Max Verstappen took advantage of another Ferrari tactical blunder to score a maiden Italian Grand Prix victory and extend his championship lead to 116 points.

The reigning Formula One champion edged closer to securing his second consecutive world drivers' crown in glorious sunshine at Monza, after brushing aside a pre-race five-place grid penalty.

But the Dutchman's success came once again with the helping hand of a failed gamble from Ferrari, who lost their home race after opting to throw Charles Leclerc onto long-distance medium tyres early on.

Leclerc, foiled in his bid for a taut title race with Verstappen this year, was pitted with a dozen laps on the board during a virtual safety car brought on by a mechanical failure for Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin.

Having blasted through the pack from seventh at lights out to emerge near the front again, the decision pushed Verstappen to the front and from there he seldom looked troubled by his rival.

Leclerc went onto softs to try and trim a near-twenty second gap, but it was to be in vain, leaving Ferrari to ruminate on another weekend where they lost the advantage.

Carlos Sainz at the very least impressed after a sweeping slate of grid penalties saw him cut through from the back to challenge for a podium, ultimately coming home in fourth behind the Mercedes of George Russell.

The latter's team-mate Lewis Hamilton likewise impressed with a fine drive from the rear of the grid to finish sixth, in another affirmation of the seven-time world champion's talents amid a tough season.

A late breakdown for Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren meant any chance for late drama was neutered under a safety car, and with three weeks to Singapore, Verstappen might start clearing his trophy cabinet for the big one again.

Charles Leclerc hopes this is the "special weekend" Ferrari put their season of mishaps behind them at their home race at Monza.

Scuderia superstar Leclerc will start from pole at the Italian Grand Prix after qualifying fastest from a frantic Saturday session that saw penalties handed out to nine rival drivers.

Max Verstappen was among them, forcing him to start from seventh rather than second, but Ferrari have repeatedly squandered strong positions previously this season.

Indeed, this is a remarkable eighth pole of 2022 for Leclerc, but he has only three wins, retiring on three occasions after starting from the front of the grid.

The Monegasque is 109 points behind Verstappen in the title race, while Ferrari are 135 back on Red Bull in the constructors' championship.

The home fans will want to see those gaps cut on Sunday, with Ferrari chairman John Elkann and Italian president Sergio Mattarella set to be in the crowd.

"I think overall, after each mistake, we learned from them and we try to be better as a team," Leclerc said.

"It's not because we are here in Monza that it's more important than other races to not do any mistakes. We need to become a team that does no mistakes wherever we go.

"Yeah, it is a special weekend for us, but the target for us doesn't change. We just need to have a clean race and a good race. We'll be targeting that, and let's see."

Verstappen has never won the Italian GP, whereas Leclerc was triumphant in 2019, celebrating his second career win immediately after his first.

Leclerc is not relying on that memory to help him, though, believing he is an entirely different driver now than he was three years ago.

"I think the experience that I gained from 2019 to now will be more helpful than the experience in 2019," he explained.

"I was a very, very different driver, struggling a lot in races at the time, and now I'm in a much better place.

"In 2019, I was not so confident going into the race. This year, it's better, and honestly the feeling was really good on the high fuel.

"It's not going to be easy, because for sure Max will be extremely quick and will be coming back, but I'm sure that we can make this work."

Ferrari chairman John Elkann knows the team have committed "far too many mistakes" in Formula One this year, stating they "must improve".

The Scuderia have become the main rivals to fellow constructor Red Bull after Mercedes' struggles this season.

Charles Leclerc looked set to push Max Verstappen hard, but a series of major errors and poor judgement calls from the team cost Ferrari a realistic shot at the reigning world champion.

Ahead of Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at home circuit Monza, where Leclerc is on pole, Elkann explained his faith in team principal Mattia Binotto and his crew, but suggested there is only so far his patience will stretch.

