Charles Leclerc showed blistering pace in qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix to ensure he starts tomorrow’s race from pole position, finishing the session almost three quarters of a second ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel.
The Ferrari duo lock out the front row on the grid, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas starting on the second row, a further 0.75s off the pace of Vettel.
The Mercedes mechanics were still rebuilding Hamilton’s car at the start of qualifying following his crash in FP3, but they were given a few extra minutes to finish the repair when Robert Kubica’s Williams appeared to suffer an engine failure, resulting in the session being paused.
Thick plumes of smoke followed by flames came out the back of the Williams, which is the second Mercedes-powered car to have engine problems this weekend, resulting in a red flag period for several minutes while the flames were extinguished and the car cleared from the side of the track.
There were concerns for Max Verstappen after the session restarted as the Dutch driver complained of a lack of power, setting a time 6 seconds off the pace. However, a quick trip through the pitlane seemed to rectify the issue, and he posted a fast enough time to progress to Q2.
There was a second red flag before the end of Q1 though as Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo also had engine problems, with more smoke pouring from the back of the car, forcing him to pull to the side of the track. It will be a disappointment for the Italian, as he was sitting eighth in the standings when the failure occurred, and was ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
Giovinazzi didn’t come back out for Q2, while Alexander Albon and Lance Stroll both did just the one timed run, knowing engine penalties mean they’ll both be starting at the back anyway.
Leclerc finished Q2 fastest and always looked the more likely of the two Ferrari drivers in the top 10 shootout, as Vettel battled with lock ups and traffic.
With the Renault drivers both carrying penalties, Raikkonen will start alongside Verstappen on the third row as the highest starter from outside the top three teams, despite having been a doubt at the start of the weekend with a muscle injury.
Provisional qualifying result:
1 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)**
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)**
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
9. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
10. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
11. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
12. Lando Norris (McLaren)
13. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)*
14. Alexander Albon (Red Bull)*
15. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
16. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso)
17. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)**
18. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)*
19. George Russell (Williams)
20. Robert Kubica (Williams)
*Albon, Kvyat and Stroll will start at the back of the grid after changing multiple engine parts
**Sainz, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo have 5-place grid penalties for taking new ICEs