Hamilton equals Schumacher’s pole position record at Spa

Lewis Hamilton equals Michael Schumacher’s record tally of 68 career poles with a commanding performance in qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Mercedes driver impressively broke through the one minute, 43 seconds barrier for the first time in Q2, and repeated the feat on his first run in Q3, leading Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by more than three tenths of a second.

Hamilton found even more speed on his second Q3 run, taking pole with a brilliant one minute, 42.553 seconds effort.

Vettel’s Ferrari languished in fourth after the first runs in Q3, but the world championship leader pulled things together on his second run, taking a tow from team-mate Raikkonen in the final sector to beat Bottas to the front row.

Vettel’s one minute, 42.795 seconds lap made him the only driver other than Hamilton to lap below one minute, 43 seconds.

Bottas improved to a one minute, 43.094 seconds best on his own final run, but struggled in the middle sector compared to his team-mate and ended up relegated to the second row.

Raikkonen held a provisional front row spot after the first runs in Q3, despite suffering unexplained vibrations from the rear of his Ferrari throughout qualifying, but “f***** it up” on his final Q3 run so aborted the lap and dropped to fourth.

Max Verstappen was best of the Red Bulls in fifth, almost half a second clear of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, while Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault comfortably beat the Force Indias of Sergio Perez – who complained of a loss of grip in Q3 – and Esteban Ocon to seventh.

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer looked set to qualify best of the rest behind the top three teams after setting the seventh quickest time in Q2, but he broke down at the exit of Stavelot on his out-lap in Q3, after losing gearbox oil pressure, so wound up P10.

Fernando Alonso missed out on the final Q3 spot by 0.084 seconds, despite the efforts of team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne to give Alonso a tow along the Kemmel Straight on Alonso’s final flying lap.

Alonso then aborted the attempt, complaining of “no power” from his Honda engine at the exit of Pouhon over team radio.

Romain Grosjean found more than three tenths on his second Q2 run, but that was only good enough for P12, ahead of Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen – who went slower on his second attempt – and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr.

Grosjean felt he lost downforce behind Vandoorne’s pitting McLaren in the final sector, without which he felt he might have made the top ten.

Vandoorne was P15, but didn’t set a time in Q2 and will drop to the back of the grid with a 65-place penalty for two illegal engine changes earlier in the weekend.

This was a disastrous Spa weekend for Williams with both cars dropping out in Q1. Felipe Massa fell less than a tenth short of making the cut after a late improvement, knocked out by a better one from Sainz’s Toro Rosso.

Massa ended up P16, but will drop back thanks to a five-place grid penalty for ignoring double waved yellow flags in final practice.

Daniil Kvyat was P17 for Toro Rosso, almost seven tenths adrift of Sainz, complaining he had “no reference” after breaking down with an engine problem in the morning session. Kvyat will take a 20-place grid penalty for requiring an engine, turbo and MGU-H change before qualifying.

Massa’s Williams team-mate Lance Stroll was P18, but didn’t venture out for a second run in Q1 due to a rear wing problem.

Marcus Ericsson won the private battle of the Saubers to avoid being slowest of all in qualifying, beating team-mate Pascal Wehrlein to P19 by 0.465 seconds. Both will take grid penalties for gearbox changes.

So an excellent qualifying performance by Lewis Hamilton. Pole position was important for the Formula 1 title challenger and to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 is remarkable.

Belgian Grand Prix, qualifying results:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m42.553s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m42.795s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m43.094s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m43.270s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m43.380s
6    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m43.863s
7    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m44.982s
8    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m45.244s
9    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m45.369s
10    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    –
11    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m45.090s
12    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m45.133s
13    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m45.400s
14    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m45.439s
15    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    –
16    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m45.823s
17    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m46.028s
18    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m46.915s
19    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m47.214s
20    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m47.679s

6 thoughts on “Hamilton equals Schumacher’s pole position record at Spa

  1. Belgian Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by Formula1.com.

    Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to first place in Saturday’s qualifying session for the 2017 Formula 1 Pirelli Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. It is the 68th pole of Hamilton’s F1 career, matching Michael Schumacher’s outright pole-position record.

    A scintillating lap of 1m 42.553s – the fastest ever here – put the Briton, who starts his 200th Grand Prix on Sunday, 0.242s ahead of his championship rival, with team mate Valtteri Bottas third and Kimi Raikkonen, complaining of vibrations in the second, Ferrari fourth.

    The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth and sixth respectively, followed by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. A disappointed Jolyon Palmer completed the top ten, his Renault’s gearbox having failed at the start of Q3.

