After Max Verstappen’s grid penalty, Charles Leclerc takes pole in the Belgian Grand Prix.
On a drying circuit, the Red Bull driver beat Leclerc by 0.820 seconds, although he has a five-place grid penalty for using too many gearbox components this season.
Leclerc beat Sergio Perez’s Red Bull by 0.057 seconds, with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes fourth fastest.
Carlos Sainz finished fifth, ahead of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris from McLaren.
The weather dominated the day, although the rain that some feared would jeopardize qualifying due to limited visibility from spray in wet conditions ended an hour before qualifying, and the track gradually dried throughout the session.
Verstappen is predicted to win the race from sixth place on the grid, regardless of the weather, due to his and Red Bull’s better performance this season.
A second 2023 pole for Leclerc, though, is a significant lift for the Monaco-born driver, who was Verstappen’s closest title competitor last year but has struck a dejected figure for much of this season due to Ferrari’s failure to live up to their own expectations.
It will be much sweeter for Leclerc, who suffered in races in Spain, Canada, and Austria in exactly similar damp circumstances before realizing he had a problem and needed to rectify it.
“Not a bad qualifying for us, especially in those conditions,” commented Leclerc. “It’s never easy to put things together. “I worked hard on those conditions because I wasn’t comfortable a few races ago.”
Leclerc was the first driver to set a lap on the last runs, which meant he lost out on the best of the track, although he said Verstappen was out of reach.
“We went a bit early [for the final run],” he said. “However, pole was definitely not on for us, but we could have been closer.” Let’s see how things go.”