Webber claims Spa pole in rain-affected qualifying

Championship leader Mark Webber takes an important pole position at the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit, setting a time of one minute, 45.778 seconds.

This was Red Bull Racing’s twelfth pole position of the season and the Australian’s fifth. The margin between Webber and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was less than a tenth of a second following a rain-affected qualifying session.

Robert Kubica will start in third in the F-duct Renault ahead of Sebastian Vettel. As for Fernando Alonso – who was the fastest in Friday’s two practice sessions – the Ferrari driver will line up tenth on the grid.

The Spaniard lost significant time at the damp La Source hairpin and posted a lap time that was 1.6 seconds slower than Hamilton.

Jenson Button was able to improve his grid position despite the rain at the end of Q3 to demote Felipe Massa down to sixth.

Rubens Barrichello will start seventh for Williams, as he celebrates his 300th grand prix, with Force India’s Adrian Sutil joining the race veteran on row four.

This was a bad qualifying session for Mercedes GP as both drivers were hit with grid penalties. Nico Rosberg in particular will lose five places following a gearbox change after the final practice session leading into qualifying.

As for Michael Schumacher, who made that aggressive move on Rubens at the Hungaroring, the seven-time world champion will start the Belgian Grand Prix in P21.

The first session began with most of the grid queuing up at the exit of the pit lane as they anticipated an incoming rain shower. But as the cars negotiated their out laps Renault’s Vitaly Petrov spun into barriers after exiting Turn 9, which brought out the red flag.

The resulting red flag period delayed the session just long enough for a deluge to hit Rivage and Stavelot on the first flying lap.

Lucas di Grassi, Adrian Sutil and Jarno Trulli all went off at Stavelot, while the McLarens of Hamilton and Button left themselves enough clear track to go straight to the top of the timesheet.

Sebastian Vettel had waited in the pits for 45 seconds longer than everyone else and was only P17 – the circuit much wetter by the time he completed his lap.

But as the track dried in the next ten minutes, that allowed the Silver Arrows and Williams to leap into the top five on slicks at the end of Q1.

The Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa also went out on slicks hoping to jump up into Q2, but slid off the road at Rivage and Stavelot respectively and were out.

Di Grassi and Petrov were unable to post times after their incidents, and were joined by Sakon Yamamoto, Bruno Senna and Trulli in being eliminated in Q1.

No more rain fell during the second part of qualifying and it was fascinating to see the drivers adopting different tyre strategies to set the quickest time in the damp and yet drying track.

The McLarens once again made the right call and Hamilton’s first flying lap was an impressive 1.7 seconds faster than anyone else. In fact both Lewis and Jenson were the only cars break into the one minute, 46 second barrier.

As for the Red Bulls, Vettel and Webber recorded a reasonable lap time in order to progress into Q3.

Adrian Sutil, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso survived trips off the road early in Q2 but all three were able to take part in the top ten shootout.

The same couldn’t be said to Jaime Alguersuari, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Sebastien Buemi. The trio were eliminated while Heikki Kovalainen pipped Timo Glock to be the quickest of the new teams with P16.

The final qualifying session saw Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber heading the timesheet with an initial pole position that was four tenths of a second faster than anyone else.

Yet again the weather played a role in the proceeding with a small shower hitting the start/finish line as the drivers were heading out for their second runs.

This was a disaster for Fernando Alonso, who had only managed tenth with his first run and wasn’t able to improve. Team-mate Felipe Massa suffered as well, with his car on the dirt exiting Malmedy.

But the McLarens were able to go quicker with Button in particular able to lap in a time of one minute, 46.206 seconds to knock Massa down to P6.

As for Hamilton, he found another four tenths of a second to join Webber on the front row of the grid, but he missed out on that decisive pole by less than a tenth of a second (pole time: one minute, 45.778 seconds).

Despite the set back, Hamilton is in the best position to take the lead from Webber in Sunday’s race thanks to his powerful Mercedes engine and straight line speed advantage with the F-duct system.

Sunday’s race is going to crucial and it will be fascinating if the element of rain will play a factor in this year’s championship battle.

