Verstappen targeting victory in Belgium despite five-place grid drop as he apologises for radio outburst
Max Verstappen has set his sights on an eighth consecutive victory at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix after dominating Friday’s qualifying outing – despite a five-place grid penalty dropping him down the order. The Dutch driver also revealed just how tricky the wet/dry conditions at Spa were for the drivers.
Following a lack of running, due to heavy rain in the lone practice session earlier in the day, there was plenty of intrigue regarding who would be fastest in qualifying – with Charles Leclerc leading Q1 and Oscar Piastri topping the timesheets in Q2.
But in Q3, after trailing Leclerc by over a tenth on their first runs, Verstappen left it late to set a stunning time of 1m 46.168s – beating Leclerc to pole by 0.820s – all after only narrowly making it into the top 10 shootout, leading to an expletive-laden radio message, with Verstappen later apologising to engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.
Reflecting on another qualifying success, Verstappen said: “It was very tight. Of course, the conditions were very tricky. The track was really drying quickly, and my final lap, I just didn’t have that confidence in Q2 to push more, and I was very lucky to be in P10.
“But then of course in Q3, you’ve got two tyre sets, you know that you can push a little more, you can risk a little bit more, and that’s what we did on that final lap. To be on pole again, I know I have to drop back again on Sunday with the penalty I have, but it was the best I could do today."
Asked where the car came alive, Verstappen said: “I guess Sector 2 was still a bit damp, so there was only really one dry line, and some corners you had to do a bit of an alternative line to normal in the dry.
“And it was all about just feeling confident and basically risking everything in that final run to get more lap time. We know that the car is quick, and I think even with these tricky conditions today, luckily, we could show that again.”
Despite qualifying fastest, Verstappen will start from sixth on the grid after he was given a five-place grid drop for exceeding the allocated number of gearboxes allowed per driver. But can he still win the race? Of that, he is fairly confident.
“Last year I had more penalties, and we could still win the race,” said the Dutch driver. “So that’s still the target for Sunday. But let’s first see also tomorrow what the weather will do and what kind of racing we will have.”
Team mate Sergio Perez qualified third fastest, finishing just under nine-tenths behind Verstappen’s time. But thanks to the Dutch driver’s penalty, he will line up on the front row with Leclerc.
“Very tricky qualifying out there, it was very tricky,” said Perez. “Started on the inter, conditions were very tricky initially. We thought it was going to get a lot drier a lot quicker.
“But it took a long time and even there at the end in Q3 it was quite tricky in a few places, like Turns 8, 9, very tricky. But it’s a good result. It’s a bit of a shame I didn’t get Charles there, but I think in these conditions, it was good that we had a good one.”