Sainz profits from Verstappen penalty to secure pole for Belgian Grand Prix

·4-min read

Carlos Sainz profited from Max Verstappen's grid penalty to secure pole for the Belgian Grand Prix but admitted to being concerned by the gap between Ferrari and Red Bull.

Verstappen topped the timesheet in Saturday's delayed qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of the first race following the mid-season break.

But the reigning champion – who holds an 80-point lead over Charles Leclerc at the top of the standings – will start in 15th after being penalised for using too many engine parts.

The Dutchman is one of seven drivers taking grid penalties, along with Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas.

That effectively meant the rest of field were facing off for the top 13 positions on the grid, and it was Ferrari driver Sainz who will will start Sunday's race at the head of the pack.

Whereas Verstappen looked comfortable throughout and delivered a time of 1:43.665 seconds with his first Q3 flying lap, Sainz's Q3 lap was rather scrappy.

Despite claiming pole, the Spaniard – who is fifth in the standings – was not entirely pleased with how things played out.

"I'm happy to be starting on pole, but I'm obviously not so happy to see the gap to Max this weekend and the gap Red Bull have on us," he told Sky Sports.

"We need to keep digging to see why Red Bull are so fast around this track. But to start from pole is good and we will try to win tomorrow.

"I think our race pace is better than our qualifying pace, but there is still something to find."

The past seven winners of the Belgian Grand Prix have started from the front row of the grid, six of them from pole.

But after finishing 0.632s clear of the field in qualifying, Verstappen – last year's winner on this track – is hopeful of climbing from towards the back of the pack into the top three.

"It was an amazing qualifying but the whole weekend we have been really on it," he said. "With a car like this it would be a shame to not be on the podium.

"The car has been working really well and we have basically been trying to fine tune it and it all came together in Qualifying.

"Of course, I had to be careful with the amount of tyres I was using, but I was very happy with my lap. It is an amazing track with amazing fans and I hope they had a good day."

Verstappen is set to start one place ahead of title rival Leclerc, while team-mate Sergio Perez is second after finishing 0.165s behind Sainz.

Fernando Alonso, who is on his best run since 2018 after collecting points in each of his past eight races, is third ahead of Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Red Bull are seeking a fifth win in Belgium – only in Mexico (six) would they have more – with Perez looking to overhaul Sainz.

"P2 is not the worst place to be around here and I think if I am able to get a good run at Carlos, it will be different and I will be on the other side of the row," Perez said.

"I am looking forward to tomorrow and I think there will be a great race ahead of us. It'll be very important to get a good start and do our own race and I think that will be the key."

QUALIFYING TIMES

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 1:43.665s
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.632s
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.797s
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.888s
5. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1.515s
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.703s
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.838s
8. George Russell (Mercedes) +2.111s
9. Alex Albon (Williams) +2.172s
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) +2.513s

STARTING GRID

1) Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
2) Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
3) Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
4) Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
5) George Russell (Mercedes
6) Alex Albon (Williams)
7) Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
8) Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri)
9) Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
10) Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)