Qualifying times from Spa-Francorchamps:

1. Webber        Red Bull-Renault      1m45.778s
2. Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1m45.863s
3. Kubica        Renault               1m46.100s
4. Vettel        Red Bull-Renault      1m46.127s
5. Button        McLaren-Mercedes      1m46.206s
6. Massa         Ferrari               1m46.314s
7. Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth     1m46.602s
8. Sutil         Force India-Mercedes  1m46.659s
9. Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth     1m47.053s
10. Alonso       Ferrari               1m47.441s
11. Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m48.267s
12. Liuzzi       Force India-Mercedes  1m48.680s
13. Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m49.209s
14. Kovalainen   Lotus-Cosworth        1m50.980s
15. Rosberg      Mercedes              1m47.885s*
16. Glock        Virgin-Cosworth       1m52.049s
17. Trulli       Lotus-Cosworth        2m01.491s
18. Kobayashi    Sauber-Ferrari        2m02.284s
19. Senna        HRT-Cosworth          2m03.612s
20. Yamamoto     HRT-Cosworth          2m03.941s
21. Schumacher   Mercedes              1m47.874s**
22. de la Rosa   Sauber-Ferrari        2m05.294s
23. di Grassi    Virgin-Cosworth       2m18.754s
24. Petrov       Renault               no time

*Five-place penalty for a gearbox change
**Ten-place penalty for illegitimately impeding a rival driver during the Hungarian Grand Prix.

8 thoughts to “Webber claims Spa pole in rain-affected qualifying”

  1. The top three drivers views on qualifying at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Taken from Autosport.com.

    Mark Webber says the key to his Belgian Grand Prix pole position was setting a searing pace on his first lap of Q3.

    The Red Bull driver claimed his fifth pole of the year by lapping in 1m45.778s on his opening flying lap during the final section of qualifying. With the threat of rain – which had already caused significant disruptions to both Q1 and Q2 – returning, the Australian knew he had no time to lose with his run.

    “We knew the first lap was going to be pretty important because round here it is so unpredictable,” Webber said. “The weather has been unique, even for Spa. It has been so on and off.

    “So to have a pretty clean qualifying was very important. The first lap I was happy with, but you never know in this company if it is enough or not. It was nice to be on pole halfway through [Q3] and going into second run, but the weather made it more difficult to improve on our second attempt.”

    Webber came under pressure in the final minute of the session as McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton set some impressive times in the first and second sectors.

    Hamilton, who lay fourth at that point, came up short though and had to settle for second on the grid – 0.085s slower than Webber. The championship leader believes he could have gone even quicker had conditions allowed.

    “Lewis did a good lap on second lap, but I think we would still have been quick enough to have a crack here,” he added.

    The world championship leader stopped short of making any predictions for the race, however, saying that the infamous Spa weather will almost certainly have a part to play.

    “It is virtually impossible [to predict the weather],” he said. “The showers that pop up here and there have no real consistency.

    “This is a special venue, as we all know, tucked in the forests. Having said that, it wasn’t that difficult today in terms of picking the weather, it was more of the times everyone knew they needed to do.

    “It’s reflected in the grid; in most people being where they should be within reason, and not too much of a mixed up position.”

    Lewis Hamilton was pleased to qualify alongside Mark Webber on the front row for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix after having to set his fastest time in the rain.

    The circuit was dry for most of the final Q3 shootout, but light rain at La Source in the last two minutes made it difficult for drivers to make improvements.

    Despite the difficult conditions, Hamilton was able to improve his time to within one tenth of Webber and claim a spot on the front row.

    “It was quite a tricky session through the whole qualifying,” Hamilton said. “I got out for my first lap, the first one out. Turn 14 was drying up but I was first one to get there and didn’t know how much to push. It was a bit of a disappointing first lap, I wasn’t able to hold the time out of the tyres.

    “Then I got the opportunity on the second lap which was good lap apart from Turn 1. That was wet and a little bit damp, I lost time there. But the rest of the track was dry and I was able to utilise the tyres and pull out the time.

    “I think I was a tenth behind Mark, there was the potential there to be in front in P1, but to be P2 on front row is a good position for us.”

    Hamilton says he will have to find a balance between aggression and caution at the start of the race tomorrow, when the straight-line speed of his McLaren is expected to allow him to challenge Webber for the lead on the first lap.

    “We are on the front row – the positive thing is we are up there and in for the fight,” he said. “I will be aggressive, but I have to be cautious at the same time. Tomorrow is a different day – we don’t know if it will rain or be dry, but we are in a good position to get good points.”

    Robert Kubica was relieved to hang on to third place on the Belgian Grand Prix grid after a fuel pick-up problem with his Renault prevented him from making a second run in Q3.

    The Pole had taken a provisional front row spot before Lewis Hamilton’s rapid last-gasp effort pushed him back to third – but Kubica said he had feared he would fall much further. Although he had been able to get back to the pits after the fuel issue, by then he had no time for another outing.

