April 1, 2023

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) — Carlos Sainz Jr. will start from pole at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday as runaway Formula 1 points leader Max Wei Stappen (Max Verstappen) was one of many drivers who received a penalty.

Sainz was actually second fastest behind Verstappen in qualifying on Saturday, but the reigning world champion will drop to 15th before the start. Otherwise, Verstappen would have won his fourth pole position of the season and 17th of his career.

The Red Bull driver still liked his chances because of the pace of qualifying.

“It would be a shame to own a car like this if it didn’t get on the podium,” said a confident Verstappen.

Sainz was happy with his starting position, but his Ferrari was a disturbing 0.632 seconds behind Verstappen in qualifying.

“I’m happy to start on pole; obviously not so happy to see the gap with Max this weekend,” said the Spaniard. “But starting from pole is a good start.”

Sainz took his first career pole position at the British Grand Prix this season, Verstappen’s ninth appearance of the season and a win has not been ruled out.

“The safety car can help him, if you convert his speed to more than 44 laps, he can come back,” Sainz said.

Sainz got traction from his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc on his final attempt. Although Sainz misread some of his speed in Turns 5, 6 and 7, he said that even a perfect lap would have only cut Verstappen’s time by a tenth.

“It’s weird when you see the gap with the Max. It was there all weekend, more than half a second ahead of us in any case,” Sainz said. “I do believe in the game we can be more competitive.”

Also, Verstappen noted that he finished 10th in Hungary.

“Get past the first lap and then I need to pass a few cars,” Verstappen said. “It’s a bit like Hungary, a little bit further back, but the basics are the same.”

Verstappen will start alongside Leclerc, who is 80 points behind the Dutchman as F1 resumes racing after the summer break. Leclerc was fourth in qualifying but, like Verstappen, was penalised for a replacement engine part and will drop to 16th.

Before the 14th race of the season, a total of seven drivers were penalized in Belgium. Also forced to step back: McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, Haas’ Mick Schumacher and Alfa Romeo’s Walter Leigh Bottas.

Bottas had previously failed to qualify for Group 1 for the first time since Monaco played for Williams in 2015.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez (third fastest in qualifying) will be ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in all penalties. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will move up to fourth and fifth after penalties.

Hamilton is aiming for his sixth podium in a row and his first win of the year. But the seven-time F1 champion sounded dismayed when told of his gap with Verstappen.

“1.8 seconds?” he murmured.

But Williams is optimistic, as Alex Albon has regained his confidence after a multi-year contract extension, reaching the third qualifying round for the first time this season. That means every driver on the F1 circuit has made at least one final round this year.

Set in the Ardennes Forest, the 7km (4.3 mile) circuit is the longest in F1 and one of the best for overtaking – making it easier for Verstappen and other fast cars to pass ahead. transportation.

“It should be a very exciting race for the fans,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.


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