Rosberg takes Spa pole and yet Verstappen impresses

After a long summer break, Formula 1 returns with a positive feeling with Nico Rosberg taking pole position at Spa-Francorchamps while Max Verstappen achieved his best-ever grid slot with second place.

Pole position for Rosberg was expected considering the speed of the Silver Arrows while his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton choosing not to try for pole, on account of a 55-place grid penalty for multiple engine changes, Rosberg looked set to face a relatively unchallenged run to pole.

And yet, Max Verstappen became the challenger for P1. The fight for the top spot was exciting but in the end, second quickest time for Red Bull is still impressive. Verstappen becomes the youngest driver since Ricardo Rodriguez back in 1961 to start from the front row.

As for championship leader Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver will run a new power unit but thanks to the penalties applied to changing parts with tokens, he will start the Belgian Grand Prix in last place.

Joining Hamilton will be another champion, in the shape of Fernando Alonso. The McLaren also received penalties due to the power unit. Pure irony that the Honda engine let go even before the start of his qualifying lap…

Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest for Ferrari, almost two tenths clear of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who lost time to a big oversteer moment at the Bus Stop chicane on his final flying lap. Raikkonen also dropped time at the end of his lap, and felt that cost him a shot at pole.

Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for Red Bull, just over three tenths down on his team-mate Verstappen.

Ricciardo endured a poor first run in Q3, but improved enough on his second to make the top six.

Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg took sixth and seventh places respectively for Force India, while fellow Mercedes customer team Williams suffered software problems with both cars in Q3.

This meant it couldn’t run full qualifying mode on the engines, restricting Valtteri Bottas to eighth and Felipe Massa to tenth.

Massa also locked his brakes heavily at La Source on his single Q3 run, and Jenson Button’s McLaren-Honda was able to squeak ahead of him into ninth position.

Button’s place in Q3 came at the expense of Romain Grosjean’s Haas, which ended up missing the cut by 0.265 seconds.

Renault delivered its best qualifying performance of the season so far with Kevin Magnussen P12 and team-mate Jolyon Palmer P14.

They were split by Esteban Gutierrez, who faces a five-place grid penalty for impeding Pascal Wehrlein’s Manor at Raidillon in final practice.

Wehrlein made it through to Q2 was a solid effort, but wound up last in that segment, after a disappointing run in which he went slower than he did in Q1.

Carlos Sainz was just ahead of him for Toro Rossos, also unable to improve on his Q1 best.

Felipe Nasr failed to escape Q1 in the heavily revised Sauber by just 0.048 seconds and wound up P17, a tenth ahead of Manor debutant Esteban Ocon.

Daniil Kvyat endured yet another Q1 exit for Toro Rosso, ending up P19, fractionally ahead of Marcus Ericsson.

Reigning world champion Hamilton recorded P20, completing a lap within the 107% qualifying rule knowing he will start at the back of the grid.

Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda broke down before he could complete an out-lap in qualifying, so he failed to set a time.

Honda found what it described as a “data anomaly” with Alonso’s engine after the final practice session, but elected to send him out without making an engine change.

Belgian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:

1    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m46.744s
2    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m46.893s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m46.910s
4    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m47.108s
5    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m47.216s
6    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m47.407s
7    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m47.543s
8    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m47.612s
9    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m48.114s
10    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m48.263s
11    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m48.316s
12    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1m48.485s
13    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m48.888s
14    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m49.038s
15    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    1m49.320s
16    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m48.949s
17    Esteban Ocon    Manor-Mercedes    1m49.050s
18    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    1m48.598s
19    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m49.058s
20    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m49.071s
21    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m50.033s
22    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda     No time

3 thoughts to “Rosberg takes Spa pole and yet Verstappen impresses”

  1. Belgian Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by

    The 2016 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix will feature a Mercedes and a Red Bull at the head of the grid, after Nico Rosberg beat Max Verstappen to pole position by just a tenth of a second in Saturday’s qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps. Verstappen will be the youngest man to ever feature on an F1 front row.

    With Lewis Hamilton already resigned to starting his Mercedes from the back thanks to engine penalties, it was the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel who locked out the second row ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the sister Red Bull, setting up the prospect of a thrilling race on Sunday.

    Next up were the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. The Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, split by the McLaren of Jenson Button, completed the top 10. Both Williams were affected by engine software issues, which meant they were unable to run in qualifying mode.

    Massa had surprised everyone, Ferrari included, by jumping ahead off Vettel and Raikkonen to top the opening Q1 session with 1m 47.738s. Rosberg was fourth, but well within striking range as he had used soft tyres and all of his main rivals were on supersofts. Further back, Felipe Nasr’s 1m 48.949s for Sauber wasn’t quite enough, leaving him 17th ahead of debutant Esteban Ocon in the Manor on 1m 49.050s, Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso on 1m 49.058s and Marcus Ericsson’s 1m 49.091s in the second Sauber.

    Hamilton stuck to softs for 1m 50.033s which was well within the 107 percent rule, as he focused on getting his car right for the race, which of course he must start from the back row.

    Fernando Alonso was last in this session, without a time, as his McLaren stopped on the approach to Eau Rouge on its out lap. With his own 30-place penalty that was not quite the disaster it might otherwise have been.

