Belgium Grand Prix 2021 – Qualifying

Qualifying Notes
–  George Russell qualified second and Nicholas Latifi 12th for the Belgian Grand Prix
–  George equalled his best qualifying result in Formula One and, in an interrupted Q3 session, posted a 2:00.086 on intermediate Pirelli tyres
–  It marks the team’s first front-row start since the 2017 Italian Grand Prix where Lance Stroll qualified fourth and was promoted to second through power unit penalties. However, it is the first time the team has finished second quickest in qualifying since Valtteri Bottas at the 2014 German Grand Prix
–  Nicholas secured his best-ever qualifying position in F1 and made Q2 for the second time this season. He continued to improve throughout both sessions on the intermediate compound, posting his quickest time with a 1:58.056 on his final run

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance: Today was a classic Spa qualifying session with the heavy but intermittent showers making decisions very difficult. Today we got many things right, but we did so from a position of having little to lose, which always takes some of the pressure off.

The whole team worked extremely well today, and collectively good decisions were made. Both George and Nicholas were excellent throughout and both provided a great calming influence to go with their immense bravery and skill on track. Nicholas called the initial Q1 tyres perfectly and although he spun on his opening lap, he recovered very well to comfortably qualify for Q2.

In Q2 we opted to use another two sets of new Intermediate tyres on each car, giving each driver a final chance on a drying track with a new set. Nicholas couldn’t quite match the improvement that George made, but nonetheless P12 was an excellent result. George built momentum throughout Q1 and Q2 and delivered a very strong lap at the end of Q2 to secure his place in Q3 once again.

Conditions were much worse in Q3 with visibility and grip both low. George was struggling on the Kemmel straight as Norris crashed in Eau Rouge and the session was stopped. At the restart we thought that conditions were still quite poor and elected to leave the pit lane on the Extreme Wet knowing that there was time to switch to Inters if appropriate. George was quite confident that the Inter was the correct tyre and with the track now improving quickly, we opted to prepare the tyres for a single ‘all-in’ lap at the end of the session. On this occasion the strategy worked perfectly, and George had his tyres, brakes and power unit all in perfect states as well as a clear track ahead of him. His lap was little short of exceptional and he was able to balance risk and reward perfectly to take a very well-earned front-row position.

Tomorrow will undoubtedly be difficult, and we are under no illusion that we have qualified both cars a little out of position. However, with more rain looking likely for tomorrow, we will do everything we can to make the most of today’s result. More importantly, we wish Lando and everyone at McLaren well and look forward to racing them tomorrow.

George Russell: It is an amazing feeling and we definitely did not expect to be starting on the front-row! The team did an incredible job to have me on the track at the right time, on the right tyres, with the right strategy. The driving is one thing, but you need to have everything right around you and often in these moments, that is what it’s all about. I’m so happy for everyone as it’s such a team effort and they did a fantastic job. We obviously had a great result in Hungary, and it feels like our hard work is starting to pay off and people are starting to recognise that.

I knew my last effort was a good lap. It was so tricky out there but because we’re not in Q3 every week, I had the luxury of really being able to put everything on the line and go for it. I had a really good feeling from lap one in FP3 in the wet and when it mattered, we put everything together and that was exceptional. This feeling is exactly what Formula One is all about. Qualifying is over now though and the race is tomorrow, so we need to make sure we have a good one.

Nicholas Latifi: I’m very pleased with my best qualifying result of the season and also my Formula One career. More than anything, I’m happy that I got some more experience in the wet because I haven’t had much of that in our car, so it was nice to get some laps in and really build some confidence in these conditions.  We’ve had a great result for the team today, especially in challenging weather, so now we’re aiming to capitalise on that in the race tomorrow.

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