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Formula 1

Leclerc gets Belgian GP pole after Verstappen penalty

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc secured pole position for Formula 1’s Belgian Grand Prix in a wet-dry qualifying, though the penalised Max Verstappen set the fastest time.

Verstappen had a grid penalty confirmed during the session for exceeding his gearbox allocation for the season, and will therefore line up sixth on the grid.

The start of qualifying was delayed by 10 minutes following a Formula 2 qualifying session that was first red-flagged due to a single-car incident and then effectively neutralised by strong rainfall.

But it abated in time for the F1 session, and as the track dried teams switched over en masse from intermediate tyres to slicks in the closing minutes of the second segment, with the entirety of the pole shootout carried out on soft rubber.

Verstappen had a fairly tetchy discussion with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase at the conclusion of the second segment, in which he finished only 10th.

That led to Verstappen vocally criticising the run plan and sequence of push laps as “s**t execution” – his criticisms then exasperatedly shot down by a sardonic Lambiase.

Verstappen then put it aside to dominate in Q3 courtesy of a final run that marked an improvement of nearly two seconds. He then apologised to Lambiase on the cooldown lap for “ranting”.

F1 2023 R12 Q

The laptime placed him eight tenths clear of nearest rival Leclerc, who had been fastest after the opening set of runs.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was eighth after his first Q3 attempt but ultimately rebounded to grab third place, which will translate to a front-row start.

Lewis Hamilton grabbed fourth in Q3 for Mercedes and will be joined on the second row by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, under two tenths down on Leclerc despite the three-place gap.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri is the lowest-placed driver to benefit from Verstappen’s grid drop, and will line up fifth, right ahead of the Dutchman.

Piastri’s team-mate Lando Norris was three tenths off and seventh overall, looking on the back foot throughout qualifying ever since going off in the second part of Stavelot and sustaining apparent damage in the opening minutes of Q1.

The Q3 order was completed by George Russell – seven tenths off team-mate Hamilton – and the Aston Martin duo Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.

Hamilton was put under investigation for a potential case of rejoining the track unsafely after an off-track moment at Eau Rouge during Q1 in which he rejoined ahead of Russell, but the stewards took no further action after talking to the Mercedes team-mates.

Fresh off the news that it was parting ways with several more senior figures in its F1 set-up, Alpine saw both its A523s denied Q3.

Esteban Ocon went off on slicks in Q2 coming through the downhill Liege left-hander, better known as the corner with no name, and damaged his car against the barrier, dragging the right endplate of his structurally-compromised front wing back to the pits to end his session.

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda ended up fastest of those eliminated in Q2, nearly four tenths down on the on-the-bubble Verstappen, and followed by Ocon’s team-mate Pierre Gasly.

Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) also slotted in ahead of Ocon in the Q2 order, with Magnussen having gone off through that same Liege corner and likewise tapped the barrier, albeit with less consequential damage. He was later given a three-place grid penalty for blocking Leclerc after rejoining, so falls to 16th.

Williams, which had earmarked Spa as a potential prime scoring opportunity for its low-drag FW45, didn’t impress in wet conditions – with both of its cars eliminated in the first segment.

Alex Albon was 16th, three tenths off advancing, compromised by a late off-track detour through Bruxelles. He has also been placed under investigation for how he rejoined after that, with Gasly having been on a fast lap behind him.

His rookie team-mate Logan Sargeant – kept in the pits for the first half of Q1 as the team continued to work on his FW45, damaged in a practice crash – only managed to get to 1.2s off Albon once he’d joined.

That was still good enough for 18th though, the Williams pair split by Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu yet Sargeant ahead of both AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo and Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg.

Ricciardo had set a laptime that, though four tenths off Tsunoda’s, would’ve comfortably put him through to Q2, but it came as he, in his own words, “lost it a bit and drifted wide” coming up to the left-hander at Eau Rouge, cutting the kink as a result and making the laptime invalid.

His previous-best time was still good enough to keep him clear of Hulkenberg, at least, the German stymied by a hydraulic issue during the session and sent out too late, running out of time to do anything more than log a fruitless outlap on a drying track.

Qualifying Results

Pos Name Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m58.515s 1m52.784s 1m46.168s
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m58.3s 1m52.17s 1m46.988s
3 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 1m58.899s 1m52.353s 1m47.45s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m58.563s 1m52.345s 1m47.87s
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1m58.688s 1m51.711s 1m47.152s
6 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1m58.872s 1m51.534s 1m47.365s
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1m59.981s 1m52.252s 1m47.669s
8 George Russell Mercedes 1m59.35s 1m52.605s 1m47.805s
9 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m58.834s 1m52.751s 1m47.843s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m59.663s 1m52.193s 1m48.841s
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1m59.44s 1m53.148s
12 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1m59.511s 1m53.671s
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 2m0.2s 1m54.16s
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m59.484s 1m54.694s
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1m59.634s 1m56.372s
16 Alex Albon Williams-Mercedes 2m0.314s
17 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 2m0.832s
18 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 2m01.535s
19 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 2m02.159s
20 Nico Hülkenberg Haas-Ferrari 2m03.166s
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