Max Verstappen pumped in a sensational lap in wet conditions to take pole for the Belgian Grand Prix, usurping George Russell after the Williams delivered the performance of his life to secure a shock front row start.
It was Russell who looked to have mastered a sodden but drying Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the Williams driver building confidence through the session to set purple sectors across the board to take provisional pole at the flag.
But title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen were still on laps, with Hamilton going purple in the second sector, but losing a bit of ground in the final sector to miss out by just 0.013s.
Then attention switched to Verstappen, who went purple in the second sector and then the final sequence of corners to snatch pole for the sixth time this season to the delight of the loyal Dutch contingent who have packed the grandstands all day at Spa in wet and cold conditions.
Russell held on to second for the second front row start of his career (his first came for Mercedes in Bahrain last year) and the first for Williams since Monza 2017.
FORMULA 1 ROLEX BELGIAN GRAND PRIX 2021
|1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:59.765|
|2 George RUSSELL Williams||2:00.086|
|3 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||2:00.099|
|4 Daniel RICCIARDO McLaren||2:00.864|
|5 Sebastian VETTEL Aston Martin||2:00.935|
Daniel Ricciardo secured his best qualifying performance since joining McLaren this year with fourth, but there was frustration for team mate Lando Norris, who crashed heavily at Raidillon in Q3, having been quickest in each of the first two segments of qualifying. Norris walked away unscathed.
Sebastian Vettel was fifth – his best start for Aston Martin, with Pierre Gasly continuing his fine qualifying for this season with his ninth top-six start in 12 Grands Prix this season – as Formula 1 saw six different teams fill out the top six positions.
Sergio Perez, who was confirmed as a Red Bull driver for 2022 on Friday, was seventh, ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes. Bottas will start 13th, though, after a five-place grid penalty is applied for causing a collision in Hungary.
Ocon was ninth, as he levelled the head-to-head 6-6 with Alpine team mate Fernando Alonso, with Norris completing the top 10, though it’s likely the McLaren driver will start from the pit lane because of the significant damage incurred in his crash.