What the teams said – Qualifying in Belgium
Max Verstappen seemed to have a real fight on his hands with Lando Norris looking the quicker of the two drivers in both Q1 and Q2. But after the McLaren man’s crash, it seemed the door was open for the Dutchman to grab a first Spa pole. And so it proved although he had to wait until the dying seconds to do so, nailing his final run to beat not just his title rival lewis Hamilton but also the surprise package of George Russell in the Williams. As for Sergio Perez, the conditions were less to his liking and he could only manage seventh, but will be confident of making up places at a track where overtaking is entirely possible.
Max Verstappen, 1st, 1:59.765
“I am very happy with pole position here at a home Grand Prix, but it was not easy out there. It was very hard to nail a lap, I was just trying to find the right lines at the right times and judging how fast to go into corners after such a long red flag was tricky. It was so important to get the tyres up to temperature because that could give you a few seconds of lap time around a long track like this. Tomorrow we don’t know if it will be a dry or wet start, I think if it’s wet I don’t mind if I start first because at least I should have clear vision but I just hope that we have a good and clean start. I also hope that Lando is feeling okay and that he doesn’t have any serious injuries because that didn’t look like a good impact at all, he’s a good friend of mine so I hope he can race tomorrow.”
Sergio Perez, 7th, 2:02.112
“I’m very disappointed with my qualifying as our car was performing well, there was plenty of pace in it and a much better position was possible today. With the changing weather conditions it was tough out there and so the final lap was going to be critical but unfortunately I wasn’t able to improve. It’s a shame but I’m still looking forward to tomorrow as with the weather anything can happen and so there’s plenty of opportunities. The Team is doing a strong job and provided we can stay out of trouble tomorrow then we should be in pretty good shape and able to fight for a strong result. I’m also pleased to see Lando was able to get out of the car after his accident and hope he’s okay. We discussed Eau Rouge in the drivers’ meeting on Friday and raised our concerns so I really hope to see some solutions for next year. It’s something that we definitely have to improve because in conditions like today, if we have a wet race tomorrow, it’s not a place where drivers want to have contact, especially considering it is a blind spot.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It was a good session and a strong qualifying for us with our first pole position at Spa for 10 years. Both drivers did a great job, Max’s ninth pole, seventh for Checo and on our 50th Grand Prix with Honda as well, so it was a fantastic performance on a very difficult day. Max has always been very strong in the wet, he made a mistake on his first lap but absolutely nailed his second lap, so it is now crucial that we convert this into good points tomorrow. It looks like the weather could be similar to today, but at least if it is wet we have some visibility by starting at the front and both drivers have managed to retain a set of inters. I think we are the only team in the top 10 to have managed that, so we have that up our sleeve. More importantly however it was a relief to see Lando walk away from his big accident at the beginning of Q3 and hopefully he is able to race tomorrow.”
The FW43B has often looked much stronger in the wet than the dry, and in Russell the team have a driver who also excels when the rain falls. They were the only team to make the call to start on inters in Q1 which proved to be the right gamble, with both drivers making Q2 comfortably. Nichola Latifi gained valuable wet weather experience but couldn’t quite make Q3 although Russell did yet again, and once there nearly pulled off a miracle. Having come out on full wets, he was forced to pit at the end of his out-lap for intermediates, and thus unlike the others only had one run to set a time. But he made it count with a brilliant lap which looked good enough for pole until Verstappen just sneaked ahead. Nonetheless, second on the grid for Williams is a very impressive feat. But can he stay there tomorrow?
George Russell, 2nd, 2:00.086
"It is an amazing feeling and we definitely did not expect to be starting on the front row! The team did an incredible job to have me on the track at the right time, on the right tyres, with the right strategy. The driving is one thing, but you need to have everything right around you and often in these moments, that is what it’s all about. I’m so happy for everyone as it’s such a team effort and they did a fantastic job. We obviously had a great result in Hungary, and it feels like our hard work is starting to pay off and people are starting to recognise that.
