Hamilton beats title rival Vettel for Spa pole

Lewis Hamilton edged out his championship rival Sebastian Vettel to pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix in wet conditions.

Rain that started to fall when drivers were heading back to the pits at the end of Q2 meant Q3 started in slightly damp conditions with everyone on slick tyres.

But with the rain intensifying, and Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas spinning coming through Blanchimont on his outlap, all the drivers except the Racing Point Force India drivers dived straight into the pits.

With Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon having to abandon their subsequent attempts to set a time on slicks, the former after a big moment at Eau Rouge, everyone opted for intermediates.

Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen both had spells at the top before Vettel went fastest with just under three minutes remaining with a lap of two minutes, 02.466 seconds.

While Hamilton lost a lap to an off-track moment on his second flier, Vettel improved his time to a two minutes, 01.188 seconds.

It came down to a battle on their final fliers, with Hamilton posting a one minute, 58.179 seconds to take pole – 0.726 seconds clear of Vettel.

Ocon claimed an impressive third late on with a lap 3.672 seconds off the pace in improving track conditions, with team-mate Sergio Perez completing a second-row lockout for the revitalised team despite an off at the chicane.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean and Raikkonen ended up on the third row, with Verstappen and Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo taking the fourth row.

Kevin Magnussen was the slowest of those to set a time in Q3, ending up ninth place, with Bottas knowing he will start from the back thanks to grid penalties and not returning to the track after his outlap.

Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly was the fastest of those eliminated in Q2 in P11, half a second away from a slot in the top ten.

His final lap was compromised by team-mate Brendon Hartley triggering a yellow flag by spinning in front of him when the rears locked as he hit the brakes for the first hairpin – although he only lost two-tenths of a second compared to his personal best in that sector.

Hartley’s spin meant he did not improve on his second run and ended up P12, and led to him asking the team to investigate what the cause of the rears locking.

Sauber pairing Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson had both been in the top ten in Q1 but ended up P13 and P14 respectively.

Leclerc improved on his second attempt, but was two-tenths slower than Hartley and four-tenths off his Q1 pace.

Ericsson was around a quarter of a second slower, but did not return to the track for a second run.

Nico Hulkenberg, who will start at the back thanks to grid penalties incurred for a change of his whole Renault engine package on Friday – then another turbo change this morning – did not run in Q2 and was classified 15th.

His Renault team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr was 0.088 seconds slower on his second run than the time he had set on his first, meaning he was bumped into P16 and eliminated in Q1.

Sainz complained about a lack of rear grip over the radio after being jumped by Ericsson in the dying seconds of the session.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso also failed to improve on his second run despite a tow on the Kemmel Straight from team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne.

Alonso set personal best times in the first and second sectors, but lost time on the run through the last sector and ended up P17 ahead of Williams duo Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll.

Vandoorne was slowest, 0.390 seconds behind Alonso after not being close enough to his team-mate to get a tow – setting a time 0.367 seconds slower in the first sector.

So congratulations to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in achieving pole position at Spa-Francorchamps. That was vital in terms of the championship to score one over Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel.

And yet the stars of qualifying will definitely be Racing Point Force India. To achieve a row two start as a ‘new outfit’ is just remarkable. A positive outcome after going into administration during the Formula 1 summer break. This P3 and P4 is great news to boost moral. Job well done.

Qualifying positions, Belgian Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m58.179s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m58.905s
3 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 2m01.851s
4 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 2m01.894s
5 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 2m02.122s
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 2m02.671s
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 2m02.769s
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 2m02.939s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 2.04.933s
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m43.844
11 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m43.865
12 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m44.062s
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m44.301s
14 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m44.489s
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m44.917s
16 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m44.998s
17 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m45.134s
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m45.307s
19 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes –
20 Nico Hulkenberg Renault –

7 thoughts to “Hamilton beats title rival Vettel for Spa pole”

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

    As the rain that’s been threatening all weekend finally arrived at Spa-Francorchamps, Lewis Hamilton mastered the difficult conditions to take pole for Mercedes ahead of his main title rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, while Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez completed a dream day for the new-look Force India by locking out the second row of the grid.

    With rain arriving for Q3 following two dry segments, Hamilton kept his cool to claim his fifth pole at Spa and surpass Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna’s qualifying records at the historic Belgian circuit.

