BELGIAN GP – Charles Leclerc storms to pole by seventh tenths over Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes

Testing & Race Reports

Charles Leclerc has beaten his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel by seven-tenths of a second to take pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix. The Monacan was on fire in qualifying once again beating his teammate for the seventh qualifying in a row.

Ferrari was hoping that this weekend would see them on the pace and beat both Mercedes for the first time this season. Leclerc set the pace early on during his first run taking provisional pole, but that was enough to secure pole before improving to a 42.519 on his second run.

Lewis Hamilton had taken second before Vettel improved to take second by one-hundredth of a second. The Mercedes driver had improved but Vettel just hung on with a better lap. Vettel complained that his laps were a “mess” but it didn’t stop Ferrari claiming their first front-row lockout since round two of the season in Bahrain.

Leclerc said, “It obviously feels amazing. It felt good – the first sector wasn’t quite what we wanted, but after that, we were very strong. We need to work on our race pace a bit, but I think we should be fast tomorrow.”

Vettel added “Messy. I was getting into a sort of rhythm, it took a little bit longer for me to get hold of the car but Q3 felt quite messy, a lot of queuing for the last corner, and the tyres then are not there where they are meant to be, but Charles did a better job today.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fifth, the Dutchman was a second off Leclerc ahead of his home Grand Prix. But his session could have been cut short, he suffered an engine issue on his first run in Q1 forcing him to abort his run.

Verstappen returned to the track with time for two runs, he crossed the line going fifth in Q1 before the red flag. The session was stopped after Robert Kubica’s Williams suffered a failure of his new and latest-specification Mercedes V6 engine towards the end of the lap while on his first qualifying lap.

But, luckily crossed the line with thirteen seconds to spare to avoid being knocked out in Q1. New teammate Alex Albon knew he would start from the back of the grid and he has focused on race preparation work this weekend. Although he did set a time in Q2, it was on previously-used rubber and left him down in fourteenth place.

Renault lead the midfield battle, Daniel Ricciardo in sixth going a hundredth faster than his teammate Nico Hulkenberg. Although Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen nearly spilt the two, the Finn was just a hundredth of a second behind.

Racing Point of Sergio Perez, who has reverted to a previously-used old-specification Mercedes engine after Friday’s failure, was ninth ahead of the two Haas’s, with Kevin Magnussen knocking teammate Romain Grosjean out in Q2.

McLaren failed to get through to Q3, Lando Norris starts twelfth while teammate Carlos Sainz was a surprise Q1 drop out. Lance Stroll was thirteenth after a single run in Q2 but joins a number of drivers at the back-of-the-grid penalty for taking the new Mercedes engine at the start of the weekend.

Newly-promoted Red Bull driver Alex Albon also has a back-of-the-grid penalty for taking the latest Honda engine package, meaning he has focused on race preparation work this weekend. Hew was fourteenth fastest.

Antonio Giovinazzi made it through to Q2 but was left unable to set a time after an engine failure causing a red flag at the end of Q1. That left Pierre Gasly was the quickest of those knocked out having lapped almost three-tenths off slowest Q2 qualifier Norris.

Sainz was seventeenth but joins those with engine penalties at the back, luckily he is likely to start in that position with his not being as great as those around him. Daniil Kvyat was eighteenth, he also faces a grid drop but will not lose position as his isn’t as great as those around him.

George Russell was the only Williams to set a time in Q1 after teammate Robert Kubica suffered an engine failure as he started his lap in Q1. Kubica brought the Williams, which was billowing smoke, to a halt as a fire broke out at the rear – leading to the first red flag of the session.

Several engine penalties will be applied on Sunday – Albon, Lance Stroll, Kvyat, the Renaults, with Giovinazzi and Kubica may add to that list. Which could make for an interesting race.

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Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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