"We have great faith in Mattia Binotto, and we fully appreciate everything he and all our engineers have done," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But there's no doubt that the work at Maranello, in the box on the wall, and behind the wheel must improve. We must continue to progress

"That applies to the mechanics, the engineers, the drivers, the entire management team, including the team boss. We have seen far too many mistakes, from reliability issues to driving errors and strategic blunders.

"We have trusted in Binotto and his team. That was the right decision. It has paid off and we can thank them that Ferrari is competitive and winning again. But I'm not satisfied. I think we can always improve."

Charles Leclerc clinched pole position for Ferrari's home Grand Prix at Monza, topping the timesheet for the eighth time this season ahead of rival Max Verstappen.

Ferrari head into the Italian Grand Prix under immense pressure following a number of disappointments this season, derailing their hopes of a title, but Leclerc was able to perform in front of the Tifosi.

Leclerc was favourite to start at the front of the grid due to a wealth of penalties being issued for Sunday's race but did not require such an elevation, securing pole position on his own merit ahead of Max Verstappen.

The championship leader is among nine drivers taking penalties at Monza, along with team-mate Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher, four of whom progressed to Q3.

That meant the qualifying standings would be significantly different to the starting grid on Sunday, bringing back memories of the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Leclerc took victory at Monza in 2019 and is hopeful of emulating that display in 2022, which would bring an end to Verstappen's run of four back-to-back victories.

"It is amazing. It wasn't an easy qualifying session but I knew we had the potential in the car," Verstappen said.

"In this last lap in Q3 I had to put everything together and I managed to do it. Very happy with the lap and very happy with the performance. I hope we can do just like 2019 tomorrow."

Verstappen explained why he may have seemed slower than some anticipated for the qualifying session, with changes to the car aimed to boost a potential rise through the pack on Sunday.

"It was close but of course we chose to go for a little bit more downforce around here and on one lap it is maybe not the best," said Verstappen. 

"I think for tomorrow it can be quite strong and also knowing we have to start a bit back. All in all, it was a good lap and I enjoyed it. I think it will be an interesting day tomorrow."

Sainz, who put in the third-fastest lap in qualifying but faces a stern test from further back on the grid, admitted that it "hurts" to have to tumble down the starting order for Ferrari's home race.

"It hurts to be starting from the back with how competitive we feel in the car this weekend. I wish I could be at the front with Charles to try and do a 1-2 for the team tomorrow," he said.

QUALIFYING TIMES

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:20:161

2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.145

3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.268

4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1.045

5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.363

6. George Russell (Mercedes) +1.381

7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.423

8. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1.764

9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +2.487

10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) No Time

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz are among five drivers set to receive grid penalties for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, joining Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes confirmed on Thursday that Hamilton would be subject to penalties after taking a fourth power unit of the season, the seven-time world champion to start from the back of the grid having taken a new engine component everywhere barring control electronics and energy store.

Red Bull duo Verstappen and Perez will face penalties for exceeding their allocations of internal combustion engines, Verstappen now on his fifth, landing a five-place penalty, and Perez on his fourth, resulting in a 10-place penalty.

Ferrari's Sainz will receive an 20-place penalty after taking new gearbox components and an energy store, while AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda will add to his penalties with an array of new power unit components, having already been given a 10-place penalty for accumulating five reprimands over the course of the season.

Finally, Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas will join former team-mate Hamilton and Tsunoda at the back of the grid after taking new engine components.

Ahead of Friday's practice session, a minute's silence was held following the passing of the Queen on Thursday and all 10 teams posted messages on their social media channels after the news was announced.

The triple-header to follow the resumption of the 2022 Formula One season concludes in Italy this weekend, with Max Verstappen aiming to inflict another stinging result on Ferrari.

Back-to-back wins in Belgium and the Netherlands have seen the Red Bull ace strengthen his grip on the title, with Verstappen remarkably securing 102 out of the last 104 available – only missing out on the fastest lap in France and Hungary.

