Carlos Sainz believes Max Verstappen will remain a serious threat for the victory at the Belgian Grand Prix despite a series of engine penalties dropping him down the field.
Verstappen stormed to top spot in qualifying by over 0.7s ahead of Sainz, however, the reigning F1 champion is set to start from 15th after taking new power unit components for this weekend.
This means Sainz will start on pole position ahead of Sergio Perez, with the pair set to have a free run at the victory as like Verstappen, Charles Leclerc is starting from 16th due to engine penalties.
However, despite Verstappen’s lowly grid position, Sainz is refusing to rule out Verstappen potentially winning on Sunday.
“Yeah, I think so. If I would have done his lap today I would also be confident as soon as something happens at the front or if there’s a Safety Car that he can make it,” Sainz said.
“As soon as there’s either a Safety Car that can help him close the gap or even with the pace he has, if you translate it into 44 laps, he can come back and we’ve seen him do it before.
“That will not be the focus. The first and second stint will be a battle with Checo and Mercedes, if they have the race pace but we will try and pull away for sure but I wouldn’t discard the two guys at the back coming through.”
Gap to Red Bull is “worrying”
Red Bull and Ferrari have been equally matched throughout the opening 13 races but it’s not been the case at Spa.
Charles Leclerc admitted Ferrari’s deficit to their main rivals is “worrying” and they had no explanation as to why.
“There’s some potential, obviously because we didn’t prepare for qualifying as much as we normally do but when you see the gap to Max, it’s a bit worrying, they’re extremely quick and it’s been the case since the beginning of the weekend and we can’t explain quite why,” Leclerc added.
“We need to work. We will try our best tomorrow but they seem to have found something this weekend.”
Leclerc is confident of performing better on race day but would be surprised if he’s able to match Verstappen.
“In the race pace, it seems that both of our cars are closer or at least it was the case yesterday but let’s wait and see,” Leclerc explained. “A gap like this in qualifying, it would be strange if we were as fast in the race.”