Max Verstappen takes Belgian Grand Prix sprint pole ahead of Oscar Piastri

Formula One F1 - Belgian Grand Prix - Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium - July 29, 2023 Red Bull's Max Verstappen in action

Max Verstappen mastered the conditions to take pole for the sprint race – Reuters/Johanna Geron

Max Verstappen will start on pole position for Saturday’s sprint race after beating McLaren’s Oscar Piastri to top spot by just 0.011 seconds.

Verstappen qualified fastest here on Friday for Sunday’s Grand Prix, but he will line up in sixth after serving a grid penalty for a gearbox change.

But for the 15-lap dash in the Ardennes, the Red Bull driver begins from the front after edging out the impressive Piastri in wet-dry conditions at Spa-Francorchamps.

Carlos Sainz finished third, just 0.025sec adrift of Verstappen, with Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc fourth.

Lando Norris took fifth for McLaren, while Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who appeared to trip over one another in the closing moments, only seventh and 10th respectively for Mercedes.

“It was difficult, but we stayed calm,” said Verstappen. “The gap to second was not as big as yesterday, but there was no need to risk it all.

“My second sector was a bit careful – turns eight and nine were very slippery so I left a bit of time on the table – but I am still on pole and that is what counts.

“Let’s see if it rains in the afternoon. I will try to have a clean start and have good vision and that is very important when it is wet.”

12:39 PM BST

A reminder that the sprint race start time has been delayed

Because the rules require a 4h30min break between the sprint qualifying and the sprint race later in the day. So that means, assuming no further delays or rain, the sprint race will begin at 4.05pm BST. 

We will be back around 3.15pm for the build-up to that.

12:34 PM BST

Verstappen reacts to sprint pole

“It was pretty difficult, quite similar to yesterday. We stayed calm, the gap was not as big as yesterday but there was also no need to risk it all. My second sector was probably a bit careful. Still turn eight and nine was super slippery, so I guess I left a bit of time on the table.”

12:32 PM BST

Brilliant lap from Piastri

12:30 PM BST

Replays show a very big moment between Russell and Hamilton

Russell was ahead heading into turn one, locked up and then they go side by side onto the Kemmel Straight. Hamilton then gets a healthy tow from his team-mate but nearly goes into the back of him, having to back out a little. Hmmm.

12:28 PM BST

SQ3 – Classification

  1. VER 1:49.056

  2. PIA +0.011

  3. SAI +0.025

  4. LEC +0.195

  5. NOR +0.333

  6. GAS +0.644

  7. HAM +0.844

  8. PER +0.905

  9. OCO +1.438

  10. RUS +6.866

Not sure what happened to Russell. A poor day yesterday and another poor one today. Leclerc’s mistake at turn nine probably cost him pole. Probably.

12:27 PM BST


By just 0.011sec over Piastri! Oof. Nearly Oscar, nearly.

“Not easy with this weather,” he says. Sainz third, just 0.025sec off Verstappen. Tight.

12:26 PM BST

SQ3 – Ocon into third

Leclerc going well here. Lap times tumbling. Sainz into first but Leclerc cannot beat him!

Norris third as Piastri goes fastest of anyone!… it’s just Verstappen left…

12:25 PM BST

SQ3 – Final runs under way

Leclerc with the fastest first sector but has a bit of a moment in turn nine, I think. Gasly with the fastest middle sector.

Gasly goes from 10th to first, 0.6sec faster than Perez…okay. 

12:24 PM BST

SQ3 – Ocon into fourth

Verstappen todl to pick up the pace in order to get across the line. Perez goes fastest with his first proper hot lap though had to negotiate a lot of traffic in the final chicane.

Verstappen crosses the line with a couple of seconds on the clock so will be the last man to cross the line here.

12:23 PM BST

SQ3 – Order after the first runs

  1. HAM 1:51.198

  2. VER +0.088

  3. NOR +0.348

  4. LEC +1.327

  5. PIA +1.551

  6. SAI +4.176

  7. RUS +4.544

  8. PER +6.150

  9. GAS +16.046

  10. OCO +17.794

Gasly and Ocon doing double preparation laps, then.

12:22 PM BST

SQ3 – Verstappen slower than Hamilton

Not by much, just 0.088sec in it. Perez goes eighth but not a representative lap, six seconds down. Russell in seventh.