Perhaps surprisingly, Verstappen's plethora of victories in F1 have not yet included triumph on Ferrari's home soil in Italy – which has seen four different winners in each of the last four races (Lewis Hamilton in 2018, Charles Leclerc in 2019, Pierre Gasly in 2020 and Daniel Ricciardo in 2021).

While the title race looks done and dusted, Ferrari will be determined to secure bragging rights at Monza to provide a boost to a team that has sustained persistent problems this season – most recently with Carlos Sainz's woeful pit stop last weekend.

Ferrari have taken 21 pole positions in the Italian Grand Prix, more than any other team, and have won on 19 occasions – most recently with Leclerc three years ago.

The Monaco-born driver will have fond memories of that triumph and will hope it presents a platform to propel better results in the remainder of the season to at least apply some pressure to Verstappen.

Mercedes mess

Mercedes looked on course for a first victory of the season in the Netherlands last weekend, Lewis Hamilton leading the way with George Russell tucked in behind and Verstappen sitting third before a questionable call.

Russell requested a pit stop and a change for soft tyres, something that was approved and resulted in Verstappen, having also taken softs, finding himself in striking distance of Hamilton and having no problems leapfrogging his former title rival.

Hamilton was understandably furious after the race, with Mercedes fumbling what may well be their best chance of a win in 2022.

Alonso record

In his farewell stint with Alpine ahead of his move to Aston Martin for next season, Fernando Alonso is set to equal Kimi Raikkonen's record of 350 races in Formula One – with nobody else having raced in more.

That record is destined to fall Alonso's way in the future, and he could snatch another off the Finn, as his next race finish would be his 279th in Formula One – putting him ahead of Raikkonen.

Max Verstappen expressed his pride after a far from straightforward victory at the Dutch Grand Prix, where the Red Bull driver overcame the pursuit of Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton seemed set to push for his first victory of 2022 at Zandvoort on Sunday but was stifled by pitting decisions and safety car deployments.

A virtual safety car was deployed after AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda was forced to stop following tyre concerns, offering Verstappen a fortuitous pit stop when embroiled in a battle at the front with Hamilton.

Another safety car followed after Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas stopped citing engine concerns, with Verstappen again pitting – arguably a surprising decision that seemed to hand Hamilton the initiative.

But Verstappen roared back in typically aggressive fashion to overtake the seven-time world champion on the main straight of lap 61, before easing to victory ahead of George Russell in second.

That marked a 10th victory of the season for Verstappen, his joint-best return in a single year, while he became the first driver since James Hunt in 1975 and 1976 to win back-to-back F1 races at Zandvoort.

After delivering in front of a largely partisan crowd in the Netherlands, Verstappen credited Red Bull's decisions that ensured he held off Hamilton through the latter stages of the race.

 

"It was not a straightforward race but we had to push, of course with safety car, virtual safety car, making the right calls," he said on Sky Sports during his post-race interview.

"Always a bit of question mark but it worked out really well. Once we got back to the soft tyres we had great pace again."

Asked whether he harboured any doubts over decisions as Hamilton pressed on, Verstappen added: "We timed it really well out of that last corner into the banking.

"You could see the draft was quite strong and we got ahead. It's incredible to win again.

"It's always special to win your home GP. This year I had to work for it even more. An incredible weekend and I'm really happy we got the Dutch GP."

Charles Leclerc started second on the grid after being edged out by Verstappen in Saturday's qualifying session, though the Ferrari driver had to settle for third on race day despite promising early signs of pace.

The Monegasque racer may have finished on the podium but sits 109 points behind championship leader Verstappen, and Leclerc conceded the Red Bull driver was a class above at the Dutch Grand Prix.

"To be honest, it was difficult to do much better," Leclerc said. "We were a little unlucky with the [virtual safety car]. I don't know if this would have changed anything – Max was too quick today.

"Then there was Mercedes, which were flying on the hard tyres. We struggled to find the feeling on the hard tyres, so we'll analyse that."

