Verstappen Takes Pole For Belgian GP Sprint Race 

Reigning world champ edges out surprise package Piastri

Max Verstappen in action.

In a neck and neck finish, Max Verstappen edged rookie Oscar Piastri by a mere .011 seconds to take pole position for the sprint race at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Called the “sprint shootout”, the shortened qualifying format decided the grid for the sprint race. Wet conditions due to rain caused a 35 minute delay. Air blowers had to be used to clear water from the Spa-Francorchamps track.

Piastri has been the man in form of late. On Saturday, the McLaren driver raced to the top of the leaderboard on his last run. 

But as is his wont, Verstappen, the two-time reigning Formula One champion, coaxed out extra pace from his Red Bull.

On the team radio, he said, “Simply lovely. Not easy with this weather.”

Verstappen also set the quickest time in qualifying for Sunday's main race. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, however, will start from pole. This is due to Verstappen's five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. He will start Sunday's race from No. 6. But then he conquered Belgium from 14th place last year, so he won’t be too concerned.

In the sprint, starting from third spot will be Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. After him are teammate Leclerc. Lando Norris of McLaren is fifth, Alpine's Pierre Gasly sixth and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton seventh. Red Bull's Sergio Perez qualified a disappointing eighth.

Six sprint races have been scheduled this season. Belgium is the third. 

Perez won in Azerbaijan while Verstappen triumphed in Austria. 

The efforts don’t go waste. Points are awarded to the top eight drivers.

When the first qualifying began the skies had brightened. Spray, however, was still spurting off the tarmac. Visibility too was reduced in some parts. Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo was one of the five drivers eliminated from Q1.

Q2, the second qualifying, was eventful as well. Lance Stroll of Aston Martin, going for broke at the end of the race, crashed into the barricades. As teammate Fernando Alonso was on his out lap when the mishap took place, Alonso also missed out on the Q3.