Hamilton takes Spa pole in dramatic qualifying session

Spa 2013 qualifying

Lewis Hamilton achieved his fourth successive pole position in a dramatic qualifying session at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

A rain shower at the beginning of Q3 gave the perfect opportunity for Paul di Resta, which resulted in provisional pole for Force India.

But as the circuit dried up, the Mercedes and Red Bulls blasted through to demote him down to fifth place.

Di Resta was the only driver to start Q3 on intermediates, and while the other nine slip and slide helplessly, before pitting again to abandon their slicks, the Force India flew to the top of the time sheets.

It seemed that no one would have a chance, although Nico Rosberg hinted at a challenge when he got within half a second of the Force India in much worse weather.

While di Resta pitted with pole apparently in the pocket, the rain eased completely, and those able to squeeze in a lap in the final moments of Q3 were back in pole contention.

It was Rosberg who first deposed the Force India, but he was quickly beaten by Mark Webber, then Hamilton.

Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel came through 0.2 seconds slower than Hamilton to claim P2, followed by his Red Bull team-mate Webber, Rosberg and di Resta.

As for Jenson Button, last year’s race winner put in an encouraging sixth for McLaren.

Lotus and Ferrari had to settle for rows four and five, with title contenders Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso back in eighth and ninth positions.

The biggest upset of the wet-but-drying first part of qualifying was Marussia duo Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton plus Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde all making it through to Q2.

The trio were the only drivers to try slicks at the end of Q1 and all jumped up the order, all the way to third in Van der Garde’s case!

As they progressed, the Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez were knocked out due a more conservative tactics as they failed to reach Q2.

With Q2 dry, Van der Garde, Bianchi and Chilton lined up in P14 to P16 respectively.

That still means Caterham will share row seven with a McLaren, as Sergio Perez was the highest-profile driver to fall in Q2.

He starts behind the all-German row six pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Adrian Sutil.

So an exciting qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps, with Hamilton scoring his 31st career pole position in Formula 1. Can the Mercedes driver win? It’s going to be a fascinating race.

Qualifying positions, Spa-Francorchamps:

1.  Lewis Hamilton      Mercedes               2m01.012s
2.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault       2m01.200s
3.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault       2m01.325s
4.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes               2m02.251s
5.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes   2m02.332s
6.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes       2m03.075s
7.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus-Renault          2m03.081s
8.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault          2m03.390s
9.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari                2m03.482s
10.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari                2m04.059s
11.  Nico Hulkenberg     Sauber-Ferrari         1m49.088s
12.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes     1m49.103s
13.  Sergio Perez        McLaren-Mercedes         1m49.304s
14.  Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault         1m52.036s
15.  Jules Bianchi       Marussia-Cosworth        1m52.563s
16.  Max Chilton         Marussia-Cosworth        1m52.762s
17.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault       2m03.072s
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne       Toro Rosso-Ferrari       2m03.300s
19.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari        2m03.317s
20.  Valtteri Bottas        Williams-Renault         2m03.432s
21.  Esteban Gutierrez   Sauber-Ferrari         2m04.324s
22.  Charles Pic         Caterham-Renault    2m07.384s

107 per cent time: 2m08.603s

7 thoughts to “Hamilton takes Spa pole in dramatic qualifying session”

  1. Despite qualifying in ninth position, Fernando Alonso is adamant he can still win the Belgian Grand Prix. Autosport.com has the news story.

    Fernando Alonso remains adamant that he can win the Belgian Grand Prix for Ferrari despite only qualifying ninth at Spa.

    The Spaniard is confident that only the changing weather prevented him getting into the top six.

    “I think it was the conditions that hurt us,” Alonso said.

    “In Q1 in wet conditions we were first, in dry conditions in Q2 we were second, so I think the potential of the car was there.

    “In the extra lap that some cars did in Q3, they got a little bit lucky with it completely stopping raining, so I think that helped by three or four positions.

    “We were maybe not going to fight for pole, but I think we were in a condition for fourth, fifth or sixth.”

    Asked what he was aiming for on Sunday, Alonso replied: “Winning the race. I think we can do it.

    “Anything can happen here. [Sebastian] Vettel started 11th last year and finished second.

    “Spa always offers you big possibilities for a comeback, especially in terms of weather unpredictability.

    “We have to think positively for the race because in wet or dry conditions the car seems to perform well.”

    Alonso conceded that leapfrogging the cars ahead could be a headache, though.

    “If we manage to pass the people in front, we have the pace,” he said.

    “The only problem will be to pass them and we have to think how.”

  2. With the Red Bulls in second and third position after an exciting qualifying session, the drivers are not feeling upset in missing out on pole position. Autosport.com has the details.

    Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber say losing Belgian Grand Prix pole to Lewis Hamilton was no concern given the potential for a big upset in wet qualifying.

    As conditions changed repeatedly in the pole shootout, the pair only got up to second and third behind Hamilton’s Mercedes in the final moments.

    “I saw Lewis catching up and thought OK, I could go a bit quicker,” Vettel admitted.

    “It was close but in these conditions anything can happen.

    “It’s a shame to miss pole, but really I am quite happy today.”

    Webber was equally pleased to avoid the session’s pitfalls.

    “It was difficult for all of us to make the right calls, in the end we got most things right,” said Webber.

    “It’s a difficult thing to know where you are and how the track is moving around.

    “It’s quite a ballsy thing to go slow on the middle lap knowing the track will be better on the last lap.

    “It was quite tight and I’m happy to be up there for tomorrow’s race.”

  3. Lewis Hamilton believes the changing conditions that produced such a breathtaking finish to Belgian Grand Prix qualifying were also the prime reason he was able to secure pole.

    The Briton had languished outside the top 10 in both Friday practice sessions, and despite overnight confidence was only 12th fastest on Saturday morning.

    Amid the wild unpredictability of qualifying on a wet/dry track however he and Mercedes timed their run to perfection, with the Briton sealing his fourth straight pole as the chequered flag flew.

    Asked if he could have achieved pole in the dry, Hamilton said: “I would be guessing and my guess would be probably not.

    “Red Bull was looking particularly quick and also Ferrari was looking quite quick in the dry conditions, so [I’m] not necessarily sure we had the pace to be as fast today.

    “I was so surprised when I crossed the line. When I started the lap I saw on the screen I was seventh or eighth and thought ‘oh no’, and it was raining more.

    “I then went wide in Turn 1 and my dash display said I was three seconds down, then five seconds and six seconds, but I kept pushing, and could see I was catching Seb [Vettel].

    “What a blessing, I feel so fortunate.”

    Hamilton said his conviction that Red Bull is fundamentally faster than Mercedes only boosted his elation, particularly given his comfort in mixed conditions that are likely to hit Sunday’s race.

    “I feel Red Bull is ahead of us a little bit in performance which is why today feels even better,” he said.

    “I think this weekend has shown that they have the pace, but I am hoping that whatever the conditions are, we can push.

    “I feel quite comfortable in changing conditions and feel like I am able to find the limits when the conditions are on the edge.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  4. Despite missing out on pole position, Force India’s Paul di Resta wasn’t disappointed. Fifth is still a great result. Autosport.com has the story.

    Paul di Resta saw no reason to be disappointed about missing out on a maiden pole position at the Belgian Grand Prix after a ‘ballsy’ strategy call nearly came off.

    The Force India driver was the only man in Q3 not to attempt a lap on slicks – with his early run on intermediates handing him a slight track advantage.

    But although holding the top spot for much of the session, he was forced to see his Red Bull and Mercedes rivals pip him at the end when the circuit dried out slightly.

    Di Resta admitted that he had briefly allowed himself to believe he could be on course for pole, but equally reckoned that his eventual fifth spot was better than he would have managed if he had not tried something different.

    When asked by AUTOSPORT if he believed at any point that pole position could be his, di Resta said: “A small glimpse I suppose based on where the weather was.

    “When I came in it was still raining, but unfortunately the shower caught me in the last sector when I was on my lap, and then it cleared the track. The intensity wasn’t enough for what we thought.

    “It was a ballsy decision and it was basically me who did it. The team said they wanted to go out on slicks like everybody else, but I said: ‘no let’s do something different. Look at the screens, people are putting umbrellas up.’

    “When I got out there, the first sector I thought might be risky, but as soon as we got to sector three I knew the best chance I had to do anything was then.

    “And to be fair, we had the best conditions and ended up P5. If we went out at the end, there was no way we would have been there.”

    Di Resta reckoned that Force India’s strong straightline speed at Spa – which is useful for the first and final sectors – meant he could set his sights on a good haul of points in the race.

    However, he doubted he had the machinery to be able to think about moving up the order.

    “I think it is unrealistic,” he said. “It is more about staying in position and losing as little ground as possible.

    “The car, four or five races ago, I would have said maybe think about that. But where we have been recently, you have to take it lap by lap and run it as best as you can.”

  5. McLaren’s Jenson Button has commented that sixth position on the grid was not down to luck. Autosport.com has the details.

    Jenson Button believes his sixth place in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying was not a fluke of conditions but a reflection of McLaren’s improving pace.

    The Briton claimed his best grid-spot of the season amid wildly fluctuating weather that produced a breathtaking, but unpredictable, end to qualifying.