Max Verstappen held off a spirited push from Lewis Hamilton to secure a second consecutive Dutch Grand Prix victory and extend his championship lead to 109 points.

The reigning Formula One champion edged out Charles Leclerc in qualifying to put himself in pole position ahead of Sunday's eventful race, where George Russell finished second and Charles Leclerc took third. Hamilton eventually faded to fourth.

AlphiTauri's Yuki Tsunoda and Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas both stopped midway through the race, with Verstappen's pit stop after the second safety car allowing Hamilton to take the lead.

Yet Verstappen recovered and regained the lead by going past Hamilton down the main straight on lap 61 to claim a fourth consecutive victory and 10th of the season, his joint-best return in a single year after also hitting double figures last year.

 

The top five retained their positions during an eventful start where Hamilton and Carlos Sainz touched cars through turn one, while Haas' Kevin Magnussen slipped off the track and hit the barrier.

Verstappen continued to keep Leclerc at bay through the opening 10 laps, responding to the Ferrari driver's early signs of pace by pressing forward to move out of DRS range.

A problematic pit stop for Sainz in which no rear-left tyre appeared available saw the Ferrari drop from third to 11th on lap 15, with Hamilton displacing the Spaniard as Verstappen stretched his lead over Leclerc.

Sainz recovered into sixth as Verstappen pitted for the first time on lap 19, with Hamilton – still winless in 2022 – taking the lead as Mercedes ran a one-two with Russell in second.

Verstappen roared back before a pit stop for Hamilton, who then got the better of Sergio Perez as the Mexican aimed to protect his Red Bull team-mate's lead.

A virtual safety car deployed after issues for Tsunoda offered a glorious chance to pit on lap 48 for Verstappen, who led Hamilton by almost 16 seconds with 23 laps to go after the Mercedes driver pitted.

Verstappen squandered his advantage by pitting after another safety car deployment, but he recovered to surge back into the lead with 11 laps to go to race to victory.

Russell and Hamilton almost collided as the former looked to overtake into second, with the seven-time world champion slipping down to fourth after Leclerc eased past him.

Max Verstappen snatched an "unbelievable" pole position for his home Dutch Grand Prix as the Formula One championship leader put on another crowd-pleasing show.

On the eve of the Zandvoort race, Verstappen banished Friday's gearbox failure and put himself in a strong position to push for a repeat of last year's win at the track, edging out Charles Leclerc by 0.021 seconds.

Ferrari's Leclerc joins him on the front row, and the Scuderia's Carlos Sainz took third, ahead of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez and the Silver Arrow of George Russell on row three.

Verstappen beat Leclerc's time late in the session, and when Red Bull team-mate Perez crashed on his final lap, that brought out the yellow flags, crushing the hopes of improvement for those on a flying lap.

Asked what it felt like to be on pole, just like he was last year, Verstappen said: "Unbelievable! Especially after yesterday, we had a difficult day but worked really well overnight with the whole team to turn it around.

"A qualifying lap around here is insane. We changed a lot. Yesterday was a bit rushed in FP2 to get the car together, but today the car was enjoyable to drive."

Leclerc had been the fastest in practice on Saturday, and he put himself in the mix to take pole before Verstappen saved his best for late on.

Already 98 points behind title front-runner Verstappen, Leclerc is reasonably doubting his chances of bridging that gap in the remaining races.

He felt Ferrari would have the pace to contend for top spot on the podium this week though, and nothing he experienced on Saturday changed that viewpoint.

Leclerc said: "It was very, very close. Max did a great lap in the end, and our car was getting better and better through qualifying.

"In the beginning I was scared because Max was much quicker than us on used tyres. But in Q3 the car came more together and I did the lap which was enough for P2. Tomorrow is the race and we'll give it our all.

"We are much stronger here compared to last weekend, and that's good to see. Our race pace looks quite strong. It's going to be close with the Red Bulls. We just need to do a great start and then we'll see."

