Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

Verstappen pips Piastri to Spa sprint race pole

2023 Belgian Grand Prix sprint race qualifying

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Max Verstappen secured pole for the Spa-Francorchamps sprint race, but only just ahead of Oscar Piastri.

In a wet session that gradually dried throughout the three phases, the championship leader snatched the top spot on the grid by just one-hundredth of a second from the McLaren driver. The two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc will line up behind them on the second row.

SQ1

As heavy rain fell in the lead up to the scheduled start time of sprint race qualifying, the first phase of the session was delayed by 35 minutes. Just as in Friday’s qualifying session, Lewis Hamilton queued up at the end of the pit lane long before the lights went green, where he was joined by the two Haas of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg.

When the session finally began, all drivers took to the track on intermediate tyres. Charles Leclerc reported the intermediates were “all good” for the level of water on the track and confirmed it was far too early to consider slick tyres.

Hamilton set the first time of the session with a 2’02.297, while team mate George Russell running behind lost two seconds compared to him in the final second on his first effort.

Oscar Piastri took almost a second off Hamilton’s time with his first effort of the session, before Max Verstappen went comfortably quickest with his first timed lap, posting a 2’00.352. The track was clearly getting quicker by the minute as Carlos Sainz Jnr broke under the two minute barrier, before Verstappen improved by well over a second to retake the top spot.

In the closing minutes of the session, Lando Norris sat in the drop zone in 16th, with the two Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll also in danger. Alonso was able to go clear, as did his team mate, then Norris safely jumped into Q2 in 13th.

That left Yuki Tsunoda out of the session, the first driver eliminated in 16th. Also out was Valtteri Bottas in 17th, Kevin Magnussen in 18th and Zhou Guanyu in 19th. Nico Hulkenberg failed to set a time after Haas’ trackside engineering director Ayao Komatsu told him to abandon an early lap and Hulkenberg failed to reach the line in time to begin a final timed lap. Komatsu apologised to his driver over team radio for the error.

SQ1 result

PositionNumberDriverTeamModelTimeGapLaps
11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’58.1356
244Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’58.9390.8047
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’59.0380.9035
423Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’59.1981.0636
511Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’59.3621.2276
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’59.4141.2796
716Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’59.5751.4406
831Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’59.8841.7496
92Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW452’00.0311.8966
1010Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5232’00.0321.8976
1181Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL602’00.0561.9216
123Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT042’00.1772.0426
134Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL602’00.4362.3017
1418Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR232’00.4602.3256
1563George RussellMercedesW142’00.4752.3406
1622Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT042’00.5682.4336
1777Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC432’00.9512.8166
1820Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-232’01.0792.9447
1924Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC432’01.4303.2957
2027Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-23No time6

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SQ2

The sun was beginning to gently bake the damp track surface as the second phase of the session began. The track was still far too wet for drivers to consider slick tryes, but Daniel Ricciardo’s initial lap time of a 1’57.687 showed the crossover point was approaching.

It was still very tricky off-line, as Logan Sargeant demonstrated by running off at Stavelot on his first push lap, touching the gravel trap and spinning. Thankfully, he avoided the barriers and was able to continue, and the yellow flags flew only momentarily.

In the final five minutes, Stroll was the only driver to gamble on slick tyres. Aston Martin fit a set of the medium compound tyres to his car as a dry line emerged around a large part of the lap.

Stroll voiced concerns over the decision on his out-lap, looked hesitant as he passed through Eau Rouge but set a reasonable opening sector time. However the dry line disappeard at Bruxelles and he slid off the track at Speaker’s Corner, crashing into the barrier and breaking his right-front suspension heavily.

The session was red flagged, which was bad news for three drivers who’d hedged their bets and not set a lap time up until that point, including Stroll’s team mate. With under a minute remaining, the second phase would not be resumed, and a swathe of drivers who were in the middle of push laps or just about to start their final attempts were caught out. Alonso was the first driver eliminated in 15th place, one behind his team mate who crashed out in 14th.

Also eliminated were the two Williams of Alexander Albon and Sargeant in 12th and 13th, both having failed to set times. Ricciardo was the final driver knocked out in 11th, just under three tenths of a second behind George Russell, who was the last safe driver for the second session in a row.

SQ2 result

PositionNumberDriverTeamModelTimeGapLaps
11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’55.2009
244Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’55.8230.62311
311Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’55.8780.6789
410Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’56.1370.93710
516Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’56.2651.0659
681Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’56.3921.1929
755Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’56.5571.3579
84Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’56.8281.62811
931Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’57.0511.85110
1063George RussellMercedesW141’57.3932.1939
113Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’57.6872.48710
1223Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW45No time8
132Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW45No time10
1418Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR23No time9
1514Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR23No time6

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SQ3

Despite Stroll’s trip to the barriers at the end of the previous session, all 10 drivers who reached the final eight minute session chose to head out on soft dry tyres. Despite the very narrow dry line around the circuit, it seemed clear that the best lap times were only possible on slicks.

