Max Verstappen sets Belgian GP pace and won’t “worry” about on-grid penalty

Max Verstappen lost power and composure on Friday as he topped practice time at the Belgian Grand Prix and dismissed concerns about starting Sunday’s race from behind the grid. Red Bull’s world champion and series leader achieved a best lap of one minute 45,507 seconds to trail Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by eight tenths of a second to thrill the ‘team’ fans. his orange army’ at the majestic Spa-Francorchamps racetrack.

“We’re pretty happy with that,” he said. “There’s not much to do or worry about, with the grid penalty – we’re just looking at setting up the car in the best possible way.

“There are some adjustments to be made, but we are quite happy with the first run and the plan. The car is doing well, which is a positive, but we will want to run a little more.”

Both Verstappen and Leclerc are using new power unit components, causing them to exceed their allotment during the season and result in net fines.

That means they will start from the bottom of the field alongside four other drivers, who have chosen to switch to the new engine for the Belgian race weekend.

“I would have to try to work from the back of the grid,” Verstappen said. “But at least we should have dry conditions. I think today is the worst weather.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner explains why they chose this race to fit the fourth engine, turbo charger and other components, saying it was a strategic decision because of the long and fast track. Belgium’s altitude offers an easier chance of passing.

“We’ve looked at the calendar and are running out of options, but this is a good road to cross and we feel we should get here quickly,” he said.

In what appeared to be an inconclusive and somewhat messy day, Lando Norris finished third for McLaren ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz, who finished fifth in a second Ferrari after topping out in the morning’s opening practice session. .

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who is chasing a sixth straight finish in Sunday’s race, placed sixth for Mercedes ahead of two-time Alpine champions Fernando Alonso and George Russell, in second Mercedes. .

Daniel Ricciardo, who on Wednesday announced he will leave McLaren at the end of the year after agreeing to a contract termination, is ninth and Sergio Perez 10th in Red Bull’s second team.

Hamilton said Mercedes believes it can bounce back from Friday’s disappointing performance and challenge again, especially if other drivers are taking penalties.


“We’re not very responsive and I don’t know why, but I went out and gave it everything. It could be the tires, the temperature or something else,” he said.

“But it’s not catastrophic out there and we usually see this on Friday and things can change on Saturday. I hope that we can turn the tide.”

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