Sainz described his own performance as being "on the limit".

"It wasn't an easy qualification but in the end we did a decent job. It is very tough out there," Sainz said. "The track is especially demanding on the tyres. We have a lot of overheating during the lap, even in the long runs, a lot of degradation.

"Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day. There's going to be a lot going on, even if it's a difficult track to overtake, and there's going to be many options with strategies."

The McLaren of Lando Norris and Haas of Mick Schumacher start from the fourth row, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda's AlphaTauri and Lance Stroll's Aston Martin.

After making it through to Q3, Stroll was unable to put in a lap time due to a technical problem.

QUALIFYING TIMES

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 1:10.342
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.021s
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.092s
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.306s
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.735s
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.805s
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.832
8. Mick Schumacher (Haas) +1.100s
9. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +2.214
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

The resumption of the Formula One season last weekend resulted in a rather strange race in Belgium, with many out-of-position drivers due to various penalties.

Not that it mattered to Max Verstappen though, who worked his way through the pack to secure victory having started 14th on the grid – extending his lead in the title race to 93 points.

With such a strong grip on the title, a far-cry from the events last year in his fierce battle with Lewis Hamilton, attention for many has already started to shift towards the 2023 season.

Seats for next year are still yet to be fully decided and there are plenty of big names in the mix, including Daniel Ricciardo after his exit from McLaren was announced prior to the last race.

For Verstappen though, there's still plenty to achieve. A victory on home soil in the Netherlands this weekend would see the Red Bull ace become the first driver to win back-to-back races at Zandvoort since James Hunt in 1975 and 1976.

Another win would also be his 10th of the season, equalling the tally he achieved last year in his maiden title win. With nine wins from 14 races, Verstappen's win percentage of 64.3 is the highest in F1 history.

 

Ferrari's race regrets

Ferrari have achieved eight pole positions in F1 this season, the most since the nine secured in 2019. Prior to that, the highest they achieved was 12 in 2004. For Charles Leclerc, his seven poles equal his best-ever return, which he set in 2019.

While the qualifying has yielded success, the races have not and Leclerc's title push has suffered as a result – with just one podium finish in the last nine rounds, having started the season with four podiums in five races.

Now third in the standings and 98 points behind Verstappen, Leclerc and Ferrari may well be wondering what might have been.

Alpine and McLaren fight

After a week in front of the FIA hearing on the tussle surrounding Oscar Piastri, Alpine and McLaren's fight will return to the track as they compete for the 'best of the rest' tag in F1 beneath Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

Alpine have a 20-point advantage in the constructor's standings, capitalising in Belgium with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon finishing fifth and sixth respectively, while both McLarens finished outside the points.

That marked the fourth race in a row that Alpine saw both drivers finish inside the top 10, with McLaren at a disadvantage given Ricciardo's struggles in 2022.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has suggested the FIA struggle to police the Formula One budget cap effectively.

Binotto's team are competing with Red Bull for the constructors' championship this season, though driver Charles Leclerc's challenge for the drivers' crown is effectively over after a series of poor race calls.

The gap between the two could yet grow as reigning world champion Max Verstappen edges towards a second title, with Red Bull reportedly set to introduce a lighter car in forthcoming races.

There is a strong belief Red Bull will introduce a weight-trimmed chassis four kilograms lighter than their current model, which would facilitate a faster performance overall.

Binotto, though, feels the FIA are not doing enough to enforce the sport's budget cap.

"The number of people in the FIA monitoring it is very little," he told reporters. "It has to improve for the future because it would be really bad if somehow a championship was dictated by a financial regulation and not technical or sporting.

"I cannot know what they are doing, if they have a [lighter] chassis or not, but the budget cap is always a concern. The financial regulations can make differences between teams in the way they are interpreting and executing it.

"We know we need a very strong FIA to make sure they are properly focusing, otherwise the regulations will not be fair and equitable.