"I knew my last effort was a good lap. It was so tricky out there but because we’re not in Q3 every week, I had the luxury of really being able to put everything on the line and go for it. I had a really good feeling from lap one in FP3 in the wet and when it mattered, we put everything together and that was exceptional. This feeling is exactly what Formula 1 is all about. Qualifying is over now though and the race is tomorrow, so we need to make sure we have a good one."
Nicholas Latifi, 12th, 1:58.056
"I’m very pleased with my best qualifying result of the season and also my Formula One career. More than anything, I’m happy that I got some more experience in the wet because I haven’t had much of that in our car, so it was nice to get some laps in and really build some confidence in these conditions. We’ve had a great result for the team today, especially in challenging weather, so now we’re aiming to capitalise on that in the race tomorrow."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"Today was a classic Spa qualifying session with the heavy but intermittent showers making decisions very difficult. Today we got many things right, but we did so from a position of having little to lose, which always takes some of the pressure off.
"The whole team worked extremely well today, and collectively good decisions were made. Both George and Nicholas were excellent throughout and both provided a great calming influence to go with their immense bravery and skill on track. Nicholas called the initial Q1 tyres perfectly and although he spun on his opening lap, he recovered very well to comfortably qualify for Q2.
"In Q2 we opted to use another two sets of new intermediate tyres on each car, giving each driver a final chance on a drying track with a new set. Nicholas couldn’t quite match the improvement that George made, but nonetheless P12 was an excellent result. George built momentum throughout Q1 and Q2 and delivered a very strong lap at the end of Q2 to secure his place in Q3 once again.
"Conditions were much worse in Q3 with visibility and grip both low. George was struggling on the Kemmel straight as Norris crashed in Eau Rouge and the session was stopped. At the restart we thought that conditions were still quite poor and elected to leave the pit lane on the extreme wet knowing that there was time to switch to Inters if appropriate. George was quite confident that the Inter was the correct tyre and with the track now improving quickly, we opted to prepare the tyres for a single ‘all-in’ lap at the end of the session. On this occasion the strategy worked perfectly, and George had his tyres, brakes and power unit all in perfect states as well as a clear track ahead of him. His lap was little short of exceptional and he was able to balance risk and reward perfectly to take a very well-earned front-row position.
"Tomorrow will undoubtedly be difficult, and we are under no illusion that we have qualified both cars a little out of position. However, with more rain looking likely for tomorrow, we will do everything we can to make the most of today’s result. More importantly, we wish Lando and everyone at McLaren well and look forward to racing them tomorrow."
Mercedes had anything but a simple qualifying session, with both drivers finding themselves on used intermediate tyres at the start of Q2 which proved to be the wrong choice. A mad rush to get back to the pits for a fresh set left them out of sequence and nearly on their way out of qualifying but both drivers pulled last gasp laps out of the bag when it mattered to make Q3 – although they did wind up using more tyres than their rivals. In the top 10 shootout, Hamilton put the stress behind him to nail his first flying lap and grab provisional pole, only to see his arch-rival Verstappen pip him on his final go. As for Valtteri Bottas, he struggled in the ever changing conditions and could only manage eighth, which will become P13 once his grid penalty is applied.
Lewis Hamilton, 3rd, 2:00.099
"It's been a very difficult day for everyone, just trying to stay positive, focused and calm. Max put in a strong lap so well done to him, and George also did a great job. For me, my first lap was really good, but I lost some tyre temperature on the slow lap in between my runs, so I think there was a little bit left on the table with that final lap. You live and you learn, and I gave it everything I had today. But we'll look to move forward tomorrow. I'm hoping for better weather and a dry day, that'd be great for the fans and also interesting to see where everyone stands with the wing level. We've tried to find the right balance between straight-line speed and downforce. It might not have been the best for today, but we'll see tomorrow exactly how good it is. Nevertheless, we'll do everything we can."
