Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fastest in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, but is one of many drivers to take a grid penalty tomorrow, so Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz – second fastest in the session – will start from pole position. All riders used the soft P Zero Red tires to set their qualifying times.
Conditions were cool throughout the hour of qualifying (delayed 25 minutes for barrier repairs after an earlier accident) with 17 degrees ambient and 22 degrees track temperature.
One of the standout performances in today’s qualifying came from Williams driver Alex Albon, who will line up on tomorrow’s grid in P6.
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez was fastest in FP3 earlier in the day on soft tyres, where conditions were again cool and dry.
The Pirelli Pole Position Award was presented by Belgian racing legend Jacky Ickx: a six-time Le Mans winner who also won eight Formula 1 Grands Prix and twice finished second in the F1 Drivers’ Championship (in 1969 and 1970 ), as well as winner of the Dakar Rally in 1983.
The 44 laps of the Belgian Grand Prix can be tackled with a one-stop or two-stop strategy, although there are different permutations of one stop possible, as well as a more aggressive two-stop strategy.
The weather so far has been variable, but tomorrow should be a little warmer, with a tactical picture made more complex by the fact that a number of fast cars will start from behind due to penalties on the gate.
Starting on the P Zero Yellow medium is the most flexible approach, giving the option of switching to hard P Zero White or soft P Zero Red as part of a one-stopper, while leaving the door open for a two-stopper if needed. Starting on the soft does not exclude a one-stopper, but it requires either an early stop for the hard, or careful management to then move on to the medium.
A different, more aggressive approach might be to use the soft as part of two stops, perhaps with two stints on the medium tire. This could compromise track position, but could be a good option for a fast car if there is a safety car, or if the degradation on soft turns out to be quite high.
Much will depend on weather conditions, but tomorrow is expected to take place in conditions that neither team has experienced yet.