Driving lesson

Lewis Hamilton says driving Mercedes was like ‘shooting a parachute’ as Carlos Sainz takes pole at Spa

BBut the fact that the bookmakers still have Verstappen the second favorite for victory, just behind Sainz, tells its own story. The Dutchman – who leads the championship with 80 points over Leclerc – seems to be driving in a different formula to the others. Even he admitted that it would be “a pity not to finish on the podium” from 15th place given the speed of his car. “Straight lines, turns, it felt good everywhere,” he said.

What Hamilton would give for that feeling. He said the “sole focus” for the rest of the season should be to learn from the 2022 car and ensure next year’s car “doesn’t look like this”.

” I have tried everything. I put everything. I put everything back. I changed wings. I changed configuration. I did everything this weekend, a lot of things, and it’s amazing to see.

“I never thought we’d ever be two seconds ahead, so it’s a lot worse than I thought today.

“I don’t want to use the word disappointing because you have to remember all the people who work so hard to do it right.

“Of course I wish we had done it right, I wish we had made the improvements that took us forward and I wish we were fighting at the front and it wasn’t like that.

“It hurts. Believe me, it hurts. But at this point you have to laugh about it. I’m not fighting for a championship. I can’t be too serious and too low. I have a responsibility to keep morale and to keep pushing. We “I can’t get discouraged. Yes, it sucks and it’s slow, really slow, but we’re starting fourth, and maybe we’ll have a chance to get on the podium, who knows? We have to stay optimistic.”

Wolff: ‘Worst session in 10 years’

Wolff was clearly struggling to do so, adding that the most worrying thing was that Mercedes had no idea why their performance had deteriorated so much since Hungary. “For me it’s the worst qualifying session I’ve had in 10 years, regardless of the positions we’re going to take tomorrow,” said the Austrian. “To be on pole in the previous race and then three weeks later to be nowhere is not acceptable to us.

“If we could figure it out we could sort it out, but the car drags in a straight line. Lewis said it’s like dragging a parachute behind him. It’s unstable at the rear, it understeers at eight and nine, it bounces at high speed and gives no confidence There is nothing positive I heard about the performance of the car this weekend.

All of this will be music to Red Bull’s ears. After last year’s tense championship, it looks like Verstappen will finish this one a few races early.

Team principal Christian Horner was so relaxed at his press conference that he was able to gag the controversial technical directive introduced here in an effort to limit porpoising – a mandatory 10mm thickness in the pad under the car – which some say could bring Mercedes a bit closer to Red Bull. Apparently not, although that seems to have affected Ferrari. “My wife often tells me size doesn’t matter, so I’m not going to get too fussy about 10mm…” Horner joked. Even with Verstappen starting 15th, Red Bull can afford to smile.

Belgian Grand Prix, qualifying classification

  1. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1min 43.665secs
  2. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Spanish) Ferrari 1:44.297
  3. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Red Bull 1:44.462
  4. Charles Leclerc (My) Ferrari 1:44.553
  5. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:45.180
  6. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:45.368
  7. Lewis Hamilton (Gr) Mercedes GP 1:45.503
  8. George Russell (Gr) Mercedes GP 1:45.776
  9. Alexander Albon (Tha) Williams 1:45.837
  10. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:46.178
  11. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:45.767
  12. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:45.827
  13. Guanyu Zhou (Chn) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:46.085
  14. Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:46.611
  15. Mick Schumacher (Germany) Haas F1 1:47.718
  16. Sebastian Vettel (G) Aston Martin 1:46.344
  17. Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 1:46.401
  18. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:46.557
  19. Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:46.692
  20. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:47.866

Belgian Grand Prix qualifying, as it happened