    In an incredible day for Force India, the two pink cars ended up P3 and P4 ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, with the Finn missing out on gunning for pole after an apparent strategic mistake from his team that left him consigned to the garage.

    With conditions improving as the session progressed, the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo – both running low-drag set-ups – were stuck in a disappointing seventh and eighth, ahead of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas – although P10 on the grid on race day will be occupied by Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, with both Bottas and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg set to start from the back of the grid after taking engine penalties.

    Risk of rain was called at 90% ahead of the session, but it was amid bright sunshine that the cars headed out onto the 7.004km track. Raikkonen put down a strong early marker, banging in a 1m 42.484s on his first flying lap on the soft tyres. It was an effort that wasn’t to be beaten, while Bottas was second, around three-tenths off Raikkonen, and Hamilton third.

    It was an edgy session for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who was forced to make two attempts on the fastest supersoft tyres to be comfortable enough to make it through into Q2. He managed it, however, ending up P7 and behind the Haas of Romain Grosjean, while the main casualty from Q1 was the man Ricciardo will replace at Renault for 2019, Carlos Sainz, with the Spaniard ending up P16, and complaining of a lack of rear grip.

    Out with Sainz went his fellow countryman Fernando Alonso, the two Williams of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll in P18 and P19, while the miserable home showing continued for Stoffel Vandoorne, with the Belgian having finished last in each of the sessions he’s competed in so far this weekend. Those drivers would take some comfort, though, from the fact that they’d jump two places forward for race day with Hulkenberg and Bottas’ penalties.

    Several drivers’ lives were made easier in the second session of qualifying, with the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg opting out of running in the segment. With clouds beginning to darken but the rain holding off, Vettel was the paceman now, claiming the outright track record with a 1m 41.501s, 0.032s ahead of team mate Raikkonen. Red Bull continued to struggle for Mercedes and Ferrari-bothering pace, with Verstappen ending up fifth and Ricciardo eighth, the pair split by the Force India of Sergio Perez and the Haas of Romain Grosjean.

    Out with Hulkenberg went the Toro Rossos of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley – with Hartley suffering a spin at the end of the session after locking his rear brakes at La Source – and the Saubers of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson. That was a disappointing end for Sauber, who had looked strong candidates for Q3 after Leclerc had ended up P7 in FP3. Meanwhile, despite his grid penalty, Mercedes opted to send out Bottas, with the Finn ending up fourth and thus available to act as a tow for his team mate in Q3 if his team required…

    Finally the rain arrived at Spa, with the wind picking up as well – and chaos ensued! The drivers all headed out on dry tyres, but as the rain began to fall on their out laps, Bottas had a terrifying moment, losing his Mercedes at the fearsomely fast Blanchimont. In the end it was a scary-but-harmless spin, but with the track getting wetter and wetter, Mercedes put a kibosh on their slipstreaming idea and parked Bottas in the garage.

    Elsewhere on the track, Sergio Perez had his own scary-but-harmless moment, nearly sliding his Force India into the wall at Raidillon as the rain came down and he and team mate Ocon soldiered on on slicks. It was time for intermediate tyres, and the runners duly dived into the pits for them.

    What followed was one of the most dramatic sessions of the year so far. With the rain having stopped and the track still greasy but getting quicker and quicker, Hamilton punched in the fastest time, taking Mercedes’ sixth straight – and perhaps most unlikely – pole position in Spa after the Silver Arrows had failed to top a session all weekend. Hamilton’s time was mighty, pipping second-placed Vettel by 0.726s as the German rued Ferrari getting their timing wrong. Below the two title contenders, the order was far from normal. Force India timed their runs to perfection, and when the chequered flag flew, the team in pink’s cars were P3 and P4, Ocon heading Perez. For a team that was in very real danger of not even competiting at Spa a few weeks ago, it was a truly remarkable turnaround.

    Having been surprisingly off the pace all weekend, Romain Grosjean got it together in Q3 to wind up P5. Meanwhile, the Ferrari team whose engine powers Grosjean’s Haas were left ruing what looked to be a strategic error, failing to fuel Raikkonen sufficiently to allow the Finn more than one run after he had initially set the pace in the segment. And while that denied us the possibility of a Raikkonen pole at Spa, it was at least better than Red Bull, who, after a similar strategic error, could only manage seventh and eighth, ahead of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

  2. Sebastian Vettel’s effort during Belgian Grand Prix qualifying means a Formula 1 car has reclaimed the fastest unofficial lap of Spa-Francorchamps from Porsche’s 919 Hybrid LMP1 ‘Evo’ machine.