    Hamilton owned the session and never looked like being beaten, but in the end it was a close-run thing between the three-time champion and points leader Vettel, after a gripping hour of action.

    As Raikkonen immediately suffered serious vibrations on his Ferrari in Q1, Vettel set the initial pace with 1m 44.275s before Hamilton did a second run that yielded 1m 44.184s. Verstappen got closest to them, with 1m 44.535s, but had to run ultrasoft tyres to do it whereas they had both run supersofts.

    Neither of the Williams made it through to Q2 – bad news on a track where their Mercedes engines should have helped. Felipe Massa recorded 1m 45.823s to head Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat on 1m 46.028s, team mate Lance Stroll – hampered by bodywork issues – on 1m 46.915s, and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein on 1m 47.214s and 1m 47.679s.

    Hamilton narrowly headed Raikkonen, 1m 43.539s to 1m 43.700s, at the start of Q2, but a subsequent run yielded 1m 42.927s for the Briton as Bottas improved to 1m 43.249s to head the Finn, who was still complaining of vibrations. Verstappen was fourth from Vettel and a disappointed Ricciardo. To his delight, Palmer was seventh, ahead of Perez, Hulkenberg and Ocon, despite a clutch problem on his Renault.

    That left Fernando Alonso as the first to be out in the cold despite a decent tow up Kemmel from McLaren team mate Vandoorne. The local boy, who will start from the back of the grid thanks to engine penalties, did not record a time, while the Spaniard crossed the line complaining of no power. Nevertheless, his 1m 45.090s left him ahead of the Haas drivers Romain Grosjean on 1m 45.133s and Kevin Magnussen on 1m 45.400s. Sainz was 14th, on 1m 45.439s.

    Palmer’s wretched luck returned the moment Q3 began, when his gearbox expired on his out lap. That left some oil out the back of the track, but that didn’t stop Hamilton from blasting the Ferraris with a lap of 1m 42.907s compared to Raikkonen’s 1m 43.270s and Vettel’s 1m 43.426s. Bottas split the red cars with 1m 43.358s, as Verstappen led Ricciardo with 1m 43.778s to 1m 43.925s.

    Could Hamilton keep the advantage, or would Ferrari find something? He could, and they did. But not enough.

    Hamilton’s next run brought him down to 1m 42.553s, which was just as well as Vettel improved to 1m 42.795s to move up to second as Bottas’ improvement to 1m 43.094s was not enough. The Finn will start alongside fellow countryman Raikkonen, who aborted his attempts to go faster, still suffering vibrations.

    Verstappen and Ricciardo both improved but stayed where they were, as Hulkenberg’s 1m 44.982s left him seventh ahead of Perez and Ocon on 1m 45.244s and 1m 45.369s respectively. The luckless Palmer will start 10th, having been unable to record a time.

    A total of five drivers have grid penalties to be applied: 65 places for Vandoorne after a new gearbox and multiple power unit element changes; five places for Massa for ignoring yellow flags in FP3; five apiece for Ericsson and Wehrlein due to unscheduled gearbox changes; and 20 for Kvyat for using several new power unit elements.

  2. Double world champion Fernando Alonso believes McLaren could be “first and second” without engine deficit. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Fernando Alonso believes McLaren could have topped the times in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying if not for the power deficit of its Honda engines.

    The Spaniard looked set for a place in Q3 before he suffered a deployment issue with the power unit in his final run, meaning he lost over half a second and was therefore knocked out in Q2.

    Alonso, who was heard screaming “no power” on the radio, will start the race from 11th place.

    According to the two-time world champion’s calculations, he could have been quickest had McLaren’s not been hindered by the Honda engine’s lack of power around Spa.

    “We would have liked to be there but in general it was a very positive day,” said Alonso.

    “In Q2 until the final attempt we were 1.5 seconds off on a track where we know how much we are losing with the engine, so we would easily be in first and second positions.”

    He added: “The battery didn’t work and I lost six tenths from Turn 11 to 12. I was two tenths quicker than on the previous lap so I would have improved one or two more in the final sector, so we would have been in Q3 without any problems.

    “In the end, starting 11th with new tyres maybe gives us an extra opportunity so we’ll try to take advantage tomorrow.”

    Alonso had benefited from the tow from teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, who spent the session assisting the Spaniard given he will start from the back of the grid due to the penalties.

    Alonso said he will return the favour in Italy next weekend.

    “We had it planned. Next week it will be the other way around because it’s my turn. We were trying to take advantage of the penalties, we have to find a positive and try to do the best for the team.

