Belgian F1 GP: Verstappen in distant threat, Sainz on pole
Sanctioned for numerous mechanical changes to his Red Bull, F1 world championship leader Max Verstappen will certainly start from afar on Sunday at the Belgian Grand Prix, but he remains a serious threat to Carlos Sainz in pole position.
A rocket in the slide of the Ardennes: from 632/1000th, Verstappen largely beat Sainz during qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps. But the championship leader will only start 15th on Sunday.
The fault of a penalty for changing engine parts and gearboxes beyond the authorized quotas per season. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), his pursuer in the championship at 80 points, will start 16th, penalized for the same reasons despite his 4th lap on Saturday.
Result, it is their teammates who have, once is not custom, a card to play. Sainz, 5th in the championship, will start ahead of the Mexican Sergio Pérez (Red Bull), 3rd in the championship just 5 points behind Leclerc. Both are aiming for a second victory this season.
– Verstappen “capable of remonter” –
In the second row, we will find two former world champions: Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), looking for their first success in 2022.
“I’m happy to start on pole but I’m not so happy when I see the gap we have with Max,” said Sainz, who signed the second pole position of his career. “We have to understand why they are so fast on this circuit”.
Sainz believes Verstappen is ‘able to come back’ and play for victory. Seeing the world champion’s Red Bull fly over his opponents, we can give credit to the Spaniard.
Especially since “Mad Max” remains on an incredible rise in Hungary. Starting 10th on the grid due to a mechanical problem, before the summer break at the end of July, he had finally won, benefiting in particular from the strategic mistakes of Ferrari.
In front of his public who came en masse, as always in Europe, and under the eyes of his Belgian mother Sophie Kumpen, the Dutchman born in Belgium was alone in the world on Saturday. As often for the one who has already won eight times in 13 races this season.
And if Red Bull considered that Spa was the best weekend to take this penalty, which was expected for the Dutchman, it is not for nothing: the team believes that the particularities of the long Spa circuit (7.004 km) offer its champion more chances than elsewhere to come back.
– “Survive the start” –
“We will already have to survive at the start”, which he will take for once in the heart of the peloton, he underlined, “to then pass several cars and find himself in a more competitive position”.
“With such a car it would be a shame not to finish on the podium,” he said.
By taking this penalty here, Verstappen avoids taking it next week, at his home in the Netherlands in Zandvoort, so that the party is as good as last year (pole position and victory).
In the meantime, he therefore has a shot to play in his second homeland. His main rival this season, even if a chasm separates them nine races from the term, Leclerc, could also go up. But, relegated to almost a second behind Verstappen on Saturday, the Monegasque seems less in shape.
“They found something this weekend which is quite impressive, it’s a big gap,” said Leclerc. “I hope Zandvoort will change, but before that we have the race” on Sunday.
Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) will start in 8th position, benefiting from penalties received by seven drivers, including the other Frenchman Esteban Ocon (Alpine) who will be 17th at the start.
Under a very gray sky but remained mild on Saturday, the spectators (300,000 expected this weekend) should in any case have a better show on Sunday than last year.
At the 2021 GP, the deluge that had hit the Belgian hills had brought a fiasco: Verstappen had won a non-Grand Prix, after just two laps behind the safety car.
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