sets, you know that you can push a little bit more … that’s what we did on that final lap.

“To be on pole again, I know I have to drop back on Sunday with the penalty I have, but it was the best I could do today.”

Q3

The blistering pace the McLaren squad had put together in Q2 and Q1 seemed to fall off during Q3 as the track grew even faster as it continued to dry. Oscar Piastri netted a sixth-place result with teammate Lando Norris close behind in seventh.

The Ferrari pair of Leclerc in Carlos Sainz briefly looked set to sweep the front row before being unseated by the Red Bulls. Leclerc qualified in second while Sainz ended the day fifth fastest, separated from his teammate by fourth-placed Lewis Hamilton.

There we no on-track incidents in Q3.

8. George Russell

9. Fernando Alonso

10. Lance Stroll

See also
Alpine Team Principal Out After Belgium

Q2

Midway through Q2 Valtteri Bottas released the genie and tried his hand on a set of soft tires as the track approached a properly dry state. The following onslaught of flying laps saw times drop by a whopping seven seconds.

Verstappen ended the session in 10th, barely above the cutoff line. The Dutchman’s space in Q3 was only saved by subpar laps from Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly, both of whom followed Verstappen across the line at the end of the second session.

Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Perez finished the session in seventh while Piastri topped Q2 by ahead of Sainz and Leclerc.

Esteban Ocon interrupted the tire drama when he swiped the wall at the exit of turn 11, damaging his front wing in the process. Magnussen likewise found the wall in turn 11 toward the end of the session. Magnussen was eliminated and will start in 13th place. Ocon will line up 15th for Sunday’s race.

Eliminated from Q2 were:

11. Yuki Tsunoda

12. Gasly

13. Magnussen

14. Bottas

15. Ocon

Q1

The start of qualifying was delayed due to concerns regarding wet conditions on track.

Russell was the first driver to set a flying lap, though speeds dropped throughout the session as grip – and visibility – improved. Russell opened the session and set the first flying lap, but managed an eighth-fastest time at the end of Q1 as the pace around Spa picked up by almost three seconds during the first session.

Daniel Ricciardo found the major heartbreak in the opening round as his then-sixth-fastest time was deleted for a track limits violation at the exit of Raidillon. The Australian dropped from a provisional sixth place to 19th on the grid as a result of this infringement.

Logan Sargeant was among the last to take to the track after the Williams team opted for a precautionary gearbox change before sending the American out for his qualifying effort. Sargeant struggled for pace throughout Q1 and was only able to manage an 18th-place starting spot when the checkered flag fell.

Eliminated from Q1 were:

16. Alex Albon

17. Zhou Guanyu

18. Sargeant

19. Ricciardo

20. Nico Hulkenberg

2023 F1 Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying Results

Saturday (July 29) will feature the Sprint race at 10:30 a.m. ET, with the Sprint Shootout qualifying session at 6 a.m. ET. The 2023 Belgian Grand Prix will take place on Sunday, July 30 at 9 a.m. ET with coverage on ESPN.

About the author

Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

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