Leclerc scores Spa pole and edges out Vettel by seven tenths

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc achieved his third career pole position with a strong performance advantage over teammate Sebastian Vettel by 0.748 seconds at Spa-Francorchamps.

Leclerc set the pace on the first Q3 runs with a lap time of one minute, 42.644 seconds, which would have been enough to be sure of P1.

But Charles improved to a one minute, 42.519 seconds on his second run to make certain of starting from the front.

Vettel had to work hard to get a place on the front row, setting the third fastest time on the first run behind Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton improved on his second run, but Vettel’s final attempt was just enough to jump ahead – by only 0.015 seconds.

Valtteri Bottas put his Mercedes fourth on the grid, 0.896 seconds off pole position and almost three-tenths ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.

Verstappen had a near-miss in Q1, with his first run ruined by a loss of engine power before completing a lap quick enough to reach Q2 just 13 seconds before a late red flag.

The leading drivers all struggled with their warm-up laps in Q3 as they struggled for track position, with both Silver Arrows drivers locking up on their first runs while on out-laps.

Vettel also had trouble, complaining “what a mess” over the radio on his slowdown lap.

Renault led the midfield with Daniel Ricciardo almost three-tenths clear of Nico Hulkenberg in sixth and seventh places respectively.

Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen almost split the Renaults but ended up eighth, 0.015 seconds slower than Hulkenberg.

That put him ahead of the Racing Point of Sergio Perez, who has reverted to a previously-used old-specification Mercedes power unit after a failure in practice.

Haas’s Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top ten but never looked to have the pace to do better than P10.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean was the quickest of those eliminated in Q2 after being outpaced by Magnussen by just 0.059 seconds.

McLaren driver Lando Norris was P12 ahead of the Racing Point of Lance Stroll, who only made one attempt in Q2 as he carries a back-of-the-grid penalty for taking the new Mercedes engine at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

Newly-promoted Red Bull driver Alex Albon also has to serve a back-of-the-grid penalty for taking the latest Honda engine package, meaning he has focused on race preparation work.

Although Albon did set a time in Q2, it was on previously-used rubber and left him down in P14.

Antonio Giovinazzi was P15 but unable to set a time in Q2 after suffering a failure of his new, latest-specification Ferrari engine at the end of the first part of qualifying.

Giovinazzi’s failure, which resulted in a late red flag in Q1, ensured that first-run times dictated who was eliminated in the opening stage of qualifying.

Toro Rosso returnee Pierre Gasly was the quickest of those knocked out having lapped almost three-tenths off slowest Q2 qualifier Norris in Q1.

Surprisingly, McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr was also eliminated after having to complete his first flier on rubber that he’d used before the red flag.

Sainz must serve a five-place grid penalty after introduction the latest-specification Renault engine at the start of practice but returned to the previous version for Saturday’s running – although other penalties means he is currently set to start no lower than P17.

Daniil Kvyat, who carries a back-of-the-grid penalty thanks to taking the newly-upgraded Honda power unit package, was P18 and a second ahead of the Williams of George Russell.

Robert Kubica was P20 but was unable to set a time after he suffered a failure of his new and latest-specification Mercedes engine towards the end of the lap while on his first qualifying lap.

Kubica brought the Williams, which was billowing smoke, to a halt as a fire broke out at the rear – leading to the first red flag of the session.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in taking pole position for Ferrari. The Scuderia are looking very strong at Spa-Francorchamps thanks to the impressive straight-line speed. Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix is a must win after so many near misses this season compared to rival Mercedes.

Qualifying positions, Belgian Grand Prix:

1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:42.519
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:43.267
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:43.282
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:43.415
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:43.690
6 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:44.257
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:44.542
8 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:44.557
9 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:44.706
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1:45.086
11 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1:44.797
12 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:44.847
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:45.047
14 Alexander Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:45.528 1:45.799
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:45.637
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1:46.435
17 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 1:46.507
18 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1:46.518
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:47.548
20 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes –

4 thoughts to “Leclerc scores Spa pole and edges out Vettel by seven tenths”

  1. