Max Verstappen took pole position for the Sprint at the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix, beating McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in a tight and tricky wet-dry Shootout in which the top three were covered by just over two hundredths of a second.
Following heavy rain through the morning, the opening segment of the Sprint Shootout got underway after a 35-minute delay in order to allow track conditions to improve.
And when the session began, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were first on track, with cars on Intermediate tyres and fuelled for the full 12 minutes.
Hamilton crossed the line in 2:02.297 but that time was beaten by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and then by Piastri who stopped the clock at 2:01.311. Verstappen however, took top spot with his first flyer, setting a time of 2:00.352. Russell’s next lap then put him in P2 ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez.
With four minutes remaining, Sainz moved to the top of the order with a time of 1:59.981 but Verstappen was about to finish his second flyer and he quickly reclaimed P1 with a time by almost a second, posting a lap of 1:58.958.
Verstappen held on to top spot with a final time of 1:58.135 as Hamilton took second place ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, while Williams’ Alex Albon jumped to fourth ahead of Pérez.
Eliminated at the end of the session were AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in P16 followed by the staggered Alfa Romeo and Haas cars, with Valtteri Bottas in P17 ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hülkenberg.
Inters were still the tyre of choice for the start of the 10-minute middle segment and in the opening laps it was Hamilton who set the early pace with a lap of 1:55.823. Verstappen then moved to the top of the order, 0.623 clear of the Mercedes driver, with Pérez in third place on 1:55.878.
With the track steadily improving it was then a question of whether it had become good enough for slick tyres. For most the answer was no but late in the session Aston Martin sent Lance Stroll out on the mandated Medium compound slick tyres.
It proved the wrong choice and he lost control in Turn 11 and went into the barriers. The red flags came out and with just 30 seconds left on the clock Race Control ruled that the session would not be restarted. It meant that at the end of SQ2, AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo, Albon, his Williams’ team-mate Logan Sargeant, Stroll and Alonso were eliminated.
By the time Stroll’s car had been recovered and the final eight-minute segment got underway, the track had reached the crossover point and all 10 drivers left in the session took to the track on the mandated Soft tyres.
Hamilton set the early benchmark at 1:51.198 with Verstappen in P2 on 1:51.286. Pérez then moved to the top as the session drew to a close on 1:50.303. However, the drivers behind were finding more time. The Ferrari and McLaren drivers all took turns at the top but the driver who found most time at the end of the session was Verstappen, and the Dutchman took pole for the Sprint just 0.011s ahead of Piastri by 0.011s. Sainz might also have felt aggrieved, as he was relegated to third, just 0.023s off the pace. Leclerc finished fourth, with Norris in P5 ahead of Gasly and Hamilton and that meant that Checo’s best time left him in eight place ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Mercedes' George Russell.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix – Sprint Shootout
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:49.056 - -
2 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:49.067 0.011 0.010
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:49.081 0.025 0.023
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:49.251 0.195 0.179
5 Lando Norris McLaren 1:49.389 0.333 0.305
6 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:49.700 0.644 0.591
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:49.900 0.844 0.774
8 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 1:49.961 0.905 0.830
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:50.494 1.438 1.319
10 George Russell Mercedes 1:55.742 6.686 6.131
11 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:57.687 8.631 7.914
12 Alexander Albon Williams - - -
13 Logan Sargeant Williams - - -
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin - - -
15 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin - - -
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 2:00.568 11.512 10.556
17 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 2:00.951 11.895 10.907
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2:01.079 12.023 11.025
19 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 2:01.430 12.374 11.346
20 Nico Hülkenberg Haas