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SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 27: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing is presented with the Pirelli Pole Position trophy by Jacky Ickx in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 27, 2022 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Verstappen: We are targeting a podium from 15th

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 27: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing is presented with the Pirelli Pole Position trophy by Jacky Ickx in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 27, 2022 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen knew he would not be starting from pole position for Sunday’s 2022 Belgian Grand Prix, but that did not stop the Red Bull driver pulverising his rivals in a qualifying masterclass today.

“Max was on another planet” was probably the most used cliche in the paddock, because the Dutchman was with a best time of 1:43.665 he was 0.6s faster than his closest rival Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari, who inherits pole because Verstappen opted for PU penalties for this race.

The #1 car will instead line-up 15th on the grid, as several other cars, including distant title rival Charles Leclerc whose Ferrari also has new bits, and suffered the same fate of dropping down the grid.

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In retrospect, Verstappen used the afternoon to stamp his authority with one of his finest displays in qualifying, as the eight-tenths gap to teammate Sergio Perez testifies.

The reigning F1 World Champion, inadvertently or not, also made a clear statement when he hopped out the car before Q3 was over, not offering to provide a slipstream tow to Perez, as other penalised teammates did during the final stanza of qualy.

Message from Max: Checo does not matter, I do it my way

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Leading the championship standings by eighty points from Leclerc, Verstappen can afford to be upbeat, the tenth-to-victory run in Hungary last time out will be fresh on his mind. Can he turn 15th into a win? Don’t bet against but do bet he does everything he can to do so.

Speaking in the wake of topping qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, Verstappen summed up his afternoon: “It was an amazing Qualifying but the whole weekend we have been really on it. The car has been working really well and we have basically been trying to fine-tune it and it all came together in Qualifying.

“Of course, I had to be careful with the number of tyres I was using. But I was very happy with my lap, it is an amazing track with amazing fans and I hope they had a good day.

“Starting from the back meant that I had to be careful with the tyres I was using throughout the session. With a car like this it will be a shame not to be on the podium tomorrow, that’s what we are targeting,” added Verstappen, make that “top step” of the podium!

Perez: We can fight for the win from the front row

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In the other Red Bull, Perez was third fastest but will line-up second on the grid alongside pole starter Carlos Sainz, was not entirely happy with his session: “It was a good but not fantastic qualifying.

“My first lap in Q3 wasn’t great and then that session was slightly disturbed due to other issues, like a little damage to my floor, but being P2 for the race, is still decent.

“We improved very well from yesterday considering we lost a lot of track time in FP2 and I think there is still room to improve in the race. We can fight for the win from the front row, we expect to go for it, it’s about getting a good start, a clean lap one and going from there.

Being on pole doesn’t benefit you too much here, being close to Carlos in Eau Rouge can get me the lead so I will try to do that. It’s important we race our own race,” added Perez.

The Mexican veteran is third in the 2022 F1 championship standings, 85 points behind teammate Verstappen and five behind second-placed Leclerc, while Red Bull are comfortably leading the F1 Constructors Championship, a title they have not won since 2013.

2022 Belgian Grand Prix Grid:

2022 belgian grand prix grid f1