Lewis Hamilton braced for Max Verstappen moment at Belgian Grand Prix

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen walks past Lewis Hamilton. Hungary, Budapest July 2023.

Max Verstappen walks past Lewis Hamilton after qualifying at the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Despite starting on pole position at the Belgian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc admits he’s “not confident” of fighting for the win while Lewis Hamilton warns Max Verstappen will “come sailing by” at some point.

Leclerc was the second fastest driver in Friday evening’s qualifying at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit but inherited pole position when Verstappen’s grid penalty for exceeding his gearbox allocation for the season was applied.

The Dutchman had been fastest in the Friday session, a whopping 0.8s up on the Ferrari driver, but will line up sixth on the grid.

‘Max Verstappen will come sailing by’

But even with benefitting from his rival’s misfortune, Leclerc doesn’t believe he’ll be in the running for the win such is the pace of the Red Bull drivers.

“Not confident, especially with two Red Bull guys right behind,” he said as per Sky F1. “I think they’ve got a much better race car than we have.

“It’s great to be starting first and I think it gives us a good chance to have a great result but to say that we’ll target the win, I think is probably a bit too optimistic.

“If there’s an opportunity for whatever reason, as always I’ll try to get it, but I believe it’s going to be difficult to try to keep those guys behind.”

The other Red Bull of Sergio Perez will line P2 on the grid with Hamilton behind in third place.

But while the Mercedes driver is hoping to at least be a part of the fight with Leclerc and Perez, he too believes it won’t be long before Verstappen is ahead of them all and chasing his eighth win on the trot.

“Our pace has generally been decent,” Hamilton said. “Third, I’ve got a Ferrari and Perez ahead so I’m hoping I’ll be able to fight those guys.

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“At some point, Max will come sailing by and I’ll just try to keep the McLarens behind.”

Verstappen has already shown he can do that at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit as last season he raced from 14th on the grid to the victory.

This year, he warned, “The car is better, so I’m still targeting to win the race for sure.”

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