Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc likely to start from the back in Belgium

Max Verstappen heads into Belgium with an 80-point lead over Charles Leclerc in the championship.

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc may both end up facing penalties for the Belgian Grand Prix as their Red Bull and Ferrari teams mull over putting new engines in the cars.

Between them, Verstappen and Leclerc have suffered four reliability failures this season, with another four befalling their respective team-mates, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz.

Both of Verstappen’s came in the first three races of the season in Bahrain and Melbourne, either side of a victory in Saudi Arabia.

The Monegasque won both of the races that Verstappen failed to finish, but he has taken just one victory since, while the reigning champion has added another seven to his tally.

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Leclerc looked set for wins in Spain and Azerbaijan when he suffered reliability failures of his own, and the latter forced him to start from the back in Canada, costing him any chance of victory.

Verstappen won all three of those races, and has finished on the podium in every race bar one since Australia – that was the British Grand Prix when a piece of debris lodged itself in his floor while he was leading.

One of the most prominent power tracks on the calendar, Spa Francorchamps is a real test of engine durability and, with no one wanting to take any chances as the championship begins to reach the final stretch, this could be an opportunity for Leclerc and Verstappen to take new engines.

Overtaking is possible into La Source, down the Kemmel Straight, and into the Bus Stop Chicane, so starting from the back is far from a disaster in Belgium.

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The Red Bull driver enters this weekend with an 80-point lead after a mixture of mistakes, strategic blunders and reliability failures befell his title rival, but he is not resting on his laurels.

“I will never be perfectly happy, you cannot be,” Verstappen. told Sky Sports.

“We are not robots, everyone makes mistakes, and we can always do better, myself, the team, and that’s what we always try to look at – how can we be better? How can we perform better?

“And of course we had a little break, which I think is nice, especially with the upcoming triple header and of course we’re flying away a lot.

“It’s important to just have a little rest and spend time with your family and close ones to just get ready and gear up for the remainder of the season.

“The 80-point lead, I didn’t expect it of course, I think nobody expected it.

“I’ve been helped a little bit sometimes with misfortune of others and, yeah, when we look at ourselves, I think for most races, we maximised a lot, but again, we’ve had two retirements as well.

“We had that debris stuck in the floor in Silverstone which didn’t help, otherwise it could have looked even better, but then we also had a few races where we got a bit lucky because of others.

“So, I think at the end of the day it always evens out a little bit, and yeah we’ll see, for the remainder of the season a lot of things can still happen.

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“After the first three race weekends, I was over 40 points behind, and now I’m 80 ahead, so you know that things can change really quickly if you have a bit of misfortune.”

The deficit has not deterred Leclerc, who will continue to fight until the very end.

“I think the pace is there, and if we put everything together, we still have a chance,” he explained.

“And I will believe in it until the very, very end, I think this is the mentality that I need to have, that we need to have as a team and that we need to keep until the end of the year.

“Because we need to keep the motivation as high as possible, and yeah, I really do believe that we can still make it if we do everything perfect.

“So, now it’s up to us.”

Verstappen won last year’s Belgian Grand Prix after it was rained off. The Dutchman had taken pole, before the Safety Car led the drivers round the track for three laps, enabling half points to be awarded.