    Rather than credit the weather, however, Button believes sixth is representative of McLaren’s true pace in Belgium, and is even optimistic he can achieve his target of fighting for the podium should it stay dry on Sunday.

    “We deserve that position today, it’s not like we gained it through luck,” Button said.

    “I think P6 for us today was good, it represents the pace of the car. It was well deserved.

    “It’s been a tricky weekend for us understanding the car [but] we were reasonably competitive, and reasonably quick in the dry – so I would prefer it if this was the case tomorrow.

    “If it is dry a podium is possible – it’ll be tricky, but not as tricky as it would be if it’s wet.”

    Team-mate Sergio Perez meanwhile lamented a ‘frustrating’ session, saying a poorly-timed run in Q2 was the chief reason he failed to make the cut and wound up 13th on the grid.

    “It was very frustrating today. We went out at the wrong moment and got stuck in traffic,” he said.

    “I couldn’t do my second-timed lap. We had a very good opportunity and we went out too late. It’s a big shame.”

    Perez said the car’s strong form did at least provide some comfort, adding: “In these conditions the car is very strong.

    “If we have similar conditions tomorrow then I think I will be good in the race.”

  6. Kimi Raikkonen reckons he was simply ‘unlucky’ not to have made it across the line at the end of qualifying for a final lap when the track was at its best.

    The Finn was pretty upbeat about the performance of his Lotus, but could manage no better than eighth after many of his rivals got a final lap in when conditions were drying up.

    Raikkonen dropped down to eighth at the end – and he was in no doubt that his car could have done much better than that.

    “Obviously we seem to have pretty good speed in the dry, and we are not too bad in the wet in Q1, but we were maybe unlucky with the timing,” said Raikkonen.

    “If we could have done one more lap we should have been a bit higher up.”

    When asked about how close it was to making it across the line, Raikkonen said: “Not far.

    “When I came out of the last corner I saw the lights went red – so it was maybe five seconds maximum.

    “When it starts raining, you cannot plan those things. You either get it or not, and this time we didn’t. It was a shame as we had pretty good speed.”

    Despite starting on the fourth row, Raikkonen thinks that Lotus can set its sights on a strong performance in the race – and he does not believe that Mercedes and Red Bull are out of reach.

    “If we look purely in the dry, and even Q2, we were fastest in second qualifying, so we could be up there,” he said.

    “In the wet we were not as fast, but in the first qualifying when the timing was right it wasn’t too bad.

    “We improved for today quite a bit the car, since yesterday.”

    He added: “We have been in much worse starting positions and had good results, and here usually you are able to overtake if you have the speed. So everything is possible.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  7. Most surprised performance in qualifying? That would be Giedo van der Garde, who not only managed to get through into Q2 (after becoming third fastest in Q1), but he will start the Belgian Grand Prix in an excellent P14. Autosport.com has the news story.

    Giedo van der Garde has admitted he was close to abandoning the slick tyre run that yielded a stunning third fastest time in the first part of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

    The Caterham driver was one of three, along with Marussia pairing Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton, to try slicks in qualifying.

    All three ended up making the cut for Q2, but van der Garde was comfortably the fastest, ending up only 0.374 seconds off pacesetter Fernando Alonso’s time.

    “It was very slippery and I was sliding around a lot and I was nearly planning to come back to the pits to put inters on,” said van der Garde.

    “Once I got to Turn 12/13, there it was more or less dry so I said ‘let’s go for it’ and see where we end up.

    “It was very tough and on the first lap it was very hard to get [tyre temperature] so we started to push a lot and I tried to get a lot more wheelspin than normal.

    “Suddenly, on the last lap they came in well and the tyre worked out perfectly.”

    This is the second time van der Garde has reached Q2, the first coming at Monaco where he was also the first to try slick tyres.

    “I was the one who gambled correctly again,” he said. “It was brave to be out there first on slicks like we did at Monaco but in those moments you don’t have a lot to lose, only to win.

    “It was good to see myself in P3. I like these conditions and like to take a little risk sometimes, which paid off well today.

    “The team did a very good job by changing [the tyres] quickly so I’m very happy.”

    Chilton was also tempted to return to the pits for more intermediates, but opted to stay out and earned a career-best 16th on the grid.

    It was the first time since the 2010 Belgian GP that a Marussia (then racing as Virgin) has reached the second phase of qualifying.

    “We pitted for slicks and on the outlap I said ‘guys, it’s too wet, let’s come in’.

    “They were ready, but just before coming in I changed my mind because there was three minutes to go and that was enough at Spa for it to be dry and it was the right decision.

    “I’m incredibly happy for the team as they haven’t been in Q2 for three years and it was good for me to show my pace in good conditions and the dry.”

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