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Verstappen snatches dramatic late pole but Leclerc to start from first

The grid for Sunday is set, but the drivers will do it all again tomorrow for the Sprint Race.

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Max Verstappen was fastest in qualifying at the 2023 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix but Charles Leclerc will start from pole.

The championship leader has a five-place grid penalty for a changed gearbox so will drop to sixth on the grid for Sunday’s race. Leclerc, therefore, takes the first starting position after qualifying second in a damp session.

Sergio Perez was third to keep Red Bull right at the front, with Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz completing the top five. Oscar Piastri will benefit from Verstappen’s penalty too to start fifth, but Lando Norris was out-qualified by his teammate and will start from seventh.

George Russell, Fernando Alonso, and Lance Stroll completed the top 10 as Q3 ran in the dry after earlier rain.

Verstappen’s lucky escape

Verstappen was lucky to even make it into Q3, as his final attempt in the second section of qualifying put him 10th.

Nobody behind could improve enough to shock the championship leader and force him to start from near the back with his grid penalty yet to be applied.

Even with his grid penalty, Verstappen has to be the favourite to win the race on Sunday after his remarkable drive here one year ago, but if Perez can find his way to the front, he could drive away enough to prevent a late charge.

Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis is a motorsport journalist with experience working in BTCC. He is the resident IndyCar correspondent for Total-Motorsport.com and a top class F1 writer.
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