latest news and updates from Spa with mixed up starting grid

Hello and welcome to our coverage for the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix, the first race since F1’s traditional summer break of three weeks. Has much changed in the pecking order since the last race in Hungary nearly a month ago? Going by qualifying yesterday the answer is a little bit but ultimately not really. 

It was Max Verstappen who set the fastest qualifying time, by an enormous 0.685sec over Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and nearly eight-tenths over team-mate Sergio Perez. However, there were a raft of grid penalties for a total of seven drivers in the field, who all take significant drops from their qualifying position due to varying power unit and gearbox changes. 

All that means that Verstappen starts 14th, Charles Leclerc – who trails Verstappen in the standings by 80 points with nine rounds left – 15th, with Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Valtteri Bottas, Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher all starting in the bottom six. That means that the top six will line up as follows: Sainz, Perez, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, George Russell and Albon. You cannot deny that it is an interesting top six. 

The opening lap run down from the grid to the La Source hairpin, up through Eau Rouge and Raidillon and down the Kemmel Straight to the first chicane likely to be packed with action. Especially as the run-off area at La Source has been redesigned with a gravel trap on the outside. That may make drivers a bit more cautious, however. 

Mercedes will start fourth and fifth despite one of their worst qualifying performances of the year. In raw numbers it was not quite as bad as their run at Imola, but given the context that they have made some genuine improvements (if a bit up and down) and took pole position last time in Hungary, this was a shocker. Hamilton finished a baffling 1.8sec off the pace, with Russell a bit further behind. And there were thoughts that they could be closer to the leaders here given the new technical directive on porpoising and bouncing. 

Who is favourite for the win, then? It’s just about Sainz, but despite starting 14th, Verstappen is second favourite with the bookmakers and it is hard to take too much umbrage with that. His pace in the Red Bull over one lap was phenomenal. This is also a track where it is possible to overtake. He might need a few things to go his way to take the win, but it would be a surprise were to fail to finish on the podium all things being equal. 

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