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Formula One Belgium Grand Prix qualifying, Lando Norris crash, news, results, Spa, Belgian GP, Daniel Ricciardo, pole

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen mastered the rain to claim Belgian Grand Prix pole, snatching the fastest time in qualifying from surprise package George Russell of Williams.

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes will start on the second row as he goes for his 100th Grand Prix win, Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren completing the second row.

Qualifying was marred by a heavy crash in Q3 involving the McLaren of Lando Norris, whose hopes of a first ever pole bit the dust at Eau Rouge.

With the Briton thankfully escaping serious injury, nine cars took to the track when the shoot-out resumed after a 40-minute red flag intervention.

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Fellow Briton Russell was poised to give Williams an astonishing first pole since 2001 with seconds of Q3 to go.

But the young driver’s brilliant time was narrowly shaded by Verstappen in the Dutch driver’s final flying lap.

Russell still had the satisfaction of placing in front of Hamilton, with Russell in contention alongside Valtteri Bottas for the second Mercedes drive in 2022.

“I’m absolutely buzzing,” said the Williams man.

HORRIFIC crash in W-Series rocks Spa | 01:06

Hamilton said it had been “a very difficult day for everyone”.

“I’m just trying to stay positive, focused and calm. Max did a great job and a great job also by George – that’s fantastic,” added the seven-time world champion who is eight points clear of Verstappen in the drivers standings.

“We’re first and that’s the most important thing,” said Verstappen. “It’s an amazing track to drive and very difficult in the wet. I’m super happy to qualify like this after the (summer) break.”

Q3 got off to a dramatic start when Norris came badly unstuck in the treacherous wet conditions.

The Briton lost control of his McLaren, his car spinning multiple times from one side of the track to the other after the rear end hit the barriers at Eau Rouge.

The only one of his four tyres intact was the front left.

Sebastian Vettel, who had called for the Q3 session to be stopped a little while earlier, drove up in his Aston Martin to make sure the 21-year-old was okay.

The German, a four-time former world champion, only drove on when he got a thumbs up.

Norris’ team came over the radio asking “Lando, are you okay, are you okay?” with the shaken, but seemingly unharmed, driver replying “Yes, Sorry boys we should have had a good one. I’ve let you down.”

McLaren’s British driver Lando Norris competes in the qualifying session. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)Source: AFP

The medics then helped him gingerly out of his cockpit.

The session was red-flagged as stewards hurried to clear the debris from the stricken McLaren off the track.

Norris’ mechanics were set for a long night getting it roadworthy in time for Sunday’s race.

Norris was taken to hospital for a precautionary x-ray but has been given the green light to race on Sunday when he will start from the fifth row.

“Following precautionary checks after an accident during qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix, Lando Norris has been cleared to compete in the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix by the trackside doctor and FIA medical delegate,” said a McLaren statement.

Norris, third in the drivers championship, had led qualifying through the first two sessions held as the rain beat down on the majestic but notoriously demanding Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes Forest.

He was in a great position to claim his first ever pole and end up at the front of Sunday’s grid, instead he ended up in the medical centre.

After the lengthy stoppage the session got back underway with 8.59 minutes of Q1 left on the clock, and a trick up Russell’s sleeve.

Starting grid for the Belgian Grand Prix:

Front row: Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes)

2nd row: Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes)

3rd row: Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Honda)

4th row: Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull-Honda) Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault)

5th row: Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari)

6th row: Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes)

7th row: Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault)

8th row: Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Honda)

9th row: Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari)

10th row: Nikita Mazepin (RUS/Haas-Ferrari) Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes)

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Daniel Ricciardo features in song on Triple J’s Hottest 100, reaction, Gang of Youths

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Daniel Ricciardo is a man of culture.

The Australian Formula One driver has many interests outside of motorsport, including wine and fashion. And now he has officially hit the big time as a (budding) musician, making one of the most sought-after lists in Aussie pop culture.

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As hipsters across Australia gathered around their portable speakers on Saturday for Triple J’s Hottest 100, they might have missed Ricciardo’s cameo in one of the songs.

In a strange twist, the 32-year-old made his Hottest 100 debut, having played “percussion” on Gang of Youths’ song The Man Himself.

The track, from Gang of Youths’ third studio album Angel in Realtime, came in at number 57 on the list, and features Ricciardo playing some very basic drum beats in the background.

He even features on the song’s credits, although it must be said the band’s drummer Donnie Borzestowski did the heavy lifting as the proper percussionist.

The Australian band released The Man Himself in October last year and shared a clip on social media of Ricciardo playing the drums in their studio.

On the band’s Instagram post listing Ricciardo in the credits, the McLaren driver commented: “This makes me happy”.

Ricciardo is an avid listener of music and often shared videos of himself singing along to tunes while driving (in normal life, not during races). He is also an ambassador for the headphones brand Beats by Dre.

Daniel Ricciardo on the drums for Gang of Youths.Source: Instagram

The West Australian also isn’t afraid to try his hand at strumming a few tunes on the acoustic guitar.

As for the rest of the Hottest 100, The Wiggles took out top spot for their cover of Tame Impala’s song Elepant.

Olivia Rodrigo, Lizzo and Cardi B also featured alongside some Triple J favourites including Gang of Youths, Tame Impala and ARIA winner Genesis Owusu.

Hopefully Ricciardo can take the momentum from featuring in the Hottest 100 to help him finish higher on another list of sorts — the F1 grid in the 2022 season.

