Belgian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen on pole in delayed Sprint Shootout as Stroll eliminates both Astons

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen smiling as he pulls off his fireproofs.

Max Verstappen smiles under his balaclava.

A delayed start, a red flag that eliminated team-mates, and a World Champion on pole position, Sprint Shootout at the Belgian Grand Prix had a little bit of everything on Saturday.

Max Verstappen will line up on pole position for Saturday’s Sprint at the Spa-Francorchamps having beaten Oscar Piastri to the coveted grid slot by 0.011s seconds with Carlos Sainz in third place.

But over at Aston Martin a few questions will be asked after Lance Stroll’s crash late in Q2 eliminated both AMR23s with the team late, too late, in sending Fernando Alonso out.

Another P20 for Nico Hulkenberg

As torrential rain hit the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the build-up to Saturday’s Sprint Shootout, Race Control announced an indefinite delay to the start, and so the wait began.

Thankfully the rain let up, the dryers came out and 35 minutes after qualifying was scheduled to begin it did. And did so with the drivers on intermediate tyres with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell waiting some five minutes at the end of the pit lane for the start.

Hamilton set the early benchmark time, a 2:02.2, but two minutes later he was down to P5 with Charles Leclerc, Oscar Piastri, and Max Verstappen all taking a turn up in P1 with the Red Bull driver quickest of all with a 2:00.3.

The stewards had noted; but opted not to investigate, an impeding incident involving Hamilton and Verstappen with the Red Bull on a hot lap needing to go around the outside of the Mercedes.

With a drying line appearing, Verstappen upped his pace to a 1:58.9 with Sergio Perez second and Hamilton P3. Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Logan Sargeant, and the two Haas drivers were in the drop zone with two minutes to go.

A queue formed at the Bus Stop chicane as just about everyone wanted to be the last to cross the line only for Hulkenberg to lose out in the melee. “Very interesting execution there,” was his sarcastic remark to Haas.

Verstappen finished quickest of all with Yuki Tsunoda, Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Zhou Guanyu eliminated along with Hulkenberg.

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Lance Stroll crashes at The Corner With No Name

The sun shone down on the pit lane at the start of SQ2 but inters were still the tyre of choice at the start of the session. As Daniel Ricciardo crossed the line with a 1:57.6 it was evident the conditions had getting close to the change over point from inters to slicks but it was a conundrum for the teams with just five minutes on the clock.

Sargeant went spinning in the Williams, Norris went quickest, and with four minutes remaining there were all of two lap times on the board from the 15 Q2 drivers. Lance Stroll then swapped to the mediums before even setting a time on the inters, but Fernando Alonso and Alex Albon were still sitting in the pits. They finally came out for one flying lap on the inters.

Verstappen shot up to the top of the timesheet with a 1:55.2 and out went Ricciardo, Albon, Sargeant, Stroll and Alonso with Stroll crashing with 29s on the clock to bring out the red flags. He lost it at Turn 9 and gave the barrier a healthy whack with the front right of his Aston Martin.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton fight for pole position

SQ3 saw all 10 drivers head out on the soft tyres, and this time they weren’t taking the risk of waiting in the pits especially as they had just had eight minutes.

Charles Leclerc led an early Ferrari 1-2 but behind them there were purples in play with Norris leaping ahead, and then Hamilton. A 1:51.1 for the Mercedes driver with Verstappen only second quickest, 0.088s down.

With one final flying lap and a whole lot of traffic lining up, Sergio Perez out-paced Hamilton to go P1 by 0.8s but he was one of the first to cross the line with the track conditions improving with every second. Leclerc had a big moment at Turn 9 that cost him a shot at pole.

Last to cross the line Verstappen laid down a 1:49.056 to beat Oscar Piastri to pole position, the Red Bull driver 0.011s ahead of the McLaren rookie who let out a rather long “beep” when told of his margin to pole. Carlos Sainz was third ahead of Leclerc, Norris and Pierre Gasly.

Times

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:49.056
2 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.011
3 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.025
4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.195
5 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.333
6 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.644
7 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.844
8 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.905
9 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.438
10 George RUSSELL Mercedes +6.686
11 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri 1:57.687
12 Alexander ALBON Williams no time
13 Logan SARGEANT Williams no time
14 Lance STROLL Aston Martin no time
15 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin no time
16 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri 2:00.569
17 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo 2:00.951
18 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team 2:01.079
19 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo 2:01.430
20 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team no time

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