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Max Verstappen was fastest in qualifying in Belgium on Friday. (F1 photo)

Verstappen Tops Qualifying, But Grid Penalty Puts Leclerc On Pole

BELGIUM — Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen was once again the man to beat during Friday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The reigning Formula 1 champion laid down a fast lap of 1 minute, 46.168 seconds at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

However, his five-position grid penalty for a gearbox assembly change will see second-place Charles Leclerc start from pole position on Sunday. The Ferrari driver was only slightly off pace from Verstappen with his 1-minute, 46.988-second lap time. 

“The final lap in Q3 went well, we had to risk it all and to be on pole here feels great. We obviously have a very good race car and even in these tricky conditions we were able to show that again today. We have a gearbox penalty for the race on Sunday, last year we had more penalties and started even further back but the car is better this year, so I am still targeting a win,” Verstappen said. 

Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez will join Leclerc on the front row. 

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz completed the top five in qualifying.

“At the end, we were a good chunk off Max and his lap was pretty impressive. We’re pleased with where we are starting though. I’ll now have Max behind me on Sunday, but the aim is definitely to fight for a podium and chase down the guys ahead,” Hamilton said. 

Oscar Piastri, Lando Norris, George Russell, Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll were also in the top 10.