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Australian F1 Grand Prix organisers won’t allow Covid vaccine exemptions, Albert Park circuit Melbourne, vaccine rules for F1 drivers

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Organisers of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix have confirmed there will be a “zero tolerance” approach on vaccine exemptions, making it mandatory for all participants to be vaccinated.

Australian F1 Grand Prix chief executive Andrew Westacott said the conditions for the event were clear — all drivers, pit crew, staff and spectators have to be fully vaccinated to be involved in the race.

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“The rules are simple to get into the country and the rules are simple to operate in Formula One,” he said.

“To come into the event you’ll be 100 per cent vaccinated and there won’t be an exemption sought for anyone from anyone.”

The Grand Prix’s hard line policy means there will be no repeat of the Novak Djokovic exemption saga that overshadowed the lead-up to the Australian Open.

“Our arrangements have been in place well before the recent goings-on at the Australian Open,” Westacott said.

“These rules are understood by Formula One, they’re understood by the FIA, they’re going to be written into the sporting regulations and I’m very confident that (it) is just going to be a rite of passage to come into the country.

“There’s zero tolerance. Whether you’re Lewis Hamilton or Valentino Rossi in MotoGP, if you test positive, you don’t race that weekend.”

Every F1 driver including Daniel Ricciardo will be fully vaccinated for the Australian Grand Prix. (Photo by Antonin Vincent / POOL / AFP)Source: AFP

The entire F1 grid is believed to be fully vaccinated, and several leading drivers including Daniel Ricciardo have voiced their support for vaccines.

On top of the drivers, fans and all staff in the paddock will have to be vaccinated to attend the Grand Prix in Melbourne on April 10.

Aussie motorsport fans have been starved of a local F1 race. This year’s edition will be the first Australian Grand Prix since 2019 after the 2020 and 2021 races were cancelled due to the pandemic.

But the organisers have declared it will be a case of third time lucky and there is no chance of it being cancelled this year.

“I’ll go on record and say zero chance of cancellation,” Westacott said.

The Albert Park circuit in Melbourne has undergone a revamp, with the track resurfaced for the first time in 25 years.

The freshen-up is expected to cut lap times by five seconds, while the widening of several turns is expected to create more overtaking opportunities.

“The widening of five other turns, particularly the increase of speed at Turn 6 where they’re going to go from about 90 km/h to 150 km/h, that really does set it up for speeds in excess of 330 k /h around Lakeside (Drive), pulling four and a half Gs,” Westacott said.

The Australian Grand Prix is the third race of the F1 season and will run from April 8-10.

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McLaren boss Zak Brown ‘wouldn’t be shocked’ if Lewis Hamilton quits before 2022 season

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McLaren CEO Zak Brown says he “wouldn’t be shocked” if Lewis Hamilton chose to quit Formula One before the start of the 2022 season.

The seven-time world champion has kept his cards close to his chest since he missed out on last year’s title to Max Verstappen, who overtook him on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in controversial circumstances.

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Speculation has been rife about Hamilton’s future after he was beaten to the world championship for the first time since 2016.

The 36-year-old and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff snubbed the end-of-season F1 gala, even though they were required to attend.

Hamilton, who is contracted with Mercedes to the end of 2023, is yet to publicly confirm whether he will race on this year, but Wolff is hopeful his charge will return to the grid.

Brown, who is the boss of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton called it quits and walked away from F1.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if he stopped, so I don’t think anyone should take for granted he’s coming back,” he said.

“My personal opinion is he’s going to (continue racing), but I don’t think we should discount or not recognise his frustration and his anger.

Lewis Hamilton’s F1 future is up in the air. (Photo by Kamran Jebreili – Pool/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“Maybe he hasn’t made a decision and maybe what he’s doing is taking time to make that decision to make sure, because once that decision is made, that decision is made.

“So, I don’t think we should rule it out or make light of it. I just personally think he still has a burning desire to race and that will ultimately drive his decision.”

Ultimately Brown believes Hamilton will continue to race in F1, driven by the desire to win a record-breaking eighth world championship.

“I think he’ll be back,” he said.

“He’s a racing driver. I think he’s at the top of his game.

“I’m sure he’s very angry, but I think race car drivers want to race and I think he’s a fighter, and he’ll want to come back and try to win an eighth championship.

“I don’t think he’s ready to retire; this is my own personal opinion, I’ve not talked to him, because once you hang it up, you hang it up.

“I guess you could come back as some have done, but I don’t think he’s ready to hang it up and I don’t think he’s going to let an incident put him into retirement.”

Hamilton lost the 2021 world championship to Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)Source: AFP

Brown’s comments come after former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone predicted Hamilton will retire before the 2022 season, which begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.

The Brit reportedly also reportedly ignored messages from newly-elected FIA president Mahamaaed Ben Sulayem as time ticks on towards the start of the 2022 season.

Hamilton is expected to attend the virtual launch of Mercedes’ 2022 car on February 18.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the dramatic season finale in Abu Dhabi has continued.

The FIA, F1’s governing body, will reveal the results of their investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on March 18, just two days before the season gets underway in Bahrain.

There have been calls for the FIA to sack Australian race director Michael Masi, after he came under fire for his use of the safety car in the dying stages of the race.

Many F1 fans criticised Masi for his decision to move only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to set up a final lap shootout between the two rivals.

Verstappen, on fresh tyres, overtook Hamilton to win the world title.

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