Charles Leclerc will start on pole position for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix after Max Verstappen set the quickest time in qualifying.
The Red Bull driver was eight tenths quicker than the rest of the field in Q3 to set the fastest time, but will surrender pole for Sunday’s grand prix to Leclerc as a result of his five-place grid penalty for exceeding his gearbox allocation.
Sergio Perez will start alongside Leclerc on the front row with Lewis Hamilton third for Mercedes.
Q1George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, eager to start work on the drying track, lined up for over seven minutes at the end of the pit lane before the session began.
When the track opened, all cars took to the circuit on intermediate tyres. Russell set the first time, but that was beaten by his team mate. Lando Norris beat both Mercedes by four tenths on his first timed lap, before Russell moved back to the top with his second effort.
Oscar Piastri moved McLaren back to the top of the times as the track started to dry slowly. Norris had a moment on the exit of Courbe Paul Frere which saw him run onto the gravel, causing “significant rear damage” according to his race engineer Will Joseph.
Logan Sargeant was released from the pit lane with less than half of the session remaining after Williams replaced his gearbox following his free practice crash. He was the last of the drivers to set a time, leaving him in the drop zone alongside the two Alfa Romeos and the two Haas drivers.
With under five minutes remaining, Max Verstappen jumped to the top of the times with a 1’58.932, while Zhou Guanyu moved out of the drop zone, pushing Esteban Ocon into danger. But the track was improving all the time as it continued to dry out. Valtteri Bottas also improved, which left Daniel Ricciardo needing to find time if he was to progress.
Alexander Albon appeared to have gone safe, but there were green sectors lighting up the timing screens. Ricciardo improved but had his time deleted for track limits, dropping him out of qualifying. The last driver to improve was Charles Leclerc, which dropped Albon down to 16th and out.
Joining the Williams in elimination was Zhou and the other FW45 belonging to Sargeant, who thanks his team for their repair job. Ricciardo was joined on the back row of the grid by Nico Hulkenberg, the slowest driver in the session, who was delayed by a hydraulic problem on his car. Haas got him back out onto the track in the dying moments but he ran out of time to begin a lap.
|2||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda RBPT||RB19||1’58.515||0.215||8|
|4||55||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Ferrari||SF-23||1’58.688||0.388||9|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1’58.834||0.534||8|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull-Honda RBPT||RB19||1’58.899||0.599||8|
|9||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||AT04||1’59.044||0.744||8|
|10||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||C43||1’59.484||1.184||9|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1’59.663||1.363||8|
|17||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||C43||2’00.832||2.532||9|
|19||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||AT04||2’02.159||3.859||8|
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Q2 began the same way the first session did, with the Mercedes pair sitting at the end of the pit lane. The track was still far too damp for slick tyres, but dry lines were emerging around the circuit.
Hamilton posted a 1’58.024 on his first lap of the session, again quicker than his team mate. But the Mercedes were easily beaten by Bottas and Kevin Magnussen, before Piastri took a full second off them both.
Red Bull’s first runs were easily better than the rest, Verstappen setting the best time with a 1’55.535, four tenths faster than team mate Perez. Hamilton went off the track at Raidillon in an effort to allow his team mate Russell by, but rejoined in front of him. The Mercedes driver was noted for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner and will be investigated after the session.
The radio waves were now filled with debates over whether to switch to slick tyres, with the vast majority deciding the time was right. Bottas was the first to take a set of softs, and Piastri immediately set a personal best first sector but did not improve over the lap.
Others encountered problems. Verstappen ran off outside the white lines and had his first push lap deleted, while Esteban Ocon slipped off the road at turn nine and clipped the barrier, damaging his front wing and dislodging an advertising board in the process. The track remained green, however.
In the closing minutes Norris sat rock bottom in the times. He managed to jump to the top of the leaderboard with his slick tyre run, while Bottas got himself out of danger too. Yuki Tsunoda pulled clear of the drop zone with his final lap, leavign Stroll, Leclerc, Ocon, Magnussen and Fernando Alonso needing to do better to ensure passage to Q3.
The two Aston Martins improved, which put the championship leader at risk of elimination. Verstappen improved but only good enough to sit on the bubble in tenth, which eliminated Tsunoda in the process. Bottas was also knocked out, with Ocon out in the garage after suffering damage.
Only Pierre Gasly could stun the world champion by eliminating him with his final lap, but while he did improve it was only to 12th place, allowing the Red Bull driver to narrowly survive a shock elimination. A terse radio exchange revealed Verstappen hadn’t been happy with race engineer Giampiero Lambiase’s instructions.
Tsunoda was out in 11th, with Gasly in 12th. Magnussen was knocked out in 13th after sliding off at turn 11 and also clearly impeded Leclerc on the Ferrari driver’s final timed lap, which the stewards announced they would investigate after the session. Bottas and Ocon were the last two drivers eliminated in 14th and 15th, respectively.
|2||55||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Ferrari||SF-23||1’51.711||0.177||17|
|4||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1’52.193||0.659||16|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull-Honda RBPT||RB19||1’52.353||0.819||16|
|9||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1’52.751||1.217||16|
|10||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda RBPT||RB19||1’52.784||1.250||16|
|11||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||AT04||1’53.148||1.614||15|
|14||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||C43||1’54.694||3.160||17|
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
The critical final phase of qualifying was delayed to allow for gravel to be swept off the circuit at turn nine. It also had the effect of giving more time for the sun to dry up more of the moisture embedded in the track surface by the time the pit lane opened for the final shoot-out.
All 10 cars took to the track on soft dry tyres, but the track remained significantly damp off-line. The two Aston Martins were the first across the line to begin their first timed laps, Alonso setting the quickest opening sector of all on his way to posting a benchmark of a 1’49.164.
Leclerc’s Ferrari sat atop the timing screens at the end of the first runs, with a provisional pole time of a 1’47.931, just over a tenth of a second quicker than Verstappen’s first attempt. Sainz took third, four tenths behind his team mate. The two McLarens of Piastri and Norris were fourth and fifth, respectively, while the Mercedes pair attempted two push laps but could only manage sixth and ninth for Hamilton and Russell.
Provisional pole-winner Leclerc was the first of the contenders to begin his final flying lap, immediately setting a purple opening sector. He maintained that pace throughout the rest of the lap to improve on his own pole time by almost a full second, but Verstappen was going even faster behind.
Sainz moved up to second with his final lap, with Piastri two tenths slower than the Ferrari driver. Verstappen then completed his lap to easily set the fastest time with a crushing margin of more than eight tenths of a second in hand. Perez not nowhere near that and slotted into third, a few hundredths slower than Leclerc.
Hamilton secured fourth between Perez and Sainz, while Verstappen will split the two McLarens on the grid in sixth for Sunday’s grand prix. Norris will start seventh, with Russell in eighth ahead of the two Aston Martins of Alonso and Stroll.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda RBPT||RB19||1’46.168||22|
|3||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull-Honda RBPT||RB19||1’47.045||0.877||22|
|5||55||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Ferrari||SF-23||1’47.152||0.984||23|
|9||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1’47.843||1.675||22|
|10||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1’48.841||2.673||22|
Become a RaceFans Supporter
RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.
Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:
2023 Belgian Grand Prix
- Haas drivers fear losing battle for seventh after “grim weekend” in Spa
- Mercedes optimistic they’re “in the right place for winter” with development plan
- Ferrari not convinced by call to equalise engines: ‘Renault is not so far away’
- Ferrari staying “calm” amid swings in performance from race to race
- Pirelli proposes new “super-intermediate” to address wet weather tyre problems