Max Verstappen claims pole for Belgian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton qualifies third

Red Bull driver and Mercedes' defending champion kept apart by Williams driver Russell at Spa-Francorchamps

Max Verstappen celebrates after claiming pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix following Saturday's qualifying session. Getty
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Red Bull's Max Vertsappen secured pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix after mastering the treacherous conditions at a rain-soaked Spa-Francorchamps track during qualifying on Saturday as defending champion and title rival Lewis Hamilton had to settle for third place on the grid.

Verstappen, who clocked a fastest time of one minute 59.765 seconds, will be joined on the front row by Williams driver George Russell.

Russell briefly looked like he would seize a shock pole, with even Mercedes's championship leader Hamilton unable to beat him, but was ultimately pipped by Verstappen with a lap that was 0.321 seconds quicker at a crash-interrupted session.

Hoping to join Hamilton at Mercedes next season, Russell inadvertently ends up being a buffer between the seven-time champion and his Red Bull title rival.

"That was so difficult out there. We needed that," said Verstappen, who heads into Sunday's race eight points behind Hamilton in the drivers' standings having had a 33-point lead overturned in just two races.

McLaren's Lando Norris walked away from a heavy shunt during the final phase of qualifying that forced a 40-minute halt to the session.

The Briton, who had led the opening two parts of the qualifying hour, was the first driver out on track in the pole-position shootout when his car snapped out of control and smashed into the barriers at the fast Eau Rouge corner. He was taken to the medical centre for checks.

"Should have had a good one there. I let you down; my bad," Norris told his team over the radio.

Updated: August 28, 2021, 3:43 PM