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Formula 1

Verstappen denies Russell dramatic Belgian GP pole position

by Glenn Freeman
7 min read

Max Verstappen denied George Russell a sensational maiden Formula 1 pole position in a thrilling wet Belgian Grand Prix qualifying session.

Russell produced a superb final Q3 effort that put him on provisional pole, beating F1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton by just 0.013s.

But Verstappen posted a 1m59.765s in the dying stages of Q3 to deny Williams its first pole since the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix.

George Russell Williams F1 2021 Belgian GP

It marks Verstappen’s first pole since the second weekend at the Red Bull Ring.

Q3 was red-flagged after just three minutes following a frightening shunt for Lando Norris at the top of the hill at Eau Rouge, as he lost control of his McLaren and speared into the barriers.

Norris emerged from his car seemingly unscathed although he destroyed three of the four corners on his car and will likely need to start tomorrow’s race from the pitlane.

Norris had topped both Q1 and Q2 and looked likely to be in the mix to secure his maiden F1 pole before a rain shower before Q3 caught him out in the pole position shootout.

After a delay of around 40 minutes while the rain intensified and then receded, Q3 resumed with the nine remaining cars.

Verstappen claimed pole ahead of Russell, Hamilton and Norris’s McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who earned his best qualifying result for the team in fourth place.

Sebastian Vettel was left fuming that Q3 wasn’t red-flagged prior to Norris’s crash, and stopped to check on the McLaren driver as he drove through the debris, but he was able to take fifth place on the grid when the session resumed.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly edged the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez to sixth place, with Valtteri Bottas eighth – although he’ll start five places further back because of his grid penalty for causing the Hungarian GP opening lap pile-up.

Hungarian GP victor Esteban Ocon was ninth ahead of Norris.

Prior to Q3, Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Bottas scraped their way through Q2, requiring a fresh set of intermediate tyres to haul themselves into the top 10 shootout.

A frustrated Hamilton told his Mercedes team that it was “way too close” after he and Bottas were outside the top 10 until their final laps.

Ferrari suffered a double elimination in Q2 with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz 11th and 13th respectively.

They were split by the Williams of Nicholas Latifi who survived a spin in Q1 to record his best ever F1 qualifying result in 12th place in Q2.

Fernando Alonso couldn’t make the most of his last driver on track position in Q2 as he was grounded to 14th on the grid, just ahead of the second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll who will start at the back of the grid when a five-place grid penalty is applied for his part in the opening lap Hungarian GP calamity.

A wet but progressively drying Q1 teased the potential for shock eliminations with the Williams drivers starting the session on intermediates while the rest of the field opted for full wets, but the final bottom five featured regular Q1 dropouts.

Antonio Giovinazzi was 16th for Alfa Romeo, but he was half a second adrift of a sixth consecutive Q2 appearance. He was followed by F1 rookies Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) and Mick Schumacher (Haas).

Kimi Raikkonen’s troubled Spa weekend continued as he could only secure 19th place on the grid, labelling the session a “disaster” – he was only faster than the Haas of Nikita Mazepin.

Qualifying Results

Pos Name Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m58.717s 1m56.559s 1m59.765s
2 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m59.864s 1m56.95s 2m0.086s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m59.218s 1m56.229s 2m0.099s
4 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 2m01.583s 1m57.127s 2m0.864s
5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 2m0.175s 1m56.814s 2m0.935s
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 2m0.387s 1m56.44s 2m01.164s
7 Sergio Pérez Red Bull-Honda 1m59.334s 1m56.886s 2m02.112s
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m59.87s 1m56.295s 2m02.502s
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 2m01.824s 1m57.354s 2m03.513s
10 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1m58.301s 1m56.025s
11 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 2m0.728s 1m57.721s
12 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 2m0.966s 1m58.056s
13 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 2m01.184s 1m58.137s
14 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 2m01.653s 1m58.205s
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 2m01.597s 1m58.231s
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 2m02.306s
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 2m02.413s
18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 2m03.973s
19 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 2m04.452s
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 2m04.939s
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