Max Verstappen is confident Red Bull has made the right decision to take a grid penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix despite the threat of rain at Spa-Francorchamps.
Red Bull has exceeded Verstappen’s permitted number of gearbox components for this season in Belgium, leading to a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race. After qualifying comfortably fastest but starting from sixth, Verstappen says a reducing likelihood of rain for the race limits the risk of starting out of position.
“I think it’s still the best place to do it,” Verstappen said. “I think Sunday looks more and more dry, that’s why I guess we still went for it.
“I mean, last year we started 14th, and this year I think the car is better. So I’m still targeting to win the race for sure.”
Verstappen only just made it through to Q3 in 10th place before setting the fastest time by over 0.8s, and he feels it shows how timing and the conditions can play a role in such a margin.
“I crossed the line, and it’s quite hectic out there. It’s still only one dry line, in some places you’re not even doing the full dry line. It felt all right, but honestly, I didn’t know where I was until I looked on the screens.
“But Q3, that final lap I think was very good. I just risked a bit more compared to all the other laps, leaving a little bit of margin which almost knocked me out in Q2. It was tough out there today to get everything right.
“I do know that we have a very good car, but I think it’s more just having a bit more luck with the line or the grip. If it would have been a full dry qualifying, I think the gap wouldn’t have been like this.”
The close shave at the end of Q2 saw Verstappen complaining to his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase about “s**t execution,” resulting in Lambiase hitting back with sarcasm. After Verstappen apologized at the end of the session, he says such moments never have a long-lasted impact.
“I mean that happens sometimes, mostly that’s almost all blocked off! I think we both can be quite vocal or emotional but we always sort it afterwards so it’s all good.”
Verstappen’s penalty means Charles Leclerc starts on pole position for the first time at Spa since his maiden Formula 1 victory in 2019, but the Ferrari driver is not expecting a repeat result.
“Not confident!” Leclerc said of his victory chances. “Especially with the two Red Bull guys right behind. I think they’ve got a much better race car than we have. I mean, it’s great to be starting first, and I think it gives us a great chance to have a great result. But to say that we’ll target the win, I think this would be a bit too optimistic.
“If there’s an opportunity for whatever reason, as always, I’ll try and get it. But I believe it’s going to be difficult to keep those guys behind.”