    “As I said, if I had been in Q3 with just one set of tyres left, then you aim to be ninth or 10th, so starting 11th with new tyres is not a disadvantage.”

    Vandoorne, who faces 65 places in grid penalties, finished the session in 15th place.

    “It’s been a reasonably positive day,” the Belgian said. “I’ve been preparing for the race all weekend because I know I’m starting from the back.

    “So today was all about helping Fernando – to get both cars into Q2, and help Fernando with the slipstream, so that’s what we did. Unfortunately we just missed out on Q3 with him.”

  3. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton says equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of pole positions is “surreal”. Motorsport.com has the story.

    Lewis Hamilton said equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68 Formula 1 pole positions in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying felt “surreal”.

    Seven-time world champion Schumacher did not take his first F1 pole until the 1994 Monaco GP, nearly three years after joining the field, with his last coming at the 2006 French GP.

    Hamilton was first on pole only six races into his F1 career, at the 2007 Canadian GP.

    F1 sporting chief Ross Brawn gave Hamilton a congratulatory message from the Schumacher family on the Spa grid at the end of qualifying, adding “they said that Michael always said records are there to be beaten”.

    Hamilton said he had been well aware the record was looming but had tried not to think about it.

    “It is a special day definitely,” he said. “I knew it was on the horizon and at some stage I would be getting that 68th pole but hadn’t thought about it much.

    “I didn’t apply pressure, it could come soon, it could take time – being there. I remember coming here in 1996 for my first GP and watching Michael coming by out of Turn 1 and the engine shook my rib cage.

    “It was incredible and that is when my love of the sport took another step. Now to have equalled him on poles is surreal – particularly knowing Michael is such a legend.

    “It is an incredible feat he achieved and I am very proud to be up there with him.”

    He said his thoughts were always with Schumacher, who was severely injured in a skiing accident at the end of 2013.

    “I pray for Michael and his family all the time,” Hamilton said. “I have had the privilege of racing with him from karting days in Kerpen to on the track [in F1] and always admired him and still do today.

    “I’m just honoured to be up there with him in the poles but he will still be one of the greatest of all time.”

    Mercedes briefly looked set to fill the Spa front row until Sebastian Vettel got his Ferrari between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas right at the end of Q3.

    Bottas has struggled to match Hamilton all weekend and admitted he was perplexed by his lack of pace.

    “This whole weekend for some reason I have just not been close enough to challenge for the pole,” said Bottas.

    “Lewis has been really on it but I am slightly confused why I have not been able to get quite close enough, so I still need to find some answers from me.

    “The balance of the car has been feeling really good, just lacking overall grip and losing a lot of time in high speed corners.”

  4. Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen says it was his decision to help out teammate Sebastian Vettel with a tow in the final qualifying segment at the Belgian Grand Prix.

    Raikkonen had looked the stronger of the two Ferrari drivers throughout the weekend, as he headed Vettel in all three free practice sessions and was ahead after the first runs in the final qualifying segment.

    But the Finn “went sideways” midway through his last Q3 effort and aborted his lap, instead giving a tow to his teammate.

    Vettel ended up on the front row, alongside the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and half a second up on Raikkonen, who was demoted to fourth by Valtteri Bottas.

    “I had a mistake, I was coming back. If I can help our team, I will do it,” Raikkonen said.

    “It cost me nothing because i was coming in the pitlane. I knew he was behind me, so I speed up and try to help him on the straight.

    “It’s as simple as that. There is no other story behind it.”

    Vettel, for his part, insisted the tow from Raikkonen was in the plans, calling it a “spontaneous” decision by the Finn.

    “As far as I understand, he had a mistake on his last flying lap, his last attempt,” Vettel said.

    “He obviously wanted to finish that lap but I guess, when he did the mistake and because of where we were positioned, when he cruised to the pits – I guess the team didn’t tell him anything, I guess he saw a red car in the mirrors and thought ‘I would hand him a tow’, which was quite nice and obviously quite useful for me.

    “It wasn’t planned. I saw some other teams playing around with tows, previously in qualifying, but usually it is one of those things that you can’t plan, so you tend to stay away from it.

    “I think it was very spontaneous.”

    The German said his Ferrari SF70H felt significantly better on his final Q3 lap, but conceded that the tow from Raikkonen was a big help in seeing off Bottas for second place.

    “I had a little bit light front end, especially through sector two with the medium-speed, high-speed corners,” Vettel said.

    “I was lacking a little bit of response, but the last lap the car was more alive, immediately I could feel it turning into Turn 1.

