Sports Desk, Jul 28 (EFE).- Reigning two-time Formula One champion Max Verstappen finished first Friday in qualifying for the Grand Prix of Belgium, but will start the race from P6 due to a five-place grid penalty for changing the transmission in his Red Bull.
The Dutchman was 0.82 seconds faster around the Spa-Francorchamp circuit than Monaco’s Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), who will be pole-sitter for Sunday’s race.
Joining Leclerc on the front row will be the other Red Bull driver, Mexico’s Sergio “Checo” Perez.
The penalty to Verstappen moves British seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton up to P4 and Spaniard Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) to fifth.
The McLaren duo of Australian Oscar Piastri and Briton Lando Norris will begin the Grand Prix from seventh and eighth, respectively.
Spanish two-time champion Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin), who turns 42 on Saturday, and his Canadian teammate, Lance Stroll, will complete the top 10.
Qualifying was moved up to Friday to accommodate the third – of a planned six – sprints of the 2023 season.
Saturday morning, instead of the usual third practice, drivers will take part in a shortened qualifying session, the Sprint Shootout, to determine the starting order for the 100km event.
The winner of the sprint gets 8 points, with the rewards progressively descending to 1 point for the driver who comes in eighth.
Verstappen, who has seen the checkered flag in nine of the first 11 races of 2023, leads the driver standings with 281 points, followed by Perez (171), Alonso (139), and Hamilton (133).