Carlos Sainz left ‘puzzled’ as he fires Ferrari warning

Carlos Sainz will start first at the Belgian Grand Prix after Max Verstappen's grid penalty.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was slightly concerned by Red Bull’s pace during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix after Max Verstappen’s stunning lap.

The Scuderia had initially looked solid in practice in Spa, with Sainz leading Charles Leclerc in FP1 as Verstappen wound up third.

However, the Dutchman took the fastest lap by eight tenths of a second in FP2, before Sergio Perez led a Red Bull one-two in the third and final session.

Ferrari had little time to find answers to Red Bull’s terrific speed in a straight line, but the Austrian side once again looked rapid in Q1 and Q2.

READ: Charles Leclerc frustrated by more Ferrari confusion at Spa

Both Verstappen and Leclerc have grid penalties this weekend after they took new engine parts, putting them on the eighth row of the grid.

Sainz therefore got some help from his team-mate in the final session in his bid to take pole from Perez, since Verstappen and Leclerc will be starting further back.

The slipstream on his first run helped him set a faster time than the Mexican, and his scruffy second run mattered little after Perez failed to improve on P3.

However, Verstappen went faster than Sainz by six tenths of a second, which is something Ferrari need to find an answer for.

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“I’m happy to be starting on pole, obviously, I’m not so happy to see the gap to Max this weekend and the gap that Red Bull has on us,” said the Spaniard after qualifying.

“We need to keep digging to see why Red Bull is so fast around this track and why we are trailing them.

“But pole is a good place to start and we will try and win from there tomorrow.”

READ: Carlos Sainz to drive $600,000 Ferrari in Belgium, can he take another victory?

Sainz is optimistic that Ferrari’s pace over a long distance is better than their one-lap speed, but there is still a fair amount of ground to recover.

“Luckily enough the first lap was good enough for P2 which I knew was going to give me the pole,” he added.

“But I’m a bit puzzled to see this big gap to Max and the big gap to Red Bull which makes me wonder what is going to happen in the race because I think our race pace is a bit better than our quali pace, but there’s definitely something there to find.”

Fernando Alonso will line up third behind Perez on Sunday, followed by the two Mercedes cars of Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

A fine effort from Alex Albon saw him make Q3 for the first time this season, and he will start sixth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel.