Verstappen fastest but Sainz on pole in Belgium

2022 Belgian Grand Prix, Saturday - Carlos Sainz
2022 Belgian Grand Prix, Saturday - Carlos Sainz

Verstappen wins Qualifying

Championship leader Max Verstappen set the fastest time in qualifying for Round 14 of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 season but a grid penalty hands pole position to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Dutchman Verstappen, along with title rival Charles Leclerc and several other drivers, has taken extra power-unit components and will start from the back of the grid.

“It was an amazing qualifying but also the whole weekend, car’s been working really well and it all came together in qualifying,” Verstappen said, having set a 1:43.665.

As a result, Sainz takes his second career pole position for Ferrari, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez joining the Spaniard on the front row.

Even though Verstappen will be coming from the back, Sainz was concerned at the seven-tenth of a second gap to the Red Bull.

Sainz, 26, said: “Happy to be starting on pole, not so happy with the gap to Max and Red Bull. We need to keep digging. Still a bit puzzled to see this big gap, makes me wonder what’s going to happen in the race.

“We had a good qualifying and I’m happy to be starting on pole here in Spa. It was today’s goal and we achieved it with perfect teamwork together with Charles. Now we need to focus on ourselves and make sure to keep our competitors behind us tomorrow.

“Defending from them won’t be easy, especially at the start, as their performance has been very strong this weekend. I’m ready for a race in which we will fight with everything we have to bring home another win. In terms of race pace, I think we should be competitive.”

A mixed-up grid will see Fernando Alonso start third for Alpine, ahead of the Mercedes’ of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Williams’ Alexander Albon will go from a sensational sixth on the grid on Sunday courtesy of the multiple grid penalties.

Verstappen’s rapid pace suggests that he could at least end the race on the podium and may still have a shot at winning the Belgian Grand Prix for a second year in a row.

Sainz and Perez at the front, but still vulnerable

Following qualifying, Sainz was right to ponder what might happen in tomorrow’s race, considering the deficit he had to Verstappen at the top of the times.

Verstappen’s huge speed advantage on the straights of Spa-Francorchamps circuit makes him extremely dangerous once the race settles down.

The RB18 has regularly shown itself to be the class of the field in a straight line, coupled with the Red Bull Powertrain in the back of the car.

Even on weekends where Ferrari have appeared a match for the Dutchman, the Red Bull philosophy has seen the defending World Champion sweep past the scarlet cars on numerous occasions.

Indeed, Verstappen passed Charles Leclerc twice on his way to victory, from 10th on the grid, in Hungary last time out.

Sainz has further reason to be concerned, because the car alongside him at the start is the second Red Bull of Perez, who has not been as quick as his team mate, but still has pace on the straights.

With cars up and down the grid out of position, the conditions for an incident that brings out a Safety Car, or VSC at least, are in play, either of which could help keep Verstappen within range of the leaders, with the increased gravel traps around the Spa circuit.

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