    In April this year Neel Jani set a 1m41.770s around the 4.352-mile Spa circuit in the revised Porsche, which has an uprated V4 turbo engine and energy retrieval systems that give it a peak output of 1160bhp plus 50 percent more downforce and active aerodynamics.

    Jani’s lap beat Lewis Hamilton’s pole time for the 2017 Belgian GP by almost a second.

    That made it unofficially the fastest-ever lap of the Spa circuit, with the quickest racing lap, which is used to determine the official lap record, a 1m46.557s set by Vettel during last year’s F1 race.

    However, in the second part of qualifying for this weekend’s Belgian GP, three drivers lapped even faster than Jani’s effort.

    Vettel ended up with the new benchmark, a 1m41.501s, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton lapping in the same tenth.

    Rain started to fall before Q2 ended and continued into Q3 as well, which prevented further improvements and meant the eventual pole position time was a 1m58.179s set by Hamilton using intermediate tyres on a wet track.

    Porsche’s project with its LMP1 Evo car followed its withdrawal from the top division of the World Endurance Championship last year.

    It followed up its Spa effort this year by smashing the late Stefan Bellof’s outright lap record for the Nurburgring-Nordschleife two months later.

    Two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Timo Bernhard set a 5m24.375s, almost a minute quicker than Bellof’s pole position time for the 1983 Nurburgring 1000Km.

    Source: Motorsport.com

  3. Rain is always a friend to me says Belgium Grand Prix polesitter Lewis Hamilton. Formula1.com has the full story.

    Ferrari were favourites for pole at Spa-Francorchamps, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen showing rapid pace in dry conditions. But then the heavens opened early in Q3 and it became advantage Lewis Hamilton. “Rain is always a friend to me,” said the Mercedes driver after clinching a record-breaking fifth pole in Belgium…

    Though Spa-Francorchamps is notorious for its unpredictable weather, only dry tyres had been required for the three practice sessions. The rain stayed away for the first two segments of qualifying, too, but then a downpour hit early in Q3.

    Hamilton made mistakes at Turn 1 and again at Turn 12 on early runs, meaning it would all come down to his final lap. With conditions improving and rival Sebastian Vettel failing to hook up a good lap, Hamilton kept his head to take pole – Mercedes’ sixth straight P1 slot at Spa.

    For the four-time world champion, it was the latest epic wet-weather performance in a career full of them – including his recent come-from-behind win in Germany and rain-soaked pole in Hungary.

    “I think that was one of the hardest sessions that I can remember for a while,” said Hamilton. “Obviously in the rain in the last [qualifying in Hungary] was obviously incredibly difficult there but this one was straight from slicks to inters.

    “You only have a few laps to find the grip, get the tyres up, to understand where the track was drying and where it was wet because it was really patchy throughout the whole lap.

    “Towards the end it was drying up in some patches, and still wet in others. I can’t find the words to describe how difficult it was. If you look at the laps, I went off at Turn 1 and again into Turn 12, so I only had one lap left otherwise I would have been a lot further down the order.

    “I knew I had the pace, it’s just about trying to find the balance of not pushing too much but not backing off too much. It’s different every single corner. At no point can you ever be complacent. I’m super happy, the team have done a great job. The rain is always a friend to me.”

    Ferrari look to be strong on race pace and despite starting on pole, Hamilton is expecting a tough battle, particularly at the start should Vettel get a tow up the Kemmel Straight and utilise their impressive speed on the straights.

    “They were favourites today and they will be favourites tomorrow but that doesn’t mean necessarily they are going to win,” said Hamilton. “They have been favourites for quite a few races now and we have managed somehow turn it up on its head and come out ahead.

    “Tomorrow will be a tough race. Sebastian’s long run looked good yesterday so I don’t know if I’ll be able to create the pace worthy of building the gap but tomorrow I’ll find out and I’ll give it everything I’ve got. It’s always a tough race down to Turn 5 at the start and these guys are incredibly quick on the straights. So we’ll see.”

    Hamilton leads Vettel by 24 points in the world title race heading in Sunday’s Grand Prix. The question is, will that gap grow or shrink?

  4. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton commented that Esteban Ocon’s uncertainty shows Formula 1 structure “probably wrong”. Motorsport.com has the details.

