Max Verstappen says he is aiming for at least a podium finish if not victory in the Belgian Grand Prix despite starting from 15th on the grid.
Power unit penalties for a number of drivers have completely changed the grid compared to the final qualifying order, with Verstappen one of those needing to drop to the back. However, the championship leader limited the damage with a dominant qualifying performance as he set the fastest time by over 0.6s, and he thinks he has the car to climb through into the top three.
“It was an amazing qualifying but I think already the whole weekend we’ve been on it,” Verstappen said. “The car has been working really well and just basically trying to fine-tune it and it all came together in qualifying. Of course, I had to be a bit careful with the amount of tires I was using. Also looking for tomorrow, you know, starting in the back, but yeah, very happy with my lap.
“The car was good all weekend. Of course, you’re making changes to the car, even before qualifying, and I think they worked even better. Very pleased. You never know what the margin is going to be but the feeling in the car was very good.
“It depends bit on the track layout — sometimes it’s a bit easier to nail a lap than other tracks where, if you have a tiny lock-up big, big lap-time losses and stuff. But I would say it’s definitely one of the best (qualifying sessions). With the pace we have in the car, I want to move forward and I want to be at least on the podium.”
Verstappen says the key to his race will be staying out of trouble on the opening lap, with the field no longer enjoying the luxury of being able to run wide at La Source after a gravel trap replaced the previous run-off area.
“Normally in the old spec of the track, people would just run wide and then come back because it lets you. Now you can’t, so everyone will be a bit more cautious.
“Survive lap 1, that’s the most important, but then after that I need to pass a few cars, before you get into a competitive position. But it’s a bit like Hungary as well. Of course, it’s a bit further back now but the basics are the same.”