Max Verstappen was fastest in qualifying for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix but Carlos Sainz will start on pole due to the Red Bull driver’s grid penalty.

Ferrari’s Sainz starts at the front with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez second on the grid, ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, while Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will line up in fourth and fifth place respectively at Spa.

Verstappen (1/14 – Drivers Championship outright) produced a stunning performance to finish 0.632 seconds clear of Sainz but a grid penalty for using too many engine parts means the defending world champion, who is 80 points clear at the top of the drivers’ standings, will start in 15th place.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (8/1 – Drivers Championship outright) and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon had qualified in fourth and fifth but both also have engine penalties, along with four further drivers, with Leclerc set to start in 16th on Sunday.

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Verstappen will be determined to make up the places when the race gets under way following a superb Saturday display from the Red Bull ace.

He told Sky Sports: “It was amazing qualifying but the whole weekend we’ve been on it. The car has been working well and it all came together in qualifying.

“Of course I had to be careful with the tyres I was using and starting at the back. We need to move forward, especially a car like this it will be a shame not to be on the podium.”

Sainz was pleased to be on pole but admitted the time difference between him and Verstappen was a concern going into the race.

He said: “The lap was OK happy to be starting on pole but not so happy to see the gap to Max this weekend and the gap Red Bull has on us.

“We need to keep digging to see why Red Bull are so fast around this track and why we are trailing them, but starting from pole is a good place to start and we will try and win from there.”

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