    The uncertainty over Esteban Ocon’s Formula 1 future shows that grand prix racing’s structure is “probably wrong”, world champion Lewis Hamilton believes.

    Ocon, who is backed by Mercedes, starred in mixed conditions in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying, putting his Racing Point Force India car third on the grid.

    The Frenchman’s short-term prospects in F1 have been complicated by recent developments, as a likely Renault move fell through when the manufacturer signed Daniel Ricciardo, while Lawrence Stroll’s takeover of Force India has made Ocon staying put all but impossible.

    When asked by Motorsport.com about Ocon’s situation, Hamilton said: “I’ve always been supporter of Esteban. How he conducts himself and how he performs on track, he is exceptional.

    “Unfortunately we’re in a weird place in Formula 1 where some teams, rather than take the up-and-coming kid, they take the money.

    “It means the structure of the sport is probably wrong, in terms of how the funds are distributed.

    “I’ve not read who has signed where and what seats are available but he needs to be in a top car as he is one of the top drivers here.

    “You can’t let someone who has more money leap in front of a better driver. It shouldn’t happen. The governing body definitely has to [address it] somehow.”

    TV cameras caught Ocon speaking to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after qualifying, as the Frenchman all but confirmed his seat at Force India would be taken by Lawrence Stroll’s son Lance in 2019.

    Vettel: Next year? Still nothing?

    Ocon: No.

    Vettel: Will you be here [at Force India]? No?

    Ocon: No, no. The seat is taken.

    Vettel: Oh yeah? Who?

    Ocon: Have a guess! The one who bought it!

    Vettel: Yes, but the other one…?

    Ocon: Well, the other one [Sergio Perez] brings money.

    Asked about Ocon afterwards, Vettel said the Frenchman’s performance in Belgian GP qualifying “should be considered for signing him somewhere next year”.

    “From the outside it’s difficult to judge but I think he’s doing everything right,” Vettel said.

    “|It’s very good to get this qualifying session under the belt, get the car in P3 where it doesn’t belong, I think that shows enough in a session like that that can be quite chaotic and you can easily do a mistake.

    “To hold it together is crucial and that’s what he did.”

    Ocon, for his part, said Hamilton and Vettel’s comments were “awesome” to hear.

    He also said: “For sure, my future is not done at the moment, I don’t know where I will race next year or what I will do. The only thing I can do is do well on track, focus, do same job as before and try to do best.

    “If you do a strong job in Formula 1, the team cannot skip you, they need to have you, so that is what I am trying to do.”

  5. Title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel may have locked out the front row in Spa, but it was Esteban Ocon who stole the show in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying. On a weekend of new beginnings for the Force India team, and with his own F1 future uncertain, the Frenchman duly delivered a superb lap to take third on the grid.

    With a proposed move to Renault falling through and question marks over whether there’ll be space for him at Force India next season, Ocon said ahead of the weekend that he would focus on doing his talking on the track. And he did that in style on Saturday afternoon.

    Both the Frenchman and team mate Sergio Perez had demonstrated Force India’s Q3 potential in practice, but after getting through to the top 10 shootout, they gambled on slick tyres in wet conditions and looked to have blown their chance of a high grid slot.

    But after both drivers returned to the pits for intermediate rubber, Perez via a close shave with the barriers, their speed was impeccable, with Ocon setting the fastest first sector on his way to the third best time, one place ahead of his team mate.

    “It’s awesome to be in P3 after such a difficult time with the team we had,” Ocon said, referencing Force India’s recent spell in administration and subsequent emergence as a new entity. “But now we are starting afresh and definitely happy with that result, third wasn’t expected today.

    “What I knew is definitely that when it’s damp conditions like this you have an opportunity and something to do. It’s always closer between the cars when the conditions are like that and today we maximised the potential of our car.

    “Last time it rained I was also starting third [he qualified fifth but started third after grid penalties for both Red Bulls in Italy last year],” he continued.

    “It’s the second time it rains and I’m starting third, so it’s a fantastic result. Great to perform like this after a difficult time for Force India.

    “That’s totally behind us now and we are focusing on this weekend and the car has been strong, even in the dry this weekend, so hopefully we will get a great result tomorrow.”

    It was the first time Ocon had qualified third in his F1 career, with Force India getting both cars into Q3 for the first time since Canada six races ago.