    “We had a bit of a bad moment in Q3 when the car stopped running approaching the last chicane on the in-lap,” he said.

    “So we knew practically we would not be able to do a second attempt in Q3 and I was praying for rain, and there were some drops but not enough.

    “Lewis managed to set a better lap time, but it’s still good for us being back here after introducing the F-duct quite late.”

    Kubica added that the F-duct had functioned seamlessly from the outset on its debut in Belgium, and reckoned that was key to today’s result.

    “Fortunately it worked perfectly yesterday from first lap, and we are happy to be here,” he said.

    “With the F-duct it seems a bit easier to be more competitive. We were competitive in all sessions with different tyres, and we were somehow hoping to repeat our performance from free practice.”

    Having suggested before the weekend that he was more interested in seeing clear progress from Renault than in chasing race wins this year, Kubica said he was open minded about his prospects in tomorrow’s grand prix.

    “I think victory is out of reach but in motorsport anything can happen,” he said. “We will try our best and take out maximum from this weekend.”

  2. If Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix takes place in mixed weather conditions than the drivers will run out of intermediate tyres to race on, according to tyre supplier Bridgestone. Autosport.com has the story and can be read in full below:

    Bridgestone fears that drivers could run out of intermediate tyres if the Belgian Grand Prix takes place in mixed weather conditions.

    With drivers limited to just four sets of intermediate tyres for the whole of a race weekend, Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone’s head of motorsport tyre development, thinks that the current situation is marginal after teams used up one set during Friday practice.

    “In FP2 I was very surprised that everybody wasted one set of intermediates,” said Hamashima, who thinks the worst case scenario is for mixed weather. “The majority of the opinion is that the intermediate performance was going down after five to 10 laps.

    “I am very worried that if they start the race with the intermediate and then rain comes 10 laps in, performance will be not enough. So then tyre management will be very, very crucial.”

    Hamashima said that in normal circumstances the wet weather tyre limit of three sets of wets and four sets of inters is more than enough – but that the mixed weather on Friday had caused a unique situation.

    “A few years ago [Flavio] Briatore complained so strongly that there weren’t enough wet and intermediate tyres, but we explained to everybody that the past data showed that three sets of wets and four sets of intermediates are enough. That was until yesterday. For this weekend now I don’t know.”

    Former world champion Lewis Hamilton was one driver who reckoned that the tyre rules could need revisiting, after teams sat in the garage for a lot of Friday to conserve tyres.

    “Well it would be better for the fans if we had more tyres and could go out more and test, because that’s what we’re here to do,” he said. “It feels a little bit silly to be here, prepared all this time, and then just sit in the garage for the whole of Friday.

    “I liked the old days where you could go out and practice and practice and practice. That’s what it was about.”

  3. Jaime Alguersuari is hoping for a wet Belgian Grand Prix after achieving a career-best 11th place on the grid for the race at Spa-Francorchamps.

    The Spaniard was 13th fastest in qualifying, but will start the race from two places further up the grid once Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher take their penalties.

    He believes he could have pushed even harder during the latter stages of Q2, but was still satisfied with his result.

    “On the slick tyres, I had a strong feeling of confidence from the car, because this weekend the car balance has been quite good as we have worked well over the two days,” Alguersuari said.

    “On my last run, Turns 13 and 14 were still slippery so although I pushed as hard as I could for most of the lap, I backed off a bit at these two points and that’s where I lost all my time, which meant I was not going to make Q3.

    “To be honest, I never expected to be this high up the order, so I hope it rains again tomorrow, which will suit us well.”

    Toro Rosso technical chief Giorgio Ascanelli was disappointed that Alguersuari’s team-mate Sebastien Buemi had not joined him on the sixth row (he will start 13th), but was generally satisfied with the team’s performance.

    “I think we look a bit better than usual because other drivers made mistakes,” he said. “But in terms of performance, we’re pretty much where we expected to be, so not so different to in Hungary.

    “Jaime has done a good job over the two days, keeping calm, even if he told us on the radio this afternoon that he could have taken more risks.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  4. The race stewards have given a five-place grid penalty for Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock over a blocking incident during the first part of qualifying. Autosport.com has the details.

    Timo Glock will be demoted five places on the Belgian Grand Prix grid after being adjudged to have blocked Hispania driver Sakon Yamamoto during Q1.

    The German had got Virgin through to Q2 for only the second time this season amid the rain of chaos of Q1 at Spa, and had been set to line up 17th on the grid prior to the penalty.

