Max Verstappen pips George Russell to pole at rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix as George Russell secured a shock second on the grid.

Following a frenetic rain-hit qualifying which was delayed by 45 minutes after Lando Norris was involved in a terrifying 185mph crash, Williams driver Russell delivered a sensational lap only to be beaten by Verstappen in the closing moments.

Verstappen finished 0.321 seconds clear of Russell at Spa-Francorchamps, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton forced to settle for third ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished eighth but will start in 13th as he serves a grid penalty for his role in the opening-lap chaos at Hungary earlier this month.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Russell. “We are standing here on the front row. The guys did an amazing job. I had so much confidence, so on to tomorrow now.

“I had nothing to lose. We had to go for it. I am absolutely buzzing, but the big one is tomorrow and to score some points. If the lead is there for the taking, I will go for it.”

Hamilton, who leads Verstappen by eight points in the championship, said: “It has been a very difficult day for everyone.

“If it is like this tomorrow it is going to be tricky. We tried to strike the best balance possible and maybe it is not the best today, but it might work for tomorrow.”

The concluding action took place after Norris, 21, lost control of his McLaren through the fearsome Eau Rouge in the wet conditions, slamming into the wall and pirouetting four-and-a-half times before coming to a standstill.

Norris wrote off the back of his McLaren in the accident, with the front-right wheel also torn away from his car.

The television pictures immediately cut away from the crash and to Norris’ McLaren garage where his visibly concerned colleagues stood with hands on their heads.

But mercifully, a clearly winded Norris reported to his race engineer, Will Joseph, that he was unharmed, with the running red-flagged.

He emerged unassisted from his wrecked cockpit, albeit holding his lower left arm as he was taken away in the medical car and underwent checks at the on-track medical centre.

Norris was among the frontrunners to secure pole position after finishing fastest in both Q1 and Q2.

But his accident came just moments after four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel demanded over his Aston Martin radio that the rain-hit Q3 session be stopped because the track was not fit to drive.

Vettel was the next driver behind Norris on track.

“What the f*** did I say?” he yelled over the radio when he was informed of the accident. “What did I say? Red flag. It is unnecessary. Is he OK?”

Vettel pulled alongside Norris’ wreckage, giving his fellow driver the thumbs up to check on his condition before driving away.

French Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert was killed at the same corner two years ago, while two drivers were hospitalised following a six-car pile-up in Friday’s W Series qualifying session at Eau Rouge.

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