Valtteri Bottas, 8th, 2:02.502
"It was definitely a challenge out there and of course, I hoped for a better result. I think overall the session was okay and there were opportunities to get into the top three, but on the slow lap before my final attempt, I had some traffic coming through. So, I had to back off and lost the tyre temperature. From the very start of the final lap, I was locking the tyres because of the lack of temperature and the car felt on a knife-edge. Obviously with the grid penalty, it means tomorrow won't be easy, but I'll be fighting hard. If it is wet, there will be many opportunities, and if it is dry, we have a competitive car. It'll be a big challenge but as we have seen, anything can happen."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was a very exciting and dramatic qualifying. It was a difficult session, and it is always tricky to predict the weather here, especially when it is coming in and out so fast. In the end, we can be satisfied with P3 for Lewis and everything is to play for tomorrow. We have a strong race car, perhaps more set up for the dry. If the weather is like this, we might struggle a bit more, but otherwise I think we should be in for a good race. Valtteri will be starting outside of the top 10. He did pretty well through the session, on par with Lewis, but he struggled for tyre temperature on that last lap. So, it will be more a race of damage limitation for him tomorrow but with plenty of opportunities to score good points. It was a brilliant day for everyone at Williams, with Nicholas in P12 and George showing his talent in P2. And it was fantastic to see Lando was able to climb out of his car, after his scary accident."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It was quite a messy qualifying session by our standards; we didn't always read the conditions right and in the second session we could have managed the risk better as at one stage, a double yellow or red flag would have seen both cars bumped out. We still had it all to play for in the final session, but we dropped a bit too much tyre temperature on the slow lap and lost a bit of grip. It does look like a number of cars have moved more towards a wet set-up than we have, particularly in terms of downforce level. Despite that our performance in the middle sector was good and our straight-line speed is strong, so we're not unhappy with our set-up decisions given the forecast. But if we could choose, we'd like at least a bit of dry running at some point tomorrow."
Lando Norris was emerging as the big story from qualifying as the youngster once again exceled in the wet conditions. He was fastest of all in both Q1 and Q2 and looked well placed to fight for a maiden pole position. But going out early in Q3 proved costly, with the rain coming down and the track treacherous. Norris had the smallest of moments but it was just enough to pitch him into the barriers at Raidillon in a heavy crash that brought out the red flags and saw him heading off to hospital for checks. Daniel Ricciardo had been the bridesmaid up until that point, but the Aussie pulled a great lap out of the bag at the end to grab his best qualifying of the year.
Daniel Ricciardo, 4th, 2:00.864
“Firstly, I was pleased to see Lando get up and out of the car quickly, and it’s great to hear he’s been cleared to race tomorrow. Otherwise, that was a really tricky qualifying session. The weather was changing regularly, which made it difficult to judge the conditions and get the choice of tyre right, but I think we did a great job and obviously I'm really happy with P4, my best start with McLaren. Who knows what the weather will do tomorrow and what’s possible, but hopefully we can score some decent points and maybe get on the podium.”
Lando Norris, 10th, No time set in Q3
“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. “Everything was going extremely well. Since the first lap in Q1, things were going perfectly and the car was feeling hooked up. I felt confident with the car. It was tricky going out in Q3 because, even on the out-lap, I was saying how wet it was because I was aquaplaning quite a bit. It was just a difficult situation to be in. How much do you want to push? How much do you not? I think, a combination of pushing a bit too much for the weather at that point and aquaplaning a little bit in the middle of Eau Rouge obviously didn’t end too well. I feel bad because things were going very well. I think I could have fought for pole position, but I’ve now given the team a lot of work to do. We’ll see where we start tomorrow and try to score as many points as possible. Finally, a big thanks to all the marshals and medical staff for their help and hard work today.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“The most important news today is that Lando is fine. After precautionary checks at the Medical Centre and the hospital, he has been cleared to be back in the car tomorrow. I want to say thanks to the medical team and marshals for all of their help and support today. Currently, we are still assessing the damage to his car. The outcome of those checks will determine whether he can start from the grid or will have to begin the race from the pit-lane. Either way, with the strong performance he has delivered all weekend, the objective for him is very clear: to make ground during the race and score good points. Congratulations to Daniel for his best McLaren qualifying performance to date. He and his crew pulled off an excellent result under very difficult conditions, culminating in a great final lap that put him on the second row. Given the confidence he’s shown with the car today, he’s aiming for a great result tomorrow. It has been a difficult day and will be a long evening and busy morning for our mechanics in the garage – but we are looking forward to what promises to be an exciting and unpredictable Belgian Grand Prix.”