    “Also I admit I was a bit lucky with Kimi, who had to abort the lap, and he gave me a very, very nice tow – which I think made it a bit more comfortable with [beating] Valtteri.”

    Regarding Ferrari’s battle with Mercedes, Vettel has talked up his outfit’s chances – as he suggested that his car has again looked stronger on race runs than over one lap.

    Asked about the long-run pace, he said: “So far it has been looking pretty good, so I hope we can keep it up.

    “The car on one lap, I thought all weekend it’s a bit trickier to get it all together – consecutive laps, high-fuel, I felt really good, so let’s see what we can do with strategy tomorrow as well.

    “For sure Mercedes will be quick, but we don’t have to hide, we’re on the front row for a reason, we have the speed, and we should have it as well in the race.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  5. Brazilian driver Felipe Massa complains Williams have “going backwards” in terms on developments compared to the rest of the other teams. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Felipe Massa says that Williams is falling behind in the development race, after both its cars failed to progress from Q1 in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

    Massa qualified 16th at Spa, and has a five-place grid penalty for speeding under yellows in FP3. He also missed most of Friday’s running due to a crash in FP1 that ruled him out of the second session, but claimed his car “is not competitive enough”.

    “It’s quite disappointing to go out of qualifying in Q1,” said Massa. “It shows that the main issues are that the car is not going forward. Others are going forward, we’re going backwards.

    “It’s pretty clear that we need to improve the development, and to improve the pieces we put on the car and to make the car better, which is not what’s happening at the moment.

    “I’m not used to being out in Q1 to be honest, so I wasn’t sure if it was 15th or 16th where you stay [to go through to Q2].

    “Anyway, I was happy with my lap time, but the car is not competitive enough.”

    When asked by NBC if this the new normal for Williams, Massa’s teammate Lance Stroll replied: “I hope not. I think it’s very track dependent.

    “We clearly see the downforce is not there in the long corners with a lot of load, and combine entry and traction, and we’re really lacking a lot.

    “That’s kind of been the case for the last few events. It’s very frustrating – it’s not where we wanna be.

    “But all I can say is we’ve gotta keep working, and get rid of that.”

    Stroll only ran once in Q1 due to a rear wing issue, but although he qualified 18th he will rise to 15th due to grid penalties ahead of him.

    He explained: “Something broke, I think it was the endplate or something. One of those things that happens, just unlucky.

    “We couldn’t go out for the second run, so that’s a shame. I don’t think there was a huge amount in it, I saw Felipe did his lap and it was only a couple of positions [ahead]. It was a shame I didn’t get the opportunity though to do a proper lap in Q1.”

  6. Honda system confused by Fernando Alonso taking Pouhon flat out. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Fernando Alonso’s brilliance in taking the Pouhon corner flat out for the first time in qualifying led to the energy deployment failure that cost him a place in Q3, Motorsport.com has learned.

    After receiving a tow from teammate Stoffel Vandoorne at the beginning of his final effort in Q2, Alonso had looked set to deliver a laptime that would have been good enough to get through to the final top 10 shootout.

    But between Turn 11 (the exit of Double Gauche) and Turn 12 (the entry of the Fagnes Chicane), Alonso received no extra energy deployment from his Honda power unit.

    With a full deployment of energy worth around 160hp, Alonso claimed on the radio that he had lost half a second at that moment – which was enough for him to abort his lap.

    The lack of energy was not the result of a failure on the car, but was instead caused by Honda’s system not deploying when it was automatically expected to.

    Motorsport.com has learned that this failure to deliver the energy was the result of Honda’s system getting confused about where it was on the track.

    Honda’s deployment algorithm is calculated through major throttle input, with it basing its calculations of which corner it is at by major throttle inputs.

    So when there is a lift of the throttle, for example, the system takes this into account and works out it must have gone through a corner.

    When Alonso took Pouhon flat out – rather than lifting as he had done previously over the weekend – Honda’s system did not realise he had already gone through the corner.

    Thinking Alonso was still on the run from the Liege downhill corner, rather than on the straight between Turn 11/12, it did not deploy any more energy.

    Honda F1 engine chief Yusuke Hasegawa has confirmed that the issue was related to the control system.

    “We set a segment to when we have the deployment, and normally that segment is divided by the throttle,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com.

    “Sometimes a driver is making a different operation, so that makes the system confused and we didn’t have deployment at some certain area.”

    Hasegawa later said that Honda would likely need to change its procedures to ensure there is no repeat incident.

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