    Rosberg set the Q2 pace with 1m 46.999s on soft tyres, with Verstappen right behind with 1m 47.163s, though the Dutchman ran the supersofts and will thus have to start on them. Both Ferrari drivers had a go on supersofts late on, but chose to abort those laps, hence they too can start on the yellow-marked rubber, along with Ricciardo.

    A late blast from Jenson Button put his McLaren 10th, leaving Haas’s Romain Grosjean on 1m 48.316s as the first Q2 faller, ahead of Kevin Magnussen on 1m 48.485s for Renault, Gutierrez – carrying a five-place grid penalty for impeding in FP3 – on 1m 48.558s in the sister Haas and Jolyon Palmer on 1m 48.888s in the second Renault. Carlos Sainz was 15th for Toro Rosso on 1m 49.038s, with Pascal Wehrlein 16th for Manor on 1m 49.320s.

    Rosberg going fastest with 1m 46.744s was hardly a surprise after the first runs in Q3, but Verstappen’s 1m 46.893s really was sensational, given he had missed the bulk of FP3 with gearbox issues, and must have set hearts fluttering at Mercedes. Neither improved on their second runs, but the only one to get close was Raikkonen. Having fallen off at Stavelot on his first run, which he aborted, the Finn made amends with 1m 46.910s to push Ricciardo out of the third place; the Australian had lapped in 1m 47.216s. Then Vettel, complaining that the rear end had lost all grip by the end of the lap, edged the second Red Bull down another place with his 1m 47.108s.

    Behind the top five, Perez finally overcame Force India team mate Hulkenberg to take sixth with 1m 47.407s to 1m 47.543s. The aforementioned software issues (which Williams say won’t be a problem for the race) meant Bottas couldn’t reproduce his previous form and neither could Massa; they lined up eighth on 1m 47.612s and 10th on 1m 48.263s respectively, sandwiching Button on 1m 48.114s.

    The stage is thus set for a fascinating race tomorrow. Rosberg, Raikkonen, Vettel and Ricciardo will all start on the more durable soft Pirellis, but it will be interesting to see what Verstappen can do on the supersofts. And don’t forget Hamilton, trying to charge from the back while steering clear of trouble…

    With the various penalties applied, the provisional grid currently reads as: Rosberg, Verstappen; Raikkonen, Vettel; Ricciardo, Perez; Hulkenberg, Bottas; Button, Massa; Grosjean, Magnussen; Palmer, Sainz; Wehrlein, Nasr; Ocon, Gutierrez; Kvyat, Ericsson; Hamilton, Alonso.

  2. Max Verstappen believes he has chosen the best strategy for the Belgian Grand Prix, even though he is the only driver in the top five starting on super-soft tyres.

    The Red Bull driver became the youngest man to qualify on the front row for a grand prix at Spa, narrowly missing out on his first Formula 1 pole position to Nico Rosberg.

    But Verstappen also caught the eye in Q2, when Rosberg, the Ferrari drivers and his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo all progressed using the soft tyre, meaning they will start the race on the harder compound.

    When asked about his plan for the race, Verstappen said: “To start on the super-soft and see where we end up after a few laps.

    “We have a few strategies. I decided with the team to run the super-softs [in Q2].

    “We think it’s the best strategy to go into tomorrow, and we’ll see how it pays off.”

    Verstappen accepted that the 0.149-second gap to Rosberg meant he could have beaten the Mercedes with a perfect lap, but he was satisfied with a front row start.

    “You can always do a better job, but I’m sure Nico could have also done a better lap,” he added.

    “To be so close to Mercedes on a track with long straights, we can be very pleased with that.

    “I’m just very pleased to be second, especially in front of so many of my fans.

    “It’s great motivation when you see them on track.”


  3. The Iceman admitted that the final corner cost him the chance to grab pole position at Spa. has the news story.

    Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen insists a first pole in eight years was within his grasp at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, had it not been for a slow end to his final lap in qualifying.

    The Finn, fastest on Friday morning in Belgium, wound up third on the grid – just 0.166s down on Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg. And while that equals his best start of 2016, Raikkonen says he was disappointed to not seize the opportunity to end a pole drought that stretches back to the 2008 French Grand Prix.

    “Obviously I ran wide on my first try of the final [part of] qualifying, but the second run was pretty good,” Raikkonen explained.

    “But if you compare it to my Q2 lap, I lost two tenths in the final chicane – so pole was there.

    “It’s a bit disappointing not to get it because it would have been nice, but tomorrow is the race.

    “Compared to the last few races we have to be satisfied with where we are in qualifying – but we are not at the front, so you cannot be too happy.”

    Raikkonen has the best record of the current field at Spa, having won four times – and team mate Sebastian Vettel, who also felt he lost time at the final corner, believes Ferrari will be in the mix for victory on Sunday.

    “Today was very close,” the four-time world champion said, “and anyone in the top five or six has a chance tomorrow. I think we can win.

    “We tried something and made it work to start the race [on soft tyres], but all the tyres are struggling whether they are red, yellow or white – so you will have to be smart with strategy.”

    Ferrari were the most aggressive team in terms of tyre selections for Spa, meaning they have just one set of mediums at their disposal – the most durable option to contend with the large cornering forces and unusually high temperatures.

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