A mixed bag down at Aston Martin, with Lance Stroll unable to make the most of conditions he usually likes as he wound up a dispiriting P15 – which will become 20th after his grid penalty is applied. Sebastian Vettel though made Q3 and once there managed to grab a very impressive fifth on the grid although with the track changing so fast, more might have been possible out there. Seeking to make up for the points lost last time out in Hungary, the German driver should be on for a strong result tomorrow.
Sebastian Vettel, 5th, 2:00.935
“The most important thing today is that Lando [Norris] is okay after his crash. I stopped to make sure he was because I saw a lot of debris and it is never a nice place to go off. From our side, we can be happy with fifth on the grid tomorrow. I was getting increasingly into the groove with the car and I was happy with my laps – until the final one. I had already put in a good lap time and I wanted to extract more, so I was pushing a little harder, but I went off at Turn 8 and lost some time. I think if we had avoided that, I could have battled with the guys at the front of the field. The forecast suggests that tomorrow will be similar weather, which suits us, so we can fight for a strong result and get some good points for the team.”
Lance Stroll, 15th, 1:58.231
“It is a difficult qualifying result to take. The car had felt good in the tricky conditions throughout the day, and the end of Q2 was crucial because conditions were improving all the time. We switched to a new set of intermediate tyres to try and capitalise on the situation, but we just ran out of time to begin a flying lap, which meant a lot of drivers around me were able to easily improve their times. We will look into how that happened and learn from it. It means we will start at the back of the field tomorrow [owing to the grid penalty from Hungary], but I still believe we can get a result tomorrow because this is a circuit on which you can overtake, especially if the weather continues to be changeable.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“It was very disappointing that we were not able to give Lance two laps on new inters in Q2, owing to his being delayed by Fernando [Alonso], and the result was that he was not able to get through to Q3. It is doubly upsetting because Lance is brilliant in the wet. In fact, the last wet Formula 1 qualifying session, which was at Istanbul Park in 2020, resulted in a Lance pole position. Had he made it across the line in time, it is likely that he would have been very, very near the front in Q2. It may well rain tomorrow and Spa is a circuit on which it is possible to overtake, so you can be assured that he will be gunning for points, even though he will be starting from the back. As for Seb, he drove a solid quali hour today, even stopping to check that Lando [Norris] was okay after his big Eau Rouge shunt, and ended up a fine P5. Another podium finish has to be his target tomorrow.”
Pierre Gasly picked up pretty much where he left off, with another quiet but assured display as he comfortably made Q3 and wound up with a decent sixth place, the tenth time he has made it to the top 10 this season out of 12 race weekends. As for Yuki Tsunoda, he struggled in the greasy conditions and was unable to make much of an impression on the field. But the experience in the wet will stand him in good stead for any other races that see rain this season – and not least tomorrow, which could be run in similar conditions to today.
Pierre Gasly, 6th, 2:01.164
“It’s been a fun afternoon, I really enjoy driving in these conditions, you don’t know what you’re going to get on track, and you have to try to be at the limit of what the car can do. It’s another great quali for us, finishing in P6, and I think we’re in a good position for the race tomorrow. It was tricky out there today and I’m glad to see that Lando got out of the car and is okay. I have no idea what the weather will be like tomorrow, it’s been so changeable the whole weekend, so I’ll open the curtains in the morning and see what we get!”