12:21 PM BST

SQ3 – Norris fastest by a second over Leclerc

But Hamilton is on a better lap, I think. Yes, faster than Norris by 0.348sec,

Verstappen and Perez are not on great laps…

12:21 PM BST

SQ3 – Leclerc with a 1:52.525

Sainz is slower by 2.8sec…

Norris going well, as is Hamilton…

12:20 PM BST

SQ3 – Drivers beginning their hot laps

It is totally dry apart from off-line. Hamilton with the fastest first sector time, though neither Red Bull has set a time there.

Verstappen does, though, and he’s 0.4sec off Hamilton. Interesting…

12:18 PM BST

SQ3 – Six minutes remain

Probably two timed laps on one run for each driver. Everyone is on slicks, though the sun has disappeared behind the clouds.

12:16 PM BST

Right, SQ3 has begin

We have eight minutes and 10 drivers to set the top 10 for the sprint race later today.

12:13 PM BST

Both Alpines into SQ3 which is something

A very difficult time for the team at the moment.

12:11 PM BST

I have little doubt that all drivers will begin on the soft slicks

In SQ3.

12:10 PM BST

Lance Stroll makes his way back to the paddock on a moped

A recovery vehicle is clearing away the Aston Martin which means we will have another (slight) delay before SQ3 begins. Does that mean that the sprint race will be further delayed?

12:08 PM BST

SQ2 ends – Classification

  1. VER 1:55.200

  2. HAM +0.623

  3. PER +0.678

  4. GAS +0.937

  5. LEC +1.065

  6. PIA +1.192

  7. SAI +1.357

  8. NOR +1.628

  9. OCO +1.851

  10. RUS +2.193


  11. RIC

  12. ALB

  13. SAR

  14. STR

  15. ALO

Hmmm. Of the drivers eliminated, it was only Ricciardo who actually set a lap time in that session. That is the risk you take if you don’t set a lap time early on and wait.

12:05 PM BST

SQ2 – Stroll does a 33.393sec in the first sector

That’s okay… the rest of the track is probably where he will get the benefit.

But no! He goes straight on at turn nine and into the barriers front-on!

That’s a red flag and will be the end of the session.

12:03 PM BST

SQ2 – Drivers in the drop zone

Ricciardo, Sargeant, Stroll, Alonso and Albon…

12:03 PM BST

SQ2 – Gasly going well and goes fastest

Although Hamilton then beats him by three tenths. Leclerc into third, four tenths down. Lance Stroll the first driver to try slicks and he goes onto the medium tyres. Russell loses some time at turn eight going too deep.

Stroll’s out lap is very tentative… but there is a fairly dry line. He says it’s too early, though. Let’s see…

12:01 PM BST

SQ2 – Norris fastest

A 1:56.828, 0.859sec ahead of Ricciardo in second. Yellow flags in sector three for Logan Sargeant. He gets going in the right direction after what looks like a spin. The problem with changing tyres here is that it is a long lap, a 2:10 out-lap probably and then you have to get the tyres working. It might be now or never…

12:00 PM BST

SQ2 – The sun is fully out now

Slick tyres before the end of this mini session?

11:56 AM BST

SQ2 begins! 10 minutes to go

15 drivers, only 10 to go through to the final part of sprint qualifying.

11:52 AM BST

SQ1 – Classification

  1. VER 1:58.135

  2. HAM +0.804

  3. ALO +0.903

  4. ALB +1.063

  5. PER +1.227

  6. SAI +1.279

  7. LEC +1.440

  8. OCO +1.749

  9. SAR +1.896

  10. GAS +1.897

  11. PIA +1.921

  12. RIC +2.042

  13. NOR +2.301

  14. STR +2.325

  15. RUS +2.340


  16. TSU

  17. BOT

  18. MAG

  19. ZHO

  20. HUL

11:50 AM BST

SQ1 – Alonso into second, so he’s through

Norris is doing what he needs to do as Verstappen goes faster still with a 1:58.135.

Ocon in 15th and in danger, Hamilton goes second. Ocon eighth. Norris 12th and that should be enough, just about…

Russell in 15th, but will be safe despite a mistake.

11:48 AM BST

SQ1 – Norris needs a good lap

Hulkenberg does not get across the line in order to set a lap time, so that’s a bit rubbish. He does not set a lap time in this session because of it. Poor.

Albon moves second. Norris cannot afford a mistake. Alonso and Stroll also in the drop zone.