    The stewards have also fined Lotus driver Jarno Trulli 4,400 euros for breaking the pitlane speed limit during the session.

  5. Jenson Button blamed unexpected rain during the final minutes of Q3 for his fifth place on the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix.

    Button had expected to qualify on the front two rows, but was caught out by a damp track surface at La Source late on after saving his only set of fresh option tyres for his final run.

    “We only had one set of the new option tyres left, so we chose to use them for the last run in Q3,” said Button. “Unfortunately it started to rain – which we hadn’t expected – and that cost me 0.3s in the first sector. It was time I managed to make up in the second and third sectors, but we’re fifth.

    “It’s a shame because two of the cars ahead of us did their best laps at the start of Q3 when the track was at its best. We didn’t have an extra set of new tyres, so we started Q3 on scrubbed options instead.

    “It was a very tricky session, especially because on this asphalt it’s very difficult to work out how much water is on the circuit and what the grip levels are.”

    Despite qualifying behind his championship rivals Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, he remains confident of a good race, especially in light of his wet wins in Australia and China earlier in the year.

    “The performance is there in the car and I’m sure we can have a good race,” he added. “I’m fifth, and although I’d have liked to be a bit higher up, that puts us in the mix.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  6. Lotus Racing’s Jarno Trulli was left feeling angry following a wet-dry qualifying at Spa. Autosport.com has the story below:

    Jarno Trulli was frustrated after narrowly missing out on a place in Q2 at Spa today.

    The Lotus driver was one of many drivers caught up in incidents when it rained heavily earn in Q1, and he believes yellow flags for the stranded Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa at the end of the session cost him a place in Q2.

    “I am really pissed off to be honest, I can’t believe everything is going wrong every time,” Trulli said. “When we were queuing the Virgins came out very late and tried to squeeze in, fair enough.

    “Then I was following [Lucas] di Grassi who was much slower and he kept blocking me, and everybody behind me, so I had so many people behind. I tried to overtake him but he was blocking.

    “We started the lap and I tried to get a bit of a gap, but after half the lap I caught him again because I was much quicker. We arrived in the wet part and everybody started spinning off. I was right behind him and I hit him, and damaged the car.

    “I put on the first set of intermediate tyres and was quick. Then the track improved and I put on a second set of tyres, on my quickest lap I was the only one who lifted off for the yellow flags and I missed Q2 by one tenth – I lost about five tenths. This is something I can’t believe – everything that can go wrong goes wrong. It’s really frustrating.”

    Trulli was then fined 4400 euros for breaking the pitlane speed limit during the session.

    But he will start tomorrow’s race 15th, following grid penalties for Timo Glock, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.

  7. After setting the fastest time in both Friday’s practice sessions, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will start the Belgian Grand Prix on row five. Despite the low grid position, the Spaniard believes he has the chance for a podium finish (even a win). Read the story in full below as taken from Autosport.com.

    Fernando Alonso is hopeful of challenging for a win at the Belgian Grand Prix, despite qualifying back in 10th for the race.

    Just like his championship rival Jenson Button, the Spaniard was caught out by rain late in Q3 after saving his only set of fresh option tyres for the his final run.

    However, the two-time world champion believes that this has not provided any extra cause for concern.

    “We made it into Q3, but we had only one set of new tyres and saved them for the end because we thought it was the best moment,” he said. “I can’t be pleased with the result, but at least this is a track where grid position is less critical than others; both because of the track characteristics itself and because the weather can do anything.”

    Alonso said that he had no worries about the performance of his Ferrari, despite winding up on the fifth row.

    “We have never been P10 [at any point] this weekend,” he added. “This is nothing to do with the performance of the car. It’s the weather. The aim for the race remains the same. Maybe to win it, maybe to be on the podium. We will see.”

  8. Sebastien Buemi has been penalised three places on the Belgian Grand Prix starting grid for blocking Nico Rosberg during qualifying.

    The Toro Rosso driver was just ahead of Rosberg and the German’s Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher on track during their final laps of Q2.

    Neither Mercedes driver was able to make it into Q3 and Schumacher was heard complaining about traffic over the pit-to-car radio afterwards.

    The race stewards deemed that the Swiss driver had breached Article 31.7 of the FIA F1 sporting regulations by impeding Rosberg and issued the penalty.

    Buemi qualified 15th on the grid. He was due to start 13th as both Mercedes drivers ahead have to serve penalties, but he will drop five places along with Rosberg, Schumacher and Virgin’s Timo Glock.

    Source: Autosport.com

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