Max Verstappen took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix, mastering treacherous wet and dry conditions. He beat a magnificent lap from George Russell, who claimed second place, with Lewis Hamilton in third. Daniel Ricciardo was in fourth with Sebastian Vettel in fifth. sin embargo, qualifying was dominated by concerns over safety after Lando Norris suffered a huge accident at the high-speed Eau Rouge corner in heavy rain.
The rain had been persistently returning all day and started falling again just as Q3 began after almost 30 minutes of respite, forcing the drivers to adapt once more to very difficult conditions. With the full wet tyres on Norris went out. He had been very quick all afternoon – fastest in Q1 and Q2 – but on his hot lap he had a huge off at Eau Rouge. Norris was unhurt but the session was stopped immediately.
He had noted just before that the car was aquaplaning in areas on the standing water. Vettel, who had warned the conditions were too wet and was furious the FIA had not stopped the session, followed Norris up the hill and pulled up alongside the wreckage to ensure the British driver was OK. “Sorry boys, I let you down,” said Norris, taking responsibility for his error. sin embargo, that FIA race director Michael Masi had allowed the session to start was controversial.
Norris lost the rear going up the hill and, overcorrecting, pitched off to the left into the barriers with a major impact and then careered back across the track. It was in almost exactly the same spot that a horrific six-car accident occurred in the W Series on Friday, where cars were projected back on to the track and into one another. All the drivers were unharmed but Beitske Visser took three separate impacts in the incident.
Several weeks earlier at the Spa 24 Hours, the Williams development driver Jack Aitken suffered severe injuries after a major accident at the same spot while in 2019 Anthoine Hubert was killed and Juan Manuel Correa suffered serious injury in an accident at the top of the hill at Raidillon. Norris’s accident, in which his car veered back on to the track after the impact and could have been hit if being closely followed, has once more brought into question the safety of the corner.
Spa is planning to reconfigure the run-off, including using gravel traps and barriers for Eau Rouge and Raidillon for 2022.
The session resumed 40 minutes later as the rain stopped, with the cars largely out on intermediate rubber. Hamilton was out first and set an early benchmark of 2minute 01.552seconds. The final laps were crucial and Russell was absolutely flying, putting in a mighty lap in the wet in a car that is way off the pace of the frontrunners. His time of 2m 00.086 briefly held pole and he might have kept it but for small lock up in the final corner. Verstappen followed him and was inch-perfect to grab pole at the last in 1m 59.765, with Hamilton three-tenths down. With Russell in the running to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes next season, this was an unmistakeable reminder of his credentials.
Pierre Gasly was in sixth for AlphaTauri, with Sergio Pérez in seventh for Red Bull. Bottas was in eighth for Mercdes but will start in 13th having received a five-place grid penalty for causing a collision at Hungary. Esteban Ocon was in ninth for Alpine with Norris in 10th.
During Q2 the track was still drying and the final laps were crucial, with Hamilton making it through in second place with his last effort, although it was Norris who had the best touch and was quickest.
The start of qualifying was delayed for 12 minutes with heavy rainfall across the circuit. As the downpour briefly stopped the majority of teams went out on the full wet tyres but inters soon proved quicker as the track dried.
The Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz went out in Q2 in 11th and 13th. Nicholas Latifi was 12th for Williams. Fernando Alonso was in 14th for Alpine and Lance Stroll in 15th for Aston Martin.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was in 17th with Michael Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin in 17th and 20th for Haas. Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen were in 16th and 19th for Alfa Romeo.