11:46 AM BST

SQ1 – The two Haas drivers have not set a time

So it’s them, Norris, Stroll and Sargeant in the drop zone.

Verstappen leads Perez, Hamilton, Sainz, Piastri and Russell.

11:46 AM BST

SQ1 – Hamilton impeded Verstappen at turn eight

Hamilton was on a recharge lap, Verstappen on his hot lap. I don’t think it cost Verstappen too much if anything as Hamilton was on the inside of the corner and that isn’t necessarily the line. Still, it might be a reprimand. Actually, confirmation that no further action will be taken.

11:44 AM BST

SQ1 – Four minutes remain

Sainz has moved fastest ahead of Verstappen, but not for long. Hamilton does the fastest first sector time but Verstappen is on another flyer. Alonso only ninth…

What can Hamilton do? Verstappen moves back to the top of the timesheets a second ahead of Sainz and 1.5sec ahead of Russell but Hamilton crosses the line 0.7sec down on Verstappen…

11:43 AM BST

SQ1 – How they stand

  1. VER

  2. RUS

  3. PER

  4. GAS

  5. PIA

  6. LEC

  7. ALB

  8. HAM

  9. RIC

  10. NOR

Drivers in the drop zone: SAI, ZHO, TSU, MA, HUL, ALO

11:43 AM BST

SQ1 – Normal order has resumted

Verstappen goes nearly a second faster than Piastri, though Russell has slotted into second 0.7sec or so behind.

An incident noted between Hamilton and Verstappen for impeding at turn eight…

11:42 AM BST

SQ1 – Piastri fastest of all now

0.127sec faster than Leclerc in the Ferrari. Albon into third, ahead of Hamilton. Spray still pretty bad out there, though the cars are spread out enough for it to not appear to be a huge problem.

11:41 AM BST

SQ1 – Hamilton sets the first lap time

A 2:02.297 which is 2.770sec faster than team-mate George Russell, who crosses the line soon after. Magnussen comes into the pits at the end of his lap for some reason.

11:38 AM BST

SQ1 – 11 mins remain

I would imagine every driver is fuelled for the session. It’ll be about timing your lap and going quicker and quicker and quicker.

Because of this delay, the sprint race will start five minutes later, so at 4.05pm BST later today. 

11:36 AM BST


A 12 minute session with 20 drivers, five not making it through to SQ2.

11:34 AM BST

The drivers get to the end of the pit lane

Still a minute or two to go, though…  looks to be intermediate conditions. In which case I do not really know why we bother with full wet tyres when, whenever they are required, we rarely run.

11:28 AM BST

No doubt that we will see slicks before the end of SQ1…

Anyway, at least we’ll get some running. I will stop moaning now.

11:20 AM BST


I mean, why are we waiting so long for that? Anyway, there’s a start time…

11:20 AM BST

The drivers, well some of them, have their helmets on

That has to be a good sign…

11:17 AM BST

Well, the sun has come out a little now

So not entirely sure what we are waiting for…

11:14 AM BST

Still no word on the start time

I would hope, sincerely, that it will be in the next 10 or 15 minutes, looking at the conditions.

Technical vehicles blow air to clear rainwater from the track before the sprint shootout ahead of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Spa on July 29, 2023

Technical vehicles blow air to clear rainwater from the track before the sprint shootout ahead of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Spa on July 29, 2023

The Safety Car will likely do a few exploratory laps first.

11:07 AM BST

They’ve got some water-clearing vehicles on track

A bit of standing water at the top of Raidillon and the big green machines are doing a fantastic job.

11:05 AM BST


Further to my previous post, I believe it is yesterday’s qualifying that decides the sprint race grid if qualifying cannot take place.

11:01 AM BST

There is no length on the current delay

If it stops raining and the cars can get on track it should dry fairly quickly, assuming no further rain.

Spectators wait in the rain before the sprint shootout ahead of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Spa on July 29, 2023.

Spectators wait in the rain before the sprint shootout ahead of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Spa on July 29, 2023.

10:55 AM BST

What if they cannot get the sprint shootout completed before the sprint race?

Then championship order decides the starting grid. The rain looks to have eased slightly in the pit lane. It’s obviously a very changeable place, Spa. There has been plenty of talk this week about changes to the track after various accidents, including two fatalities, in recent years.

10:51 AM BST


No real surprise. Hopefully it will not be a long delay with the rain expected to ease shortly, but who knows?

