Max Verstappen staying positive despite looming engine penalty at Spa

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen in the Red Bull garage. Spa August 2022.

Max Verstappen smiles while in the garage during practice. Spa-Francorchamps August 2022.

Max Verstappen will drop to the back of the grid with a penalty this weekend, but is hopeful Friday’s “good start” can help him on his way at Spa.

The reigning World Champion was in a class of his own in FP2, lapping eight tenths clear of second-placed Charles Leclerc in the session and more than a second faster than Lando Norris in third.

But Verstappen is one of six drivers – Leclerc and Norris included – who will be taking an engine penalty for fitting new parts to their car beyond their allowance, which means a cluster of cars will be looking to make their way through the field on Sunday.

Regarding his practice running on Friday though, the Red Bull driver went about business as usual – and he felt comfortable behind the wheel from the off, despite the tricky conditions.

“Not so much really changed,” Verstappen explained to after the session.

“I think we just looked at how we could set up the car in the best possible way and I think as soon as we went out the car was working pretty well.

“I mean, those little things you know you want to fine-tune with balance, but out of the first run I was happy with the car.

“From the laps we did, I think the car was working well – that’s positive. Of course, I would have liked to run a little bit more, including everyone else, but so far it’s been a good start.”

The weather played its part in Friday’s running too, with rainfall affecting both sessions and prematurely ending meaningful race simulations in FP2 in particular.

Pre-race forecasts had shown rain was likely for both qualifying and the race, but Verstappen thinks the wettest weather has now passed for the weekend ahead.

“When it started to rain a bit like this, you don’t push anymore,” he said of running being limited by the rain. “So I don’t think we have really a good idea about it.

“But I think also today was going to be the worst day for it, so normally we should have dry conditions.”

Verstappen goes into the Belgian Grand Prix weekend 80 points clear at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.