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Formula 1

What we learned from qualifying for the 2021 F1 Belgian GP

Max Verstappen is joined by a British driver on the front row for the Belgian GP, however the name may surprise you. RacingNews365.com looks at that and the other big talking points that emerged from Saturday's action.

Russell Verstappen Spa
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To news overview © Williams

Max Verstappen managed to claim his sixth pole position of the season in Belgium with a brilliant lap at the end of Q3, but the Dutchman isn't the only driver pleased with how his Saturday went.

That's because George Russell may have pulled off the shock of the season by putting his Williams on the front row for Sunday's race at Spa-Francorchamps, qualifying ahead of everyone but the Red Bull driver.

Given what happened on Saturday, all signs point to another exciting race on Sunday, as we look back at the major talking points to emerge from qualifying for the Belgian GP.

Russell almost pulls off the shock of the F1 season

While the championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen is the big talking point as we enter the second half of the season, Russell stole the show on Saturday with a performance that will be talked about for quite some time.

The Williams driver was even on provisional pole in the closing stages of the wet session, on used intermediate tyres at that, before Verstappen set a faster lap time at the death.

Russell's immediate response was, unsurprisingly, one of shock, as he didn't expect to find himself on the front row of the grid.

What this means come Sunday remains to be seen, though Team Principal Jost Capito made it clear Williams won't hold back.

"We will analyse the weather situation and then just go for it," Capito told Sky Sports. "It's too early to say because we never plan the strategy based on the qualifying result, of course. So now we've got some time to discuss that and find a good solution.

"But as I said before, it's how it is with this weather. I say it's better to smile in the rain than to cry in sunshine. So I like to do that."

Does that mean a top five or top 10 finish is realistic for Russell come Sunday? Time will tell as Spa has a tendency to deliver surprises, but it certainly seems the Briton and Williams are riding a hot streak after scoring points last time out in Hungary.

			© Williams
	© Williams

Championship battle resumes with another exciting first lap

Verstappen starts Sunday's race from pole, a position Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner says he wouldn't trade for another spot on the grid.

"We've got fresh air ahead of us," Horner told Sky Sports after Saturday's session. "I think head down, try and get a good start, you know you're going to be vulnerable if you're the lead car as you come out of Eau Rouge.

"It could well be wet again tomorrow and then you've got the benefit of visibility. Let's see what the weather brings tomorrow, but I'd rather be starting there than anywhere else."

It's a strong statement from Horner given the short run down to Turn 1 and the long run up to Les Combes. Couple that with Verstappen's run of bad luck on opening laps in recent races, and all eyes will be on the first few corners.

We haven't seen Hamilton and Verstappen battle wheel-to-wheel since Silverstone, and while Russell currently splits them, don't be surprised to see the two championship contenders close to one another early on in Sunday's race.

Add in the possibility of rain, which has been more of a certainty than threat so far this weekend, and you have the ingredients for another possible classic at Spa.

Ferrari have it all to do

It was a day to forget for Ferrari as both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were dumped out of Q2.

Leclerc was clearly frustrated after his exit, letting his feelings be known in quite the animated fashion over the team radio. However, after speaking with the team, Leclerc seemed to understand what led to his disappointing exit.

"I think in qualifying we weren't that bad; I think we maybe went a little bit early in the last run of Q2 with the tyres but in the car I was frustrated," Leclerc told Formula1.com.

"But I have to say now I completely understand the choice once the team explained [to] me the reason. There was some rain on the radar and it's always so difficult to know if it's going to be five minutes early or five minutes late and today it was five minutes late.

"It's life, it's part of racing, and tomorrow we'll try and maximise the race result."

Sainz wasn't as positive after the session, stating that while he enjoyed driving in the rain at Imola en route to a fifth-place finish, things have been anything but straightforward for him this weekend in Belgium.

"The last time I drove this car in the wet was Imola, well first and last time, and I really enjoyed it, I felt like we had really good performance there in the wet conditions," Sainz told Formula1.com.

"And for some reason this weekend it's nowhere and [I] don't fully understand why. I'm quite lost, to be honest, with why the feeling is not there, and unless it changes, something big tomorrow, it's not going to be easy."

Ferrari remain in a tight battle with McLaren for third in the Constructors' standings. Daniel Ricciardo will start fourth while Lando Norris, who crashed at the end of Q3, is slated to start in ninth.

Given McLaren's pace so far this weekend, and Ferrari's struggles, Sunday's race may be a question of damage control for the Scuderia.

			© Ferrari
	© Ferrari

Weather

It's been a major talking point all weekend, so why wouldn't it be come Sunday?

Heavy rain and dry spells made for a tricky qualifying session. The threat of rain is always present at Spa-Francorchamps, and that means teams will be keeping a close eye on the weather radar.

Rain was expected to fall early during Q1 and Q2, only to touch down later in the session. As a result, teams will likely be asked to weigh the risks and rewards of situations come Sunday, so don't be surprised if things get a bit chaotic once the lights turn green.

Also interesting:

Video: The secrets of the Spa-Francorchamps F1 circuit

Follow Rudy van Buren as he takes you on a flying lap around Spa-Francorchamps while explaining what makes the track so exciting.

F1 2021 Belgian Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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