Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will start Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix from pole position after penalties reshuffled the grid and sent Red Bull’s pace-setting championship leader Max Verstappen down to 15th place.
The Dutchman, one of seven drivers carrying engine and gearbox-related grid drops, set a fastest time of one minute 43.665 seconds to beat Spaniard Sainz by a comfortable 0.632 seconds.
Verstappen will still start ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, his closest title rival, who was fourth fastest but drops to 16th.
Mexican Sergio Perez was third quickest for Red Bull and will move up to the front row alongside Sainz with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso behind on the second row.
“We need to move forward, especially with a car like this it would be a shame not to be on the podium,” said Verstappen, who has appeared dominant all weekend.
The 24-year-old leads Leclerc by a mighty 80 points with nine races to go.
Sainz, starting from pole for the second time in his Formula One career, was keen to seize on the opportunity to take a second win but wary of Red Bull’s speed.
“Happy to be starting on pole but obviously not so happy to see the gap to Max this weekend and the gap that Red Bull has on us,” said the Spaniard, adding he expects Verstappen to be in the fight for the win.
Behind the top three, seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton set the seventh-fastest time and will start fourth ahead of Mercedes team mate George Russell in fifth.
Alexander Albon will start an impressive sixth for Williams ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
The Canadian’s team mate Sebastian Vettel will start 10th.