Formula 1 Commentary

Live: F1 Belgian GP commentary and updates - FP3 & Qualifying

Live commentary and updates on Saturday practice and qualifying for the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix, taking place at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.

Live: F1 Belgian GP commentary and updates - FP3 & Qualifying

F1 returns after its summer break with major developments off the track taking focus, headlined by Audi’s announcement it will join the championship as a power unit supplier in 2026.

It followed a shake-up in the F1 driver market, as Daniel Ricciardo’s early split from McLaren at the end of the season was confirmed earlier this week. With Fernando Alonso heading to Aston Martin to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel in 2023, attention turns to Oscar Piastri and whether he will end up at Alpine or McLaren.

On the track, Max Verstappen leads the F1 world drivers’ championship by 80 points over Charles Leclerc thanks to back-to-back wins in France and Hungary before the summer break.

But both will start the Belgian GP from the back of the grid due to engine penalties, along with a handful of other F1 drivers.

By: Megan White, Stefan Mackley, Haydn Cobb

Summary

Summary
  • Verstappen tops qualifying for the Belgian GP but will start 15th after penalties
  • Sainz inherits pole for Sunday's race with Perez alongside him on front row
Leaderboard
  1. Verstappen, Red Bull
  2. Sainz, Ferrari
  3. Perez, Red Bull
  4. Leclerc, Ferrari
  5. Ocon, Alpine
  6. Alonso, Alpine
  7. Hamilton, Mercedes
  8. Russell, Mercedes
  9. Albon, Williams
  10. Norris, McLaren
Status: Stopped
With that, we'll wrap up this live text coverage of Belgian GP qualifying. But never fear, the big one is tomorrow! The race starts at 2pm BST, so be sure to check back before then tomorrow for all the build-up and excitement. Until then, go well!
What a mixed up qualifying, and some confusing Ferrari tactics too, but one thing is for certain: F1 is definitely back from its summer break!
So, the provisional starting grid should look like this, starting with the polesitter: Sainz, Perez, Alonso, Hamilton, Russell, Albon, Ricciardo, Gasly, Stroll, Vettel, Latifi, Magnussen, Tsunoda, Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Ocon, Norris, Zhou, Schumacher.
 
Perez on his third-but-actually-second: "P2 is not the worst place to be around here. I think if I am able to get a good run on Carlos it can be different."
Sainz on his second-but-actually-pole-position: "It was OK. 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."
Verstappen on his hopes for the race with his grid penalty: "We need to move forward, especially with a car like this, it would be a shame not to be on the podium."
Verstappen on his (not) pole: "It was an amazing qualifying but I think all weekend we've been on it, the car has been working well and we've been just trying to fine tune it."
So, taking those out with penalties, the front of the grid is Sainz on pole from Perez, Alonso, Hamilton, Russell and Albon. Easy.
 
That was all rather messy, but Verstappen tops qualifying from Sainz and Perez, with Leclerc fourth quickest.
Sainz skims over the gravel and that wrecks his lap, meaning he cannot improve. But Perez doesn't improve either, so Verstappen tops qualifiyng but it is pole for Sainz!
But Leclerc does head out of the pits just in time to give Sainz a tow on his out-lap. But has that hindered Sainz, who is slow through the first sector.
Perez won't be getting a tow from his team-mate, as Verstappen hops out of his Red Bull and won't take part in the final run. It is the same for Leclerc, meaning he'll start behind Verstappen tomorrow.
A race control message has popped up to state "Perez track limits Turn 4". It doesn't state if he exceeded track limits, and would therefore lose his lap earlier in Q3, so we'll see what happens on that one.
But Leclerc can't, as he finds traffic in the final sector, and goes fourth fastest - 0.888s slower than Verstappen.
Leclerc is told to push on with this Q3 run on his new softs. He will aim to beat Verstappen's time just so he can start ahead of him as they have equal grid penalties to serve.
Verstappen leads the early Q3 runs with a 1m43.665s, 0.6s faster than Sainz, with Perez in third. So that's a net provisional pole for Sainz.
"Wait, what are these tyres?" Leclerc asks over team radio. "It is a mistake," is the reply. He's on new tyres despite knowing he cannot fight for pole. Whoops.
Time for Q3, with Albon leading the way out of the pits, followed by the two Red Bulls. Will Verstappen be giving his team-mate a tow to target pole? He's tucked up behind Perez at the moment, so might struggle there.
The value of Albon making it into Q3 this afternoon? Whatever happens he'll start, at worst, in sixth place due to those with grid penalties. Assuming no more penalties are to come.
Stroll said he had "no grip" on his Q2 final lap, which could explain why he went four-tenths slower than his best effort in Q1.
So due to grid penalties Schumacher will start from last place and is joined on the back row by Zhou.
Out in Q2: P11 Ricciardo, P12 Gasly, P13 Zhou, P14 Stroll, P15 Schumacher
Both Mercedes get clear of danger, with Hamilton in fifth and Russell in sixth, as Albon sneaks into Q3 in 10th place - dumping out Ricciardo by 0.092s.
Ricciardo's effort puts him eighth but still behind team-mate Norris.
Alonso goes fifth with a 1m45.552s ahead of Norris and Leclerc.
It looks like Ocon (penalty incoming) will give a tow to team-mate Alonso, with Norris (penalty incoming) doing the same for team-mate Ricciardo. Team work makes the dream work, right?
There's also a chance of a surprise Q2 exit given Hamilton in 10th and Russell in eighth after the first runs. Both will need clean laps to avoid any danger.
Those who need to improve to make it into Q3: Albon, Zhou, Stroll, Schumacher and Ricciardo.
All Q2 contenders pop back to the garages ahead of the final runs in the session with five minutes to go.
Leclerc slots into sixth, sliding through the final chicane, and at the end of the lap complains that his car is bouncing "like crazy".
Given the grid penalties for seven drivers, one of the midfield runners has a great opportunity for a strong result. Could it be Gasly? He's ninth at the moment and knows making Q3 will open up a huge chance.
Perez slots into second behind his team-mate, with Sainz going third, Ocon fourth and Norris fifth.
Hamilton posts the first Q2 lap, a 1m46.622s, for the rest to beat. Russell can, with a 1m46.284s, but Verstappen thumps them both on new softs with a 1m44.723s.
Plenty of early takers this time, with only Leclerc and Ricciardo yet to venture out.
We'll figure out the final order when we know how Q2 and Q3 plays out. Seems like the logical plan. Speaking of, Q2 is go!
Out of those five, only Bottas has a grid penalty to serve, and he'll be ahead of the other six due to not having a 'back of the grid' penalty. The other four Q1 exit-eers will move ahead of Verstappen, Leclerc, Zhou, Norris, Ocon and Schumacher on the grid.
Out in Q1: P16 Vettel, P17 Latifi, P18 Magnussen, P19 Tsunoda, P20 Bottas. That's the first time Bottas has been knocked out of qualifying in Q1 since the 2015 Monaco GP.