Sebastian Vettel maintains Red Bull Racing’s excellent qualifying form with yet another pole position, this time at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps.
The championship leader achieved his eighth pole of the season with a time of one minute, 48.298 seconds, to denied McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton from the top spot by a margin of four tenths of a second.
After setting the fastest time in two of the practice sessions at the Belgian Grand Prix, Mark Webber had to settle with third, with Felipe Massa once again out-qualifying his Ferrari team-mate to take fourth.
But the major talking point in this wet/dry qualifying session was a bizarre incident involving the Williams of Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton in Q2.
As track conditions rapidly improved and the lap times turned inside out, Hamilton banged his wheels with Maldonado going through the Bus Stop chicane as the McLaren completed a flying lap just as the chequered flag was out.
That moment elevated Hamilton to the top of the leader board but on the slowing-down lap, Maldonado appeared to retaliate for the contact on the run out of La Source, sideswiping the McLaren, which then needed minor impromptu repairs for the start of Q3.
Unfortunately the second McLaren of Jenson Button was out following the late-Q2 scramble, leaving the winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix down in P13 on the grid.
The end of Q3 was a similar topsy-turvy as the circuit began to dry out. Felipe Massa was able to take advantage of the improve track condition to out qualify his Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso for only the second time this season as they took fourth and eighth respectively.
Nico Rosberg put his Mercedes in fifth, while Jaime Alguersuari continue to impressive with an excellent sixth for Toro Rosso.
But the real hero of qualifying was Bruno Senna. The Brazilian was drafted in to replace Nick Heidfeld and despite not driving since Abu Dhabi last season, he was quick throughout qualifying and in the end, recorded the seventh fastest time on his debut for Renault. That’s three positions ahead of team-mate Vitaly Petrov, who shares row five with Sauber’s Sergio Perez.
Rosberg was the only Mercedes in the top ten as his team-mate was out even before setting a flying lap… Twenty years after making his Formula 1 debut in the Jordan – in which he qualified a superb seventh – Michael Schumacher’s anniversary weekend went dramatically downhill when his Mercedes shed a right-rear wheel on its out-lap at the start of Q1 and crashed heavily on the approach to Rivage, leaving the seven-time world champion at the tail end of the field.
Neither Williams made it beyond Q2, with Rubens Barrichello in P14 and Maldonado initially in P16. A five-grid penalty was given to the latter hours after qualifying for causing a collision and so Maldonado will start the race in P21. Adrian Sutil lines up P15 after crashing his Force India on the way out of Eau Rouge while holding fifth in Q2. A red flag was required while the debris was cleared up.
That completed a miserable qualifying session for Force India as a spin on his final Q1 run had already left Paul di Resta down in P17. With Schumacher and di Resta both missing the cut, Heikki Kovalainen made it to Q2 for Team Lotus and will start in P16.
Qualifying times from Spa-Francorchamps:
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m48.298s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m48.730s
3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m49.376s
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m50.256s
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m50.552s
6. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m50.773s
7. Bruno Senna Renault 1m51.121s
8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m51.251s
9. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m51.374s
10. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m52.303s
11. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2m04.692s
12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 2m04.757s
13. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2m05.150s
14. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 2m07.349s
15. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 2m07.777s
16. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 2m08.354s
17. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 2m07.758s
18. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 2m07.773s
19. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2m09.566s
20. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 2m11.601s
21. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 2m08.106s*
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 2m11.616s
23. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 2m13.077s
24. Michael Schumacher Mercedes no time
107% time: 2m10.339s
*Five-place grid penalty for colliding with Lewis Hamilton at the end of Q2