A slew of engine and gearbox penalties sent many drivers to the back of the grid, including title rivals Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
Formula One’s starting grid for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix will look significantly different from how the drivers finished qualifying.
Ferrari and Red Bull drivers will make up the front row with Carlos Sainz starting at the pole and Sergio Perez at second as engine and gearbox penalties sent a significant portion of the grid to the bottom seven, including title rivals Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
Although Verstappen went the fastest on Saturday, he will start from P15. But, that doesn’t mean he’s ruled out of winning the race, according to one F1 driver. Mercedes driver George Russell feels the Dutchman could still win “pretty comfortably.”
“I think Max is going to slice through and win the race probably pretty comfortably,” the Mercedes driver said. He qualified just a little over two seconds behind Verstappen.
“I think he and Red Bull are just miles ahead of everyone. I don’t really know about Charles, to be honest.”
Verstappen finished just over six-tenths of a second quicker than Sainz, and given the slew of engine and grid penalties dealt to six other F1 drivers as well, the Dutchman qualified ahead of the others who received back of the grid penalties.
The only driver who received a significant penalty but avoided the “back of the grid” status was Valtteri Bottas, who will start ahead of Verstappen at P14 despite qualifying at P20.
The Alfa Romeo driver’s penalty total did equate to 20 spots; however, the team spread the penalties out (15 spots for the power unit and five for the gearbox).
Instead of triggering the “back of the grid” penalty, he was only dealt 20 spots, placing him ahead of the other six who received “back of the grid.”
Behind Bottas, Verstappen and Leclerc will share the eighth row, Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris on the ninth, and rounding out the grid, Zhou Guanyu and Mick Schumacher make up the final row.
Sainz seems to agree with Russell. The Ferrari driver was asked if it’ll be a straight-out fight with Perez, and he said, “Not entirely, no. Especially with the pace, Max has.
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