The starting positions of Formula 1 cars at Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix will be very different from the drivers’ performances in qualifying.
Ferrari and Red Bull drivers will be on pole with Carlos Sainz in front and Sergio Perez in second as engine and gearbox penalties will be severe The bulk of the grid was sent to the bottom seven, including championship rivals Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
Although Verstappen was the fastest on Saturday, he will start at P15. But, according to one F1 driver, that doesn’t mean he can’t win races. Mercedes driver George Russell believes the Dutchman can still “win easily”.
“I think Max could easily break through and win the race,” said the Mercedes driver. He qualified just over two seconds behind Verstappen. “I think he and Red Bull are miles ahead of everyone. To be honest, I really don’t know Charles.”
Verstappen finished six-tenths of a second faster than Sainz A little more, and considering that the other six suffered engine and qualifying penalties as F1 drivers, the Dutchman was ahead of the other drivers who were penalised on the grid. The only driver who received a major penalty but avoided a “start back” state was Valtteri Bottas, who would lead Verstappen in P14 despite qualifying P20.
The total penalty points for the Alfa Romeo driver did amount to 20 points; however, the teams spread the penalty points (15 points for the power unit and 5 points for the gearbox). Instead of triggering the “back of the grid” penalty, he only managed 20 places, putting him ahead of the other six who received the “back of the grid”.
Will share the eighth row after Bottas, Verstappen and Leclerc, Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris will start side by side in the ninth row, Zhou Guanyu and Mick Schumacher forms the last row.
Sainz seems to agree with Russell. Asked if the Ferrari driver would fight Perez directly, he said: “Not exactly, no. Especially Max’s speed.
“As long as there is a safety car to help him close the gap, Or even at his pace, if you convert it to 44 laps, he can come back. We’ve seen him do this before. Obviously, that’s not going to be my focus – the first and second stage, if they have the pace of the race, it’s going to be a head-to-head battle with Checo and Mercedes.
“We’ll try to pull away, of course. But I’m not going to give up the two guys in the back.”
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