Lewis Hamilton claimed his 10th pole position in 11 Formula 1 races this year by comfortably defeating Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Rosberg was narrowly faster than team-mate Hamilton in Q2 at Spa, but the reigning world champion reversed the situation by a massive 0.446 seconds after their respective first runs in Q3, then lowered his benchmark time to a 1m47.197s on his second run to secure pole.
Hamilton’s opening gambit was a 1m47.449s, and Rosberg was only able to manage a 1m47.895s, losing three tenths in the middle sector alone and 0.446s overall. Rosberg’s scruffy lap included a big moment at Stavelot, when he took too much kerb on the inside and slid wide.
Hamilton then banged in a 1m47.197s to put the pole position issue beyond doubt, with Rosberg 0.458s behind on 1m47.655s. Rosberg reported his car balance “came together much better” on his second run, after complaining of oversteer on his first.
Williams’s Valtteri Bottas (1m48.537s) was third fastest, ahead of the impressive Romain Grosjean of Lotus, who qualified fourth but has a five-place grid penalty.
Force India’s Sergio Perez was equally striking, qualifying fifth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Felipe Massa was seventh, ahead of the second Lotus of Pastor Maldonado and a surprisingly tardy Sebastian Vettel – as Ferrari suffered a wretched day. Carlos Sainz will start tenth in his Toro Rosso.
Story of Q2
Rosberg broke the 1m47s barrier on 1m47.955s, with Hamilton on 1m48.024s.
The big news of this session was Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari expiring on his first run with some horrible clunking noises coming from his car: “Something broke,” he said on the radio, adding later: “I lost drive, I felt I had to stop.”
That caused a brief red flag while his car was removed from the track at Stavelot, and Ferrari reported a drop in oil pressure.
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen didn’t run in Q2 to save tyres for the race due to his 10-place engine-change grid penalty, and had hit engine issues in Q1 anyway (see below).
That meant only three more cars would fail to make the top-10 shootout, and they were a couple of surprises: Nico Hulkenberg of Force India – who was deposed by Sainz in the closing seconds after a big error at La Source – as well as Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat. Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson also failed to make it.
Story of Q1
Mercedes was able to save a set of softs in Q1, after Rosberg set 1m49.489s and Hamilton was just 0.079s slower on mediums on their first run. Hamilton then improved to 1m48.908s to top the session on another set of mediums, with Rosberg this time just 0.015s slower.
Everyone else ran softs, with Sergio Perez’s Force India the fastest of those but still unable to break into the 1m48s bracket.
Those knocked out at the first hurdle were Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, the McLarens of Jenson Button (“The best lap I’ve done for a long time”) and Fernando Alonso, plus the Manors of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.
The great escape of the session was Verstappen in his Toro Rosso, who scraped into Q2 in 15th: “Losing power, there is something wrong,” he said during his final run.
Grid penalties to be applied
With a staggering 120 places of grid penalties already reported by race stewards (Grosjean 5, Verstappen 10, Alonso 55 and Button 50), it’s fair to say the grid won’t totally reflect the qualifying times…
|5||Sergio Perez||Force India||01:48.599|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||01:48.639|
|10||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||01:49.771|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||01:49.121|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||01:49.228|
|18||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso|