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Verstappen says the car felt good ‘from the first run’ at Spa, while Horner explains why title leader opted for engine penalties

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Max Verstappen produced a dominant show in Free Practice 2 for the Belgian Grand Prix, driving more than eight tenths faster than anyone else. And the Dutchman was pleased to be so quick on Friday, as he will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid.

Verstappen finished FP1 two tenths adrift of Ferrari pair Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. But in FP2, the balance tipped in favor of Verstappen, with the Dutchman – whose mother is Belgian – driving 0.862 seconds faster than title rival Leclerc, as the rain held up most of the drivers’ qualifying simulations.

FP2: Dominant Verstappen well away from Leclerc in second Spa practice session

“I think as soon as we went out the car worked pretty well,” said Verstappen. “There are always little things you want to fine-tune about the balance, but actually I was happy with the car from the first run.

“From the laps we did, the car worked well, so that’s positive. Of course I would have liked to run a little more, [like] everyone, but so far it’s been a good start.”

However, after taking on a range of new power unit elements, Verstappen will have to make his way through the field on Sunday. Was he confident he could get to the front by the end of the race? “We’re going to try that,” Verstappen replied. “We have to!”

Verstappen will have to fight against traffic on Sunday

Team boss Christian Horner later explained why Red Bull had decided to change Verstappen’s powerplant here – with the Dutchman set to be joined on Sunday by Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas, Mick Schumacher and title rival Leclerc.

READ MORE: Verstappen, Leclerc and more set for Belgian Grand Prix grid penalties after power unit change

“You look at the calendar strategically,” said Horner, “and we found it very tight to make it to the end of the year with the engine allocation we have, so then you look at the circuits coming up: Zandvoort, you don will don’t take it there; Monza is actually harder to overtake than you might think; Singapore, you don’t want to take it there; Japan is tough to overtake.

“So you’re out of options. This is a good track to overtake and we feel we need to get here quickly so we decided to take the opportunity here.

“Here it is probably the smallest catch-up delta needed of the season; here and Bahrain are probably two of the easiest tracks on the calendar to actually overtake, so that’s probably why so many people nominated this track to take that penalty, to try and get bikes in the pool for the rest of the year. ”


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Perez was confined to the pits for much of FP2

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez had a quiet Friday going P10 in both sessions – although the Mexican was sure those results didn’t tell the whole story.

“We were very unhappy with the conditions,” said Perez, who had a hydraulic problem in FP2 that affected his rear wing. “We just got out at the wrong time, especially on the last lap [in FP2] with the soft tire things were a bit on the damper side so once you get a damp corner it’s easy to lose balance…and it’s very hard to learn anything.

IF IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from the second practice for the Belgian Grand Prix

“We’ll see what we can pick up. I think we look good, we look competitive, but we just have to do everything right.”

Red Bull goes into the weekend with a 97 point lead over rivals Ferrari – with Verstappen 80 points ahead of Leclerc in the drivers’ standings.