"Ferrari would never be capable of introducing a lightweight chassis or a different chassis through a season simply [because of the] budget cap and I would be very surprised if a team is capable of doing it.

"And if they are, it is back to the regulation itself, is it fair enough, is it equitable enough, is the policing sufficient?"

Red Bull principal Christian Horner has suggested the team are not preparing to make a change, stating: "No, there is no [lighter chassis]. These chassis will run for the next few races."

Charles Leclerc is struggling to see how he and Ferrari can get back into title contention after a tough weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix.

A dominant race for Red Bull on Sunday saw the Austrian team take first and second place, with drivers' championship leader Max Verstappen topping the podium from Sergio Perez.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was third, while Leclerc's dwindling title hopes took another knock when he crossed the line fifth before a penalty for speeding in the pit lane nudged him down a spot.

Leclerc now sits third in the standings with 186 points, a daunting 98 points behind Verstappen. Perez sits five points ahead of Leclerc now, too, and although there are eight races remaining, defending champion Verstappen practically has another title in the bag.

In the constructors' standings, Red Bull have 475 points, well ahead of Ferrari whose haul of 357 puts them second.

Leclerc took responsibility for his excessive pit-lane pace, saying it was "my fault... it's a mistake and that's it".

Reflecting on the bigger picture and looking at what improvements Ferrari might make, with time running out, Leclerc said: "It starts to look very difficult.

"Especially with the pace they've shown this weekend, it's going to be very, very difficult. But I'll keep my head down, try to focus race by race and try to do my best."

Speaking on Sky Sports, Leclerc was asked whether he was still in championship contention.

Again, he answered: "It starts to look very difficult."

Team-mate Sainz agreed Ferrari were left in a sticky position after an arduous weekend.

"Unfortunately it was harder than expected," said the Spaniard. "We had a lot of over-heating on the tyres, we were sliding around a lot, and for some reason our package wasn't quite there this weekend, but in the end we finished on a podium and we will take it.

"The first two laps were strong, but then we went into high degradation and I realised we were degrading more than what we should. Unfortunately we couldn't put up a stronger fight and we had to survive. We will have to learn why at this track we were not so competitive."

Sainz believes there could be stronger results ahead for Ferrari at the Dutch Grand Prix, which comes next, but he does not expect Red Bull to drop off and predicted they will be strong in Italy in two weeks' time.

"Zandvoort should be a better track for us," Sainz said. "Monza should be advantage for Red Bull there, but we will try and win it in Zandvoort."

Max Verstappen produced a scintillating drive to surge from 14th on the grid to win the Belgian Grand Prix and further extend his huge championship lead.

The reigning Formula One champion was fastest in Saturday's qualifying session but was one of several drivers to take a grid penalty for a power unit change, leading to him starting on the seventh row.

Yet, just as in the Hungarian Grand Prix before the mid-season break, when he started in 10th, Verstappen expertly worked his way through the field to prevail and claim a second successive win at Spa-Francorchamps.

The raw pace of the Red Bull allowed Verstappen to easily make his way to the front after a chaotic start and a second lap safety car, and he was never threatened after overtaking Carlos Sainz for the lead on lap 18. His team-mate Sergio Perez made it a Red Bull one-two, with the Ferraris of Sainz and Charles Leclerc sandwiched by Mercedes driver George Russell on a day that saw Verstappen's lead stretched to 96 points.

Fernando Alonso got a lightning start to put his Alpine ahead of Perez into the first corner, with the Red Bull man also overtaken by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.

Yet the good work of the two former McLaren team-mates was soon undone when they collided going into the Les Combes chicane, sending Hamilton airbone as he suffered damage that ended his race.

The next lap then saw the Williams of Nicholas Latifi spin into Valtteri Bottas' Alfa Romeo, prompting a safety car as the latter ended up beached in the gravel.

Sainz locked up at the bus stop chicane at the restart but was still able to stay ahead of Perez and retain the lead.