Yuki Tsunoda, 17th, 2:02.413
“I’ve been aiming to steadily build up my speed and confidence in the car across this weekend and I think I’ve done this well, improving through the practice sessions. However, today the conditions in qualifying were definitely not easy, especially as I don’t have a lot of experience driving in the wet in a Formula 1 car. I’m disappointed to have not made it through to Q2, as the pace in the car was definitely there, but I just wasn’t fast enough to make it through. I think we need to hope for mixed conditions in the race tomorrow to allow me to move up through the pack.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“Yesterday our package appeared reasonably competitive. However, with the weather forecast for today and tomorrow being quite variable, the set up related decisions overnight and after FP3 have not been straightforward. Nevertheless, the team was able to progress further again today and take another step up, which is positive. Pierre has put a strong performance in across the weekend so far, being competitive in every session and making Q3 today, securing sixth on the grid. He has demonstrated the package is working quite well in today's difficult conditions. On Yuki's side of the garage progress has also been made but unfortunately, in the tricky conditions in qualifying, he was not able to put his best lap together and, as a result, he did not make it out of Q1. It’s frustrating for the team, as Q2 was a realistic target. Looking forward to the race tomorrow, the weather may continue to be variable, so we need to stay focused on getting Yuki into the midfield battle.”
It was not to be for Alpine, who had looked quick yesterday in mostly dry running. The car didn’t have the same balance in the wet, with Fernando Alonso out in Q2 and Esteban Ocon unable to make much of an impression in Q3. But as Hungary showed, in changeable conditions anything can happen and with Alonso’s race craft and Ocon’s wet weather skills, they could both have a big impact on the race tomorrow.
Esteban Ocon, 9th, 2:03.513
“It was not a straightforward qualifying for us today, but I’m pleased to be starting inside the top 10 for tomorrow. The car felt really good in the dry yesterday, so I actually hope the rain stays away tomorrow! We just weren’t as comfortable in the wet today especially on the intermediates. We have a few things to understand on that to make sure we can further improve. I managed to do a good lap at the end of Q2 to go through to Q3, which was important. Overall, it was a challenging session, but we’re in the mix for the race. I’m glad Lando is okay after the accident, that’s the most important thing from today.”
Fernando Alonso, 14th, 1:58.205
“I didn’t find the grip today in the changing conditions and our starting position will make it a difficult race for us tomorrow. I found myself in 14th in Q1 and Q2 so I think that was my pace today. If it’s like this tomorrow, then for sure anything can happen and we’ll see what’s possible. I am glad Lando is okay after his accident.”
Davide Brivio, Racing Director
“It was a tricky and difficult qualifying session and I think at the end of the day we managed quite well, placing Esteban in Q3 and in a good position for tomorrow in rainy conditions. Unfortunately things didn’t work well for Fernando and we’ll look into what happened for him. We now look forward to race day. We must be ready with various options for Sunday and see what we can do. It should be a wet race and anything can happen.”
Ferrari did not make Q3 with either car, despite looking strong in the dry yesterday. But as the rain fell, their pace dropped away and their cause wasn’t helped by some mistimed runs in Q2 when they gambled on going early thinking more rain was coming. In the end it held off, leaving both drivers short of making the top 10, although both at least should benefit from Bottas’ grid penalty to move up a spot.
Charles Leclerc, 11th, 1:57.721
"Qualifying was tricky for us today. It was a shame as I was quite satisfied with the car balance and our overall performance wasn’t bad considering the track conditions. With hindsight, maybe it would have been better to delay the tyre change in Q2, but that’s easy to say after the event. I think that the most important thing for all of us today is to see Lando walk away from his crash unharmed. Now we have to concentrate on the race. It will be tough but at the same time, exciting with the weather no doubt playing an important role."
Carlos Sainz, 13th, 1:58.137
"It has been a difficult weekend so far, especially today. We kind of expected it after the feeling we had from FP3. I’m not happy because I always enjoy driving in the wet. However, the balance and the grip weren’t there today. We struggled to get the front temperatures up and we had no feeling under braking. We need to look into it. Also, today was about getting out on track at the right time with the right tyre. With rain coming and going so quickly it was very difficult to get it right and we might have lost a bit of lap time there too, but it’s always easier to say it with hindsight. Finally, I’m glad Lando walked away unharmed from that scary crash. Lets see what the weather brings tomorrow. We’ll do our best to get the best result possible. "
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"Our qualifying performance was well below our usual standard and so far this whole weekend has proved very difficult for us. We have not yet managed to get the most out of our car, neither in the dry nor in the wet, although the situation has improved slightly. When the conditions change very quickly, as they did today, it’s never easy to find the right moment to go out, while it’s always easy to judge with hindsight. Having said that, it’s what happens tomorrow afternoon that counts, after the chequered flag has been waved. We can expect to have a very tough race, presumably running in similar conditions to today’s. Therefore the priority will be to stay calm and make the most of any opportunities that come our way."