The two Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz were the first onto the circuit, with Leclerc setting the provisional pole time of a 1’52.525. Team mate Sainz was nowhere near, but Norris was almost a full second quicker than Leclerc’s first effort. Hamilton was a quarter of a second quicker than the McLaren to post a 1’51.198 to take provisional pole, a time Verstappen could not match.

As the final seconds ticked down, Sergio Perez jumped into provisional pole despite passing a mass traffic jam at the final chicane. The track was now at its quickest, with Pierre Gasly taking provisional pole, then the two Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc.

Piastri stunned the Ferrari pair by jumping to provisional pole by two-hundredths of a second, leaving Verstappen the only driver able to deny the McLaren rookie a remarkable sprint race pole. He duly did by just one-hundredth of a second to secure the top spot for this afternoon’s sprint race, with Piastri securing a front row start.

The two Ferraris will start on the second row, ahead of Norris in fifth and Gasly sixth. Hamilton was heavily compromised by his team mate Russell making an error at La Source on his final lap and then holding him up along the Kemmel Straight, leaving him unable to improve higher than seventh at the chequered flag. Perez qualified nine tenths slower than his team mate in eighth, with Esteban Ocon ninth and Russell in tenth after ruining his final push lap with a mistake.

SQ3 result

PositionNumberDriverTeamModelTimeGapLaps
11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’49.05614
281Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’49.0670.01114
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’49.0810.02514
416Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’49.2510.19514
54Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’49.3890.33316
610Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’49.7000.64415
744Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’49.9000.84416
811Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’49.9610.90514
931Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’50.4941.43815
1063George RussellMercedesW141’55.7426.68613

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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15 comments on “Verstappen pips Piastri to Spa sprint race pole”

  1. AlphaTauri drivers seemingly go back-&-forth regarding their finishing order in qualifying sessions.

  2. three drivers who’d hedged their bets

    The problem was that they were the ones who did not hedge their bets.

    Anyway, what were AM thinking? Let’s leave Alonso’s run to the last moment, but then let’s send his teammate out on a red flag inducing mission first.

    1. Alonso wanted that latest moment run: It improved his chances, but had one down side: an accident in front.
      Even without that issue, the Aston wasn’t sure to go thru. I think I remember the timing said his first sector wasn’t that great.

  3. This young pastry though fresh mat actually be the real deal
    And a big raspberry to all those who qualilified for but couldn’t be bothered having a go in Q2.
    Yes I know why but pllllllll anyway

  4. Wonder just how fast Hamilton could have gone if Russell didn’t block him 3 times. He actually improved on that lap and had been strongest in S1 most of the session. With a clean S1 that could have been pole as he was easily held up for more than 0.8 why didn’t Russell jump out of the way on the run down the hill?!

    1. Yeh, mercedes messed that up, hamiton couldve been on pole

    2. George isn’t the real deal and is getting frustrated. Simple as that. He comes short when you compare him to other young(ish) drivers. He whines too much too.

    3. It seems to me both Mercedes drivers were planning to impede as much as possible today.
      With all his experience, I don’t understand why Lewis was where he was compared to Russel. He and/or the team must have known that being there would result in an issue on his hot lap, having a single dry line for 80% of the track…

  5. Piastri has gone from qualifying bottom 5 to top 5. what a confidence boost that must be in half a season as a rookie. He will be super hungry and confident now and explore the limits of the car more now.

    1. what a confidence boost that must be

      Having a decent car and being reasonably comfortable in it tends to have that effect….

  6. They really got to start looking at grid place penalties for people that cause red flags in qualifying sessions.

    At a minimum of a -5 grid position, if not just anyone unable to finish in the pits in any qualifying session must start from the back of the grid.

    Enough of these kamikaze kids ruining qualifying.

    1. Everyone had the ability to put in other lap times – several chose not to and they suffered as a direct result of that decision and that decision alone.
      ‘These kamikaze kids’ aren’t the only ones taking risks, anyway. Everyone is.

      Stroll’s penalty was more than sufficient – not only is the car damaged, but he didn’t get to set a lap time either.
      What does a larger penalty than that do?
      Make everyone take even less risk all the time? Yeah, we all want to see that… Not.

      The crazy thing is that he possibly would have been OK if he’d been allowed to use softs – but the FIA’s silly game with themselves took that entirely sensible option away.

    2. Fine their parents.

  7. Really impressive from Piastri. Spa is a circuit where the best drivers make a difference and tend to shine, especially on wet track, his performance so far this weekend must have left a big mark across the paddock.
    Hamilton would probably have been front row without the team messing up and letting him stumble across a slower Russell. The team’s standards have dropped all round from the efficient title-winning unit of a couple of years ago. Just mediocre too often now.

  8. Great run by Piastri – sadly him and Sainz couldn’t pip Verstappen – that would have made things more interesting.
    Next level strategy from Haas – smells of pure desperation. Could Szafnauer be on the radar there?

Comments are closed.