I’ll keep you updated when I have more information.

10:49 AM BST

A further weather update

Give MeteoMotorsport a follow if you’re on Twitter:

10:47 AM BST

Alpine axe Otmar Szafnauer and two other long-serving staff members

It’s more change at Alpine… yet again. Here’s Tom Cary with the latest from a team that continues to under-perform…

Alpine have announced that under-fire team principal Otmar Szafnauer will leave the team “by mutual agreement” following this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, with longstanding sporting director Alan Permane and engineer Pat Fry also departing Enstone.

The announcement comes less than a week after group chief executive Laurent Rossi was moved aside, and following a nightmare Hungarian Grand Prix where both Alpine drivers, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, were eliminated after just two racing laps, due after crashing into each other in a multi-car accident.

Szafnauer has had a long career in the sport with BAR/Honda, Force India, Aston Martin and now Alpine.

Read more here. 

10:37 AM BST

Current constructor standings

10:34 AM BST

Looking at the current conditions

I am not entirely sure they will be starting if it stays like it is. That is merely from the television pictures, though.

10:31 AM BST

Current driver standings: Top 10

10:26 AM BST

Watch: Max Verstappen’s “pole” lap

Of course, he takes a five-place grid penalty for the race on Sunday so is not the official pole sitter, that is Charles Leclerc. Still, he was the fastest driver by 0.8sec…

10:20 AM BST

Meanwhile, in the paddock

10:16 AM BST

How is the weather looking?

Yeah, a bit rainy today. Not sure how rainy or when but there will be some dampness, almost certainly.

10:14 AM BST

Remaining races this year

It’s the summer break after this race and then it’s a pretty hectic schedule after Zandvoort.

2023 F1 season calendar: remaining races

2023 F1 season calendar: remaining races

10:07 AM BST

A reminder of this weekend’s format

Friday, July 28

Practice 1: 12.30pm

Qualifying: 4pm

Saturday, July 29

Sprint shootout/qualifying: 11am

Sprint race: 3.30pm

Sunday, July 30

Race: 2pm

09:58 AM BST

Times after qualifying

  1. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1min 46.168secs

  2. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:46.988

  3. Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:47.045

  4. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:47.087

  5. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Spa) Ferrari 1:47.152

  6. Oscar Piastri (Aus) McLaren 1:47.365

  7. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:47.669

  8. George Russell (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:47.805

  9. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Aston Martin 1:47.843

  10. Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:48.841

  11. Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:53.148

  12. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Alpine 1:53.671

  13. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 Team 1:54.160

  14. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:54.694

  15. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:56.372

  16. Alexander Albon (Tha) Williams 2:00.314

  17. Guanyu Zhou (Chn) Alfa Romeo Racing 2:00.832

  18. Logan Sargeant (USA) Williams 2:01.535

  19. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Scuderia AlphaTauri 2:02.159

  20. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Haas F1 Team 2:03.166

09:51 AM BST

Good morning F1 fans

And welcome to our coverage for Sprint Saturday, to give it its unofficial title, for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. This is the third weekend of six sprint weekends in 2023, which means the format is slightly different and indeed different from last year’s format. In short it’s qualifying for the main race on Friday (already done) and then qualifying for the sprint race this morning and then the actual sprint race itself later this afternoon.

Yesterday was a fairly interesting couple of sessions, first practice and qualifying both being affected by the rain which is around the track all weekend. In the end, though, it was the man who has won the last seven grands prix who topped qualifying by a fairly enormous margin. Who would have though that?

Charles Leclerc, who often goes well at this track, put in a decent performance for Ferrari. He was 0.8sec down on Verstappen but will actually start from pole position on Sunday as the Dutchman takes a grid penalty of five places. Sergio Perez was third with Lewis Hamilton fourth and Carlos Sainz fifth. Oscar Piastri continued his good form in out-qualifying his team-mate Lando Norris, but the other Australian on the grid, Daniel Ricciardo, was eliminated in Q1 and will start 19th.

Should we expect more of the same from the sprint qualifying and race today? Well, probably, yes, but it all depends on the conditions. Spa is a little trickier in the wet than other tracks because of the high speeds, inclines and declines as well as the fact that the track is so large. It can easily be bone dry on one part of the track and soaking on another.

In any case, we will find out and some rain will keep things interesting. Won’t it? Fingers crossed for that, in all honesty.

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