F1 – Belgian GP – Qualifying
Salut, MiniFans! The summer break is over and we’re returning to racing in one of the most famous racing circuits. Belgium has opened her arms again to welcome F1, but the best qualified drivers won’t be fighting for pole, as both Verstappen and Leclerc, among others, have received penalties that push them to the back of the grid.
The start of the first qualifying run after the holidays was delayed due to the repairs needed in some barriers after an accident in one of the supporting classes, but it eventually kicked off under a cloudy sky that prevented the sun to shine on Spa.
Everyone was soon out on track, trying to score a time good enough to save the cut and with Mick Schumacher being the first one to stop the time. Tow strategies between teammates started to make an appearance, most notably in the case of Hamilton and Russell, as it was a little while until the younger Brit could return the favour to the seven-time world champion.
As it has been common during the rest of the weekend, Red Bull and Ferrari topped the sheets, with quite a distance to the third team, which in this case was Alpine. The small surprise came courtesy of Albon, who made the cut comfortably, while his teammate failed to do so once again. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Vettel (P16), Latifi (P17), Magnussen (P18), Tsunoda (P19) and Bottas (P20).
Q2 was the host of one of the best tows on the grid, as Sainz was helping Leclerc to score a better time. Despite their penalties, the Monegasque and Verstappen were still fighting to see who’d start from higher up, as the penalty wasn’t of an exact number of positions, but simply pushing them to the back and ordering them with their lap times in the qualy session.
Tows were more prominent in the second run of Q2, and some drivers needed to thank their neighbours on the other side of the box, as they were needed to make it to Q3, but others, like Ricciardo, weren’t able to even with that help and didn’t make it through for less than a tenth of a second, while Albon made his first Q3 of the season. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Ricciardo (P11), Gasly (P12), Zhou (P13), Stoll (P14) and Schumacher (P15).
Ferrari’s tow strategy changed in the final twelve minutes: instead of going out in formation and Leclerc having to wait one lap more for a timed one, he came out when Sainz was about to reach the main straight and thus help in him his warm up lap. However, he was soon told the choice of tyres he had been given, a set of fresh softs, were a mistake but to go for a lap anyway.
Verstappen, comfortable with his time, was out of the car before the session was over, as It was clear Leclerc would not be able to beat his time, with used tyres and the task to try and help Sainz to place above Pérez. The tow wasn’t the best one we’ve seen from them, but Sainz was still able to retain what will be first place for Sunday after all the penalties have been applied.
The qualifying for the Belgian GP was held under the circumstance of a few of the top drivers, including the first two in the championship, having incurred in grid penalties, but of the kind that meant their placement in the session still mattered for their final position, as all of them had been sent to the back of the grid. Pole went to Verstappen, but even if it’d go down in the history books as such, it won’t stay that way for Sunday. Sainz will start from first for the second time in his career, leading a Spanish speaking top 3, as he will be joined by Pérez in second and Alonso in third.