Verstappen pips Piastri by 0.011s to seize Sprint race pole

© XPB 

It looked like massive congratulations would be in order for McLaren's Oscar Piastri at the end of Saturday's Sprint Shootout until a late flyer by Max Verstappen shattered the young Aussie's illusions.

The Red Bull charger owed his small 0.011s edge not only to his talent but also to the improving track conditions as the final ten contenders opted for slick in an otherwise partially wet session.

Behind the leading duo, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc will form an all-Ferrari second row for this afternoon's Sprint race while Lando Norris and Alpine's Pierre Gasly will line up fifth and sixth.


Low line clouds over the Belgian Ardennes and a very wet track following a deluge forced teams and fans alike to exert patience when the scheduled start time of the Sprint Shootout rolled around.

Although the heavy weather front appeared to be moving away from Spa the delay extended to 35 minutes.

SQ1: Verstappen goes top – Haas botches its execution

Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to leave the pitlane at the start of SQ1, leading a field of drivers all running on the Intermediate tyre. The Mercedes charger set the first benchmark but was quickly overhauled by a flurry of drivers, with Verstappen and then Sainz going top.

Aston Martin's early efforts were unimpressive, with Alonso struggling to make the top ten and Stroll lingering among the bottom five.

With less than a minute to go, improvements were fast and furious, but poor timing by Haas left Hulkenberg – a master qualifier this season - without a proper time.

Meanwhile Verstappen went top ahead of Hamilton and a revived Alonso, but it was a sweaty conclusion for Russell who just made the cut while Tsunoda, Bottas, Magnussen, Zhou and Hulkenberg finished their session in the drop zone.

Noteworthy was the performance of both Williams drivers who took advantage of their car's straight-line speed to make the SQ2 cut.

SQ2: Max remains top as Stroll crashes

Improved track conditions meant that drivers were getting closer to the crossover point regarding a switch from Inters to slick tyres, but no one was inclined to take the gamble yet.

As Alonso and Albon remained in the garage, waiting for the dry line to widen, Norris set an early fastest while Sargeant was seen spinning at Stavelot but regaining control of his Williams.

Verstappen once again took the lead, followed by Hamilton and Perez, but it was maximum attack for the medium-shod Stroll. It didn't end well however for the Aston driver who lost control at Turn 9 and clouted the wall, bringing a premature end to the session with 29 seconds to go.

The mishap and subsequent red flag proved costly for Alonso who had yet to set a time. The Spaniard was therefore collateral damage along with Ricciardo, Albon, Sargeant and Stroll.

SQ3: Verstappen pips Piastri by 0.011s

The formation for the final shootout offered a balanced selection, with two Red Bulls, two Mercedes, two Ferraris, two McLarens and two Alpines.

With just eight minutes to settle the score in SQ3, anyone banking on slick tyres to set their fastest time would be forced to use them from the outset.

As it turned out, all ten cars flooded out of the pitlane on the Softs. Leclerc was the first driver to head into a push lap, the Monegasque setting a 1m52.5

But Hamilton and Norris superseded the Ferrari driver, while Verstappen's first flyer was only good for second.

Early runners enjoyed a cool lap before taking a second shot while others opted for consecutive flyers.

Perez seized the lead in the dying seconds of the session, but it was all or nothing for those remaining out on track as conditions continued to improve.

In a thrilling epilogue, Gasly went top but Sainz pipped the Alpine charger while Leclerc and Norris went third and fourth. But Piastri then upset the front-runners, putting his MCL60 at the top.

But a final effort by the never to be discounted Verstappen pipped the young Aussie by just 0.011s!

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