Kimi Raikkonen’s poor weekend continued when he suffered a suspected brake failure in FP3 and sat out most of the session. Coming into qualifying with limited experience of the conditions as a result, he exited at the first time of asking. So did his team mate, Antonio Giovinazzi unable to extract enough pace to keep his run of Q2 appearances going here.
Kimi Raikkonen, 19th, 2:04.452
“A bad day that started off this morning, missing out the practice session in the wet. I had to use Q1 to figure out the lines to take and we just didn’t have enough laps to make up the lost ground. I am sure that with a few more laps, we would have been a lot better. Not a lot of positives to take from today, but we can only go up tomorrow: we will try our best and see what we can get out of a race in these conditions.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 16th, 2:02.306
“I gave everything I had, but it was not enough. I was improving lap after lap, first on wet tyres and then intermediates, and with one more round we would have been even better, but we ran out of time. In the end, it was the same for everyone and we fell short. The conditions for tomorrow are likely to be similar to today’s, so we need to be ready to take any opportunity, especially if the race turns into chaos. We have to improve on what we did today, that’s for sure.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Today’s result was disappointing, especially in conditions that can mix up the order. We were not able to get the most out of the session: Kimi suffered missing third practice in the morning, and we think he would have been close to where Antonio was, closer to Q2. We’ll regroup and look at ways to make up the lost ground tomorrow: the weather conditions may well be similar to today’s, which means we can still take our chances to make up places. We’ve seen crazy races in Belgium before and tomorrow may be another: if so, we’ll be ready.”
Both rookies once again kept their sessions clean which given the conditions, was credible in itself. While Mick Schumacher looked briefly to have made a name for himself when he jumped up the leaderboard, even in the wet the VF-21 didn’t have the pace to compete and both exited in Q1, with the German getting the better of his team mate Nikita Mazepin for the fifth time in six races.
Mick Schumacher, 18th, 2:03.973
“Challenging conditions but on the other hand a lot of fun – I enjoyed every second of it. I think the communication with the team was on point today. We managed to take the right decisions at the right time, and I think that helped us being where we are now. I think we can be happy with the results we achieved today, maybe not in terms of ranking, but definitely in terms of procedures that we had and everything in terms of communication was very good. I’m really excited about tomorrow – I have a special helmet on that keeps me protected but is also a very lucky charm. I’m very much considering keeping it!”
Nikita Mazepin, 20th, 2:04.939
“It was a lot of fun to drive. I’m upset because today was a prime example of why you need experience in Formula 1. Going in from lower formulas you have wet tyres and you try to drive them to the maximum grip you have. Here, you also have the inters, which are much faster, and I thought the right tyre with the amount of water to stay out was wets but we needed to box for inters earlier. I just lacked that grip and I only had one lap on those tyres – it wasn’t enough to put a good lap together.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“A very interesting qualifying with the rain coming and going. We just tried to do the best we can, and I think for our two guys – their first year in these conditions to run at Spa – isn’t an easy task, but they both got the cars home safe and in one piece which was the most important thing to do. Now we just wait to see what the weather is doing tomorrow and try to take some advantage out of it. All in all, not a bad day.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"First and foremost, we're all relieved that Lando Norris is okay after a very big accident at one of the quickest points on the circuit. This was an extremely tricky qualifying where it was very hard to predict the weather from one minute to the next, forcing the teams to think on their feet. Similar conditions are expected for tomorrow, so that particular challenge is set to continue. The intermediate tyre, which was used for the bulk of today's running, showed itself to be capable of handling a wide variety of wet and drying conditions. Tomorrow's strategy – where we don't even know yet which type of tyres the drivers will be starting the race on – is going to be mainly about adapting to changing circumstances, as we saw throughout today."