Two-time reigning Formula One champion Max Verstappen edged out rookie driver Oscar Piastri by just .011 seconds to take pole position for the sprint race at the Belgian Grand Prix later on Saturday.
The shortened qualifying format — known as the “sprint shootout” — sets the grid for the sprint race. It was delayed by 35 minutes because of wet and rainy conditions, with air blowers used to clear water from the track.
Piastri has been in good form recently and the McLaren driver shot to the top of the leaderboard on his last run, only for Verstappen to typically find extra pace from his Red Bull.
“Simply lovely,” Verstappen said on team radio. “Not easy with this weather.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. starts the sprint from third ahead of his teammate Charles Leclerc, with McLaren’s Lando Norris fifth, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly sixth and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton going from seventh. It was a disappointing session for Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who qualified eighth.
This is the third of six scheduled sprint races this season, with Perez winning in Azerbaijan and Verstappen winning in Austria. The top eight drivers all score points.
Skies had cleared when drivers set out in Q1, the first part of qualifying, but some spray was still flying off the tarmac and reducing visibility in some sections. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas was among the five drivers eliminated from Q1.
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll pushed too hard in the final seconds of Q2 and slid off into the barriers, mangling his right tire and bringing out a red flag. His teammate Fernando Alonso was on his out lap when the crash happened and couldn’t set a time, meaning he also failed to make into Q3.
Heavy rain had also impacted Friday’s running at the 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) Spa-Francorchamps circuit, which is nestled in a forest amid the Ardennes countryside and is often impacted by gloomy weather.
Verstappen also set the fastest time in qualifying for Sunday’s main race, but Leclerc will start from pole because of Verstappen’s five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. He begins Sunday’s race from sixth, but that will not bother Verstappen considering he won here last year from 14th.
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