Carlos Sainz will start from pole at the Belgian Grand Prix despite not setting the fastest time in qualifying, after a host of engine and gearbox penalties for drivers set up a wildly mixed grid for Sunday’s race.
In a strange quirk of F1 rules, this means no driver starts Sunday’s race from the position they qualified.
The mix is due to the amount of engine components allowed for drivers before penalties are given – the nature of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit makes it an ideal place to make a tactical engine change as there are plenty of overtaking opportunities to allow recoveries from. low lattice positions.
The seven drivers who received engine and gearbox penalties will be hoping to make it to the end of the season without needing to take another.
Championship leader and reigning champion Max Verstappen and title rival Charles Leclerc start at the back of the grid therefore.
Six of those seven start from the back and their positions were all dictated by their final qualifying position. However, Alfa Romeo made use of a loophole in the regulations to fit Valtteri Bottas with a new power unit and gearbox without incurring a “rear grid” penalty (explained below).
Starting order (and where they qualified):
1. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) Qualified 2nd
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) Qualified 3rd
3. Fernando Alonso (Alpa) Qualified 6th
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) Qualified 7th
5. George Russell (Mercedes) Qualified 8th
6. Alex Albon (Williams) Qualified 9th
7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) Qualified 11th
8. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) Qualified 12th
9. Lance Walk (Aston Martin), Qualified 14th
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), Qualified 16th
11. Nicholas Latifi (Williams), Qualified 17th
12. Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Qualified 18th
13. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Qualified 19th
14. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) Qualified 20th * Punishment
Although Bottas’ total penalty equaled 20 places on the grid — which would normally be a “rear grid” penalty — because Alfa Romeo spread the penalties with 15 places for the power unit and five for the gearbox, rather than doing 20. puts a value of changes in a single penalty, he technically has a 20-place penalty rather than a “back of grid” penalty.
As a result, his 20-place penalty means he starts ahead of drivers with a “rear grid” penalty. The FIA intends to close the loophole for future races.
15. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Qualified 1st * Punishment
16. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Qualified 4th * Punishment
17. Esteban Ocon (Alpa), Qualified 5th * Punishment
18. Lando Norris (McLaren) Qualified 10th * Punishment
19. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo), Qualified 13th * Punishment
20. Mick Schumacher (Haas), Qualified 15th * Punishment
A great show awaits
The mixed grid should make for an exciting event, with Ferrari and Red Bull sharing the front row and old rivals Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton sharing the second row.
Mercedes lacked pace this weekend but will fancy their chances to take advantage of their two drivers being shuffled a few positions down the order, while Alonso will look to attack from third on the grid.
Alex Albon will start from sixth position after a very impressive qualifying performance
Daniel Ricciardo failed to make it through to Q3 but he will start from seventh position just days after McLaren confirmed he will not be staying with the team next year.
The Australian driver will be fired up to prove McLaren wrong with a strong performance.
Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris will also be one to watch from the back end of the field after showing strong form during practice.