Yet he soon began losing time to the Red Bulls and had both in his mirrors by the time he pitted on lap 12, Verstappen's spectacular charge through the field rewarded with the lead as he passed Perez while Sainz was in the pit lane.

Sainz was back ahead when Verstappen pitted for medium tyres four laps later, but Ferrari's lack of pace was encapsulated as Leclerc was unable to get past Perez on warmer tyres following the Mexican's pit stop and Verstappen succeeded in breezing past Sainz for the lead.

That set the stage for a serene second half of the race for Verstappen, whose title battle with Leclerc is turning into a procession for the Dutchman.

Carlos Sainz profited from Max Verstappen's grid penalty to secure pole for the Belgian Grand Prix but admitted to being concerned by the gap between Ferrari and Red Bull.

Verstappen topped the timesheet in Saturday's delayed qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of the first race following the mid-season break.

But the reigning champion – who holds an 80-point lead over Charles Leclerc at the top of the standings – will start in 15th after being penalised for using too many engine parts.

The Dutchman is one of seven drivers taking grid penalties, along with Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas.

That effectively meant the rest of field were facing off for the top 13 positions on the grid, and it was Ferrari driver Sainz who will will start Sunday's race at the head of the pack.

Whereas Verstappen looked comfortable throughout and delivered a time of 1:43.665 seconds with his first Q3 flying lap, Sainz's Q3 lap was rather scrappy.

Despite claiming pole, the Spaniard – who is fifth in the standings – was not entirely pleased with how things played out.

"I'm happy to be starting on pole, but I'm obviously not so happy to see the gap to Max this weekend and the gap Red Bull have on us," he told Sky Sports.

"We need to keep digging to see why Red Bull are so fast around this track. But to start from pole is good and we will try to win tomorrow.

"I think our race pace is better than our qualifying pace, but there is still something to find."

The past seven winners of the Belgian Grand Prix have started from the front row of the grid, six of them from pole.

But after finishing 0.632s clear of the field in qualifying, Verstappen – last year's winner on this track – is hopeful of climbing from towards the back of the pack into the top three.

"It was an amazing qualifying but the whole weekend we have been really on it," he said. "With a car like this it would be a shame to not be on the podium.

"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 amount 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."

Verstappen is set to start one place ahead of title rival Leclerc, while team-mate Sergio Perez is second after finishing 0.165s behind Sainz.

Fernando Alonso, who is on his best run since 2018 after collecting points in each of his past eight races, is third ahead of Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Red Bull are seeking a fifth win in Belgium – only in Mexico (six) would they have more – with Perez looking to overhaul Sainz.

"P2 is not the worst place to be around here and I think if I am able to get a good run at Carlos, it will be different and I will be on the other side of the row," Perez said.

"I am looking forward to tomorrow and I think there will be a great race ahead of us. It'll be very important to get a good start and do our own race and I think that will be the key."

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc will each start from the back of the grid at the Belgian Grand Prix after receiving penalties following power unit changes.

Verstappen leads Ferrari rival Leclerc by 80 points in the Formula One drivers' championship, having won eight of the 13 races so far this season.

However, the Red Bull man, who came from 10th on the grid to win the Hungarian Grand Prix prior to the mid-season break, will have to fight his way through the field to triumph at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday.

Verstappen won in Belgium last year in a race reduced to two laps behind the safety car because of a deluge that made racing unsafe.

The Dutchman, who was born in Belgium under two hours away from the circuit, has had all the components of his power unit replaced.

Leclerc, meanwhile, has taken on a fifth power unit of the season as well as a new gearbox.

Joining the title rivals at the back will be McLaren's Lando Norris, Alpine's Esteban Ocon, Haas driver Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo.

Norris, Ocon and Bottas have seen their teams opt to change their engines, while Schumacher is taking on a new control electronics unit.

The grid shake-up could put Mercedes in position to claim their first win of a difficult season, while Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez and Leclerc's fellow Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz will each fancy their chances of winning for the second time in 2022.

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