Max Verstappen has taken pole for the Belgian Grand Prix Sprint Race, edging Oscar Piastri to the top spot by just 0.011s. Carlos Sainz will start third, setting a time within 0.025s of Verstappen’s benchmark.
After a 35 minute delay due to weather, the Sprint Shootout finally got underway. Drivers all took to the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps on Intermediate tyres despite there being plenty of standing water remaining on track.
As was the case in Friday’s qualifying session, the track would dry quickly and lap times dropped rapidly throughout the 12 minute SQ1 session.
Max Verstappen was fastest, setting a 1:58.135. George Russell was lucky to make it into SQ2 after ending the opening session P15. Tsunoda, Bottas, Magnussen and Zhou were all eliminated from SQ1, as well as Nico Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg failed to set a lap time after an issue in the pits which meant he didn’t cross the line in time to start a flying lap.
Fans at the circuit began to lower their umbrellas as SQ2 got underway, however the track still wasn’t ready for slick tyres. With five minutes remaining in the session, teams were left questioning whether to gamble with dry tyres. A spin for Logan Sargeant at Turn 15 on the Intermediates perhaps should have warned that the track was still not ready for slicks.
Aston Martin and Lance Stroll ignored those warnings, deciding to complete a final run on the Medium compound. Stroll told his team that the track wasn’t ready while completing his outlap, but was told by his engineer to keep pushing.
Stroll’s SQ2 ended with his AMR23 in the barriers at Turn 9 which gives Aston Martin with a lot of work to do to get the car ready for the Sprint later this afternoon. The session was red flagged and with 30 seconds left on the clock, would not resume.
Ricciardo, Albon, Sargeant, Stroll and Alonso were all eliminated from SQ2 in what would prove to be a costly accident for Aston Martin.
SQ3 saw the return of a semi-dry circuit as all drivers opted for a set of the Soft compound tyres. After the first attempts, it was Hamilton that held the advantage over Verstappen. The Mercedes driver set a benchmark of 1:51.198, 0.088s faster than Verstappen.
Sergio Perez, running out of sync, cleared Hamilton’s best by almost nine-tenths of a second, and was forced to navigate severe traffic in the final chicane.
However, as the track continued to dry, Perez’s time would be blown out of the water. He would slump to P8, while teammate Verstappen edged McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri to Sprint Pole by just 0.011s. Carlos Sainz was third fastest, 0.025s off Verstappen’s 1:49.056. Leclerc will complete an all-Ferrari second row.
Norris and Gasly follow ahead of Hamilton, Perez, Ocon and Russell.