    Both drivers retained their championship points amid the team’s rebirth. And it is now looking like there is a very good chance they could add to them on Sunday…

    Source: Formula1.com

  6. A fuel miscalculation wrecked Kimi Raikkonen’s Spa qualifying. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Kimi Raikkonen blamed a fuel miscalculation by his Ferrari F1 team for failing to complete another flying lap in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

    Raikkonen had looked like one of the favourites for pole position after topping Q1 and finishing less than a tenth behind teammate Sebastian Vettel in Q2.

    But as conditions improved late in Q3 following a rain shower, Raikkonen was forced to return to the pits because he did not have enough fuel to complete another lap.

    The Finn ran out of time to refuel and return to the track and qualified down in a disappointing sixth position.

    “I knew how much fuel we had, but honestly I didn’t know we didn’t have time to refuel and go out again,” Raikkonen said.

    “I guess we should have stopped when we changed tyres and put more fuel and then we manage to do more laps, but I don’t know reasons why. We haven’t had meetings.

    “Obviously, for sure not how it should have ended, but this is what we got today so we need to see why and what.”

    He added: “We knew how much there was but maybe we should have done differently and brought the car in and a bit more fuel and be out there in the end, but I don’t know.

    “I thought we had time enough anyhow to come in and change, but this is what happened.”

    Vettel did manage to complete a flyer at the right moment, but the German missed out on a pole position shot as well after running out of battery at Turn 1 in his final run.

    The Ferrari driver, who had set the quickest time of the weekend in Q2, finished second, over seven tenths behind pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton.

    Vettel admitted he was surprised to find out his battery was low and reckons the team could have managed qualifying better.

    “I don’t feel we put everything together,” Vettel said. “The last lap we ran out of battery. It wasn’t a nice ending to come up to the point.

    “I was surprised myself when I crossed the line and saw the battery was low, which was quite costly.

    “In the end we should have managed better as a team. I always try to slow down and charge the car but there wasn’t enough for the end.”

  7. Sebastian Vettel reflects on Ferrari qualifying ‘wobble’ following a dominant practice display at Spa-Francorchamps. Story taken from Formula1.com.

    Ferrari topped every session of the Spa weekend bar one – and unfortunately for them, that ‘one’ was final the segment of qualifying, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claiming pole as the rain arrived in Belgium.

    With Belgium seen as a straight fight between Ferrari and Mercedes as both teams unleashed their ‘Spec 3’ engines after the summer break, Ferrari had shaded Mercedes throughout Friday and Saturday’s running, going fastest in FP1, FP2 and FP3, as well as Q1 and Q2.

    But as the rain started falling minutes into Q3, all the teams were forced to think on the fly. With everyone having initially gone out on slicks, there was a mad dash to the pits for intermediate tyres.

    However, after their first runs on inters, many drivers – including Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen – found themselves marginal on fuel, leaving them side-lined as the track got progressively better once the rain had stopped. Raikkonen, who had looked every bit a pole position candidate, was left down in P6. Sebastian Vettel did manage to be on track right at the end of the session, but was ultimately unable to match Hamilton’s time, ending up second on the grid.

    “I think we had a wobble, obviously,” said Vettel after qualifying. “I think there was a bit of miscommunication – I was stuck in the pit lane for a while. In the end that didn’t matter but it was just not as calm as I think it could have been.

    “I don’t feel we put everything together in the last lap, he added. “We ran out of battery and that was quite costly for nearly the whole lap and yeah, I just think it wasn’t a nice ending to a great qualifying up to that point.

    “But in the end, if it’s scrappy like that… it can be a lot worse and taking that into account, I think second is alright.”

    While Hamilton headed into Saturday evening with the psychological advantage, Vettel remained confident that, starting from the front row of the grid, victory is still well and truly on the cards for him, given the pace his Ferrari has shown over the weekend. That fact will have been brought home even more by the fact that Mercedes had looked set to use Valtteri Bottas as a tow for Hamilton during Q3 if it had remained dry – which could be read as a tacit acceptance of Ferrari’s speed advantage in Spa.

    “I think we had the pace today for pole but we’ll never find out,” concluded Vettel. “I’m quite sure we have good pace in the car, also for the race, so looking forward to that.”

    Vettel trails Hamilton by 24 points in the title race heading into Sunday’s race. With just nine races remaining, he knows he needs to start eating into that advantage now…

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