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F1 – Verstappen tops qualifying in Belgium but grid penalties give Sainz pole

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Max Verstappen dominated Qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, beating Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to top spot by more than six tenths of a second, but grid penalties mean it’s the Spanish driver who will start tomorrow’s race from pole position with Sergio Pérez, set to start second in the second Red Bull. 

In the build-up to qualifying, seven drivers, including Verstappen, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Lando Norris took additional power unit elements and the grid drops set to be imposed by race officials overnight meant that the battle for grid positions was always going to have an unfamiliar outcome. 

The early pace in Q1 was set by another of the penalised drivers, Haas’ Mick Schumacher. The German set the first time of the day, a 1:47.929, but six minutes into the session, Verstappen powered past that with a lap of 1:44.581, while Pérez took P2 with a lap of 1:45.377. The Red Bull pair were split by Sainz who posted a time of 1:45.050 as Leclerc took fourth.

Both Red Bull drivers and both Ferrari men stayed in the garage for the final runs and behind the top four, Mercedes’ George Russell went through in fifth ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon who took a surprise sixth spot ahead of the second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. 

Further back, Sebastian Vettel narrowly missed out on a Q2 berth, with the Aston Martin driver being pushed into 16th place and the drop zone by Schumacher who went through 0.002s ahead of Vettel. Also eliminated at the end of Q1 were 17th-placed Nicholas Latifi in the second Williams, Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and in 20th place Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas. 

Verstappen and Pérez were among the first on track at the start of Q2, with Leclerc and Sainz following soon after. Verstappen jumped to the top of the order thanks to a lap of 1:44.723 that featured purple first and final sectors, while Pérez went purple in the middle sector to take P2, just seven hundredths of a second off his team-mate and six tenths clear of Sainz. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon took fourth ahead of Norris and Leclerc. 

Verstappen and Pérez again chose to sit out the second and final runs of Q2 and that allowed Leclerc, on new tyres, to take top spot with a lap of 1:44.551. Pérez held onto third ahead of Sainz and Hamilton progressed in fifth ahead of team-mate Russell. 

With his penalty in mind, Ocon gave Alpine team-mate Fernando Alonso a two to eighth place, but Norris’ efforts to do the same for McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo failed as Albon put in an excellent final lap of the segment to claim P10 just under a tenth clear of Ricciardo. Ruled out along with the Australian were AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Schumacher. 

At the start of the top-10 shootout, Pérez claimed P1 with a lap of 1:44.462. Verstappen went quicker, however, and the Dutchman took top spot with a lap of 1:43.665, more than six tenths of a second ahead of Sainz. Verstappen returned to the garage and confident in his opener the Dutch driver sat out the final runs of the session.

Leclerc, meanwhile, was only able to post a time of 1:44.553 to take fourth ahead of Norris and Russell. Lecler then provided Sainz with a tow in the final runs, but the Spanish driver’s final lap was scruffy, and he made no gains on Verstappen’s impressing opening time. But while the Dutchman took the honour of topping the timesheet, it’s Sainz who’ll start from the front of the grid, ahead of Pérez. Leclerc qualified fourth but his penalties will see him start from P16.

With penalties set to be applied overnight tomorrow’s race should see Alpine’s Alonso starting from third place ahead of Hamilton, with Russell in fifth ahead of Albon who grabs a surprise sixth-place start after qualifying ninth. Ricciardo will start seventh ahead of Gasly, Stroll and Vettel. Behind 15th-placed Verstappen and 16th-placed Leclerc, Ocon will start in P17 ahead of Norris, Guanyu and Schumacher. 

2022 FIA Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:44.581 1:44.723 1:43.665 9
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:45.050 1:45.418 1:44.297 14
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 1:45.377 1:44.794 1:44.462 12
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:45.572 1:44.551 1:44.553 14
5 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:46.039 1:45.475 1:45.180 15
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:46.075 1:45.552 1:45.368 16
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.736 1:45.420 1:45.503 20
8 George Russell Mercedes 1:45.650 1:45.461 1:45.776 20
9 Alexander Albon Williams 1:45.672 1:45.675 1:45.837 18
10 Lando Norris McLaren 1:45.745 1:45.603 1:46.178 14
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:46.212 1:45.767 9
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:46.183 1:45.827 12
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:46.178 1:46.085 12
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:46.256 1:46.611 12
15 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:46.342 1:47.718 13
16 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:46.344  6
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:46.401  7
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:46.557  6
19 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:46.692  6
20 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:47.866  5