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Verstappen, Russell Claim Front Row In Qualifying On Drenched Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

Photo Credit: Charles Coates/LAT Images/Pirelli


The duet performance of 20 high-performance turbocharged gasoline and an electric power unit takes to the stage at Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps after nearly a month-long hiatus. A favourite track among Formula 1 drivers and fans, the 20-turn, 7.004-kilometer (4.352-mile) race track is a venue many would like to claim victory. Spa-Francorchamps is also known for being tricky and potentially dangerous place to compete. A six-car accident in qualifying for the W Series companion event on the Belgian Grand Prix weekend highlighted the course’s fast and challenging Eau Rouge section. Formula 1 cars’ Saturday qualifying combined the element of rain showers reducing the predictability of grip on the track surface and would contribute to some major surprises for setting the grid for the 44-lap main event on Sunday.

With the conclusion of the Q1 and Q2 in qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, Brit Lando Norris was at the top of the time sheets driving his #4 McLaren-Mercedes. His Q2 fastest time of 1-minute, 0.25 seconds on intermediate Pirelli tires would be the quickest time in all of the time trials deciding the Belgian Grand Prix grid layout as rain intensified ahead of Q3.

Even as drivers and teams turned to wet weather tires, the downpour left caused a great deal of concern in the Formula 1 paddock as large amounts of standing water accumulated on the track. The Eau Rouge portion of Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was a particular worry that would ultimately be justified by a major crash.

With nine minutes remaining in the final qualifying session, the fastest driver for the day on intermediate tires was overwhelmed by the wet racing surface. Aquaplaning thru turn four, Lando Norris’s car slid out of control and hit the wall hard. The #4 McLaren Racing car spun multiple times until finally coming to a stop. “First of all, I’m doing good, but I’ve been better! I think just a bit bruised. Obviously, it was quite a big impact and I think my body’s just been thrown around a little bit but I’m good. I’m ready to race tomorrow and I want to get back on track already because it didn’t end the way I wanted it to.” The unhurt Norris said in a post-qualifying team report after being checked out by medical officials and cleared to race on Sunday. The McLaren Racing crew is left to assess the damaged #4 car where they may either be able to save their driver’s grid position (A ninth place starting spot) or would need to perform work that would see Norris starting from pit lane.

Photo Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/Pirelli

After more than one hour red flag that involved track workers removed the crashed McLaren, the rain had lessened to a level where the remaining drivers could stage their final runs in Q3 back on intermediate tires. Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team driver Lewis Hamilton put up a top lap time with minutes remaining but a series of final qualifying efforts would include valiant effort from an unlikely team. The Williams Racing #63 car driven by this year’s qualifying hot shoe George Russell seized the moment of a wet track and posted a 2-minute, 0.086-second time that propelled the team to the top of the final running order in the time trial while Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen were completing their last laps. Stunningly, Lewis Hamilton’s #44 fell short of beating the Mercedes-Benz customer team and their young Formula 1 star. However, Russell’s hope of a first career Formula 1 pole position at the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix was foiled by a 1-minute, 59.765-second lap time posted by Max Verstappen.

Though Verstappen scoring his sixth pole of the season is a small but crucial piece to the 2021 championship puzzle where the Dutch driver is trailing Lewis Hamilton by eight points, much of the focus following qualifying at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was on George Russell and his #63 car. The result equals the 23-year-old British driver’s best qualifying result (scored at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix when driving in relief for Hamilton sidelined due to COVID-19) and is best starting position by a Williams Racing car since the 2017 Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Photo Credit: Andy Hone/LAT Images/Pirelli

Settling for third place, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes will be starting ten places ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas for the 44-lap Belgian Grand Prix. The Finnish driver’s #77 car was assessed a five-position penalty for the accident caused at the Hungarian Grand Prix pushing him from 8th to 13th on the grid for the race. Aston Martin Racing’s Lance Stroll was also given a five grid spot penalty the drops the Canadian from 15th to 20th for the start on Sunday. Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren will start in fourth place beside Hamilton.

One event after having a podium position stripped away from him in Hungary due to an insufficient fuel sample in his #5 Aston Martin Racing car, Sebastian Vettel posted a strong fifth place effort at the Spa-Francorchamps track where the German is a three-time winner in Formula 1. Scuderia AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly starts in sixth place ahead of a row consisting of Sergio Perez’s Red Bull Racing car and Hungarian Grand Prix winner for Alpine Racing Esteban Ocon. Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc are slated to be in grid row five for the Belgian Grand Prix but it depends on the extent of the damage to the #4 McLaren race car. Canada’s Nicholas Latifi posted a more than decent run in qualifying for the second Williams Racing car resulting in a 11th place starting spot.

The 2021 Belgian Grand Prix is scheduled to go green at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. Eastern time).

2021 Formula 1 Season
Belgian Grand Prix
Starting Grid
Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine
1 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda
2 63 George Russell Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
5 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
6 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
7 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda
8 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team Renault
9 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
10 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari
11 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz
12 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari
13 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
14 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team Renault
15 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
16 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
17 47 Mick Schumacher Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari
18 7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
19 9 Nikita Mazepin Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari
20 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Mercedes-Benz


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