Ferrari Max Verstappen has already messed up at least one record in Spa – albeit in a different way than Scuderia would have liked. (NEWS: All current information about Formula 1)
Because even if Red Bull’s world championship leader should still win the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday (from 3 p.m. in LIVETICKER) after his engine penalty from 14th place: Michael Schumacher managed this feat in the Benetton 1995 on the Ardennes roller coaster even from place 16
Charles Leclerc is on this on Sunday. Because the Ferrari driver (like six other drivers also has to return with an engine penalty) cannot hold a candle to Verstappen in qualifying, he started behind the Dutchman in the first Grand Prix after the summer break. But worse: Leclerc is 0.888 seconds short of Verstappen’s pole time.
Leclerc alerted by Verstappen
“To be honest, I would be surprised after the gap today if we were suddenly as fast as them tomorrow,” admitted Leclerc, looking at the race pace. The Monegasse is alarmed: “The gap to Max is a bit worrying. They’re here extremely fast and we can’t quite explain why. Apparently they found something for this weekend.”
Leclerc, who is already 80 points behind Verstappen in the World Cup, has to admit: “No matter what we would have done today, at our starting position (compared to Verstappen; Note d. Red.) wouldn’t have changed anything. Our car just wasn’t on their level today.” (DATA: The Formula 1 race calendar)
Not just Ferrari, but the rest of the competition is amazed at Red Bull’s speed in the Ardennes. Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton was already completely disillusioned on the team radio when his engineer informed him of the gap to Verstappen: “1.8 seconds?” asked the Brit incredulously.
Russell believes in a Verstappen victory
Silver Arrows teammate George Russell is probably not leaning too far out of the window when he thinks: “I think Max will plow through the field tomorrow and probably win the race quite comfortably.”
Nico Hulkenberg sees it similarly. Aston Martin’s reserve driver says in his capacity as an expert ServusTV: “Max can still do almost anything tomorrow. The podium is realistic, with a safety car later in the race he could even win.” (DATA: The team ranking of Formula 1)
Striking: Even those responsible at Red Bull can’t stop beaming after qualifying. “Max’ time (in Q3; Note d. Red.) was so good, he didn’t even have to drive a second run”, team boss Christian Horner rejoices and grins: “We were able to save a bit on the kilometer account of the engine. To get out so early and be ready is psychologically good.”
Marco excited by Red Bull
Red Bull chief adviser Helmut Marko explains: “We are surprised at how well everything went. With this excess speed, under normal conditions it shouldn’t be long before Max comes up to the front tomorrow.” The Austrian has nothing but admiration for his world champion: “He’s in such good shape, has such a confident demeanor and self-confidence, that will be difficult for the others.”
It is true that Spa is considered to be a designated driver’s circuit – but that alone can hardly explain Verstappen’s declassification of the competition. Where is Red Bull getting the pace from all of a sudden?
“It’s the efficiency. The Red Bull simply works very well here, the relationship between downforce, air resistance and the balance with the long corners on this track, it just fits like a glove,” believes Hülkenberg. (DATA: The Drivers’ Championship of Formula 1)
“It’s a statement from Red Bull. An incredible job and quite a hit to come out of the summer break like this – especially since they hardly brought any updates with them, just fine-tuned the car,” says ex-F1 driver Paul di Resta. The Scot noticed: “For the first time this year, Red Bull has more downforce than Ferrari, which is also where their good times come from in the middle sector.”
Schumacher’s race to catch up remains unique
But the problem for the Reds from Maranello is: “Nevertheless, Red Bull still has a strong top speed. Ferrari, on the other hand, went at top speed here, they have a similar package as in Canada, for example, because they have to overtake a lot here because of the penalty,” said di Resta.
In Montreal, too, Leclerc had to plow through the field from behind after an engine penalty, but still finished fifth.
At least this catch-up, the experts agree, Verstappen should probably top on Sunday – if it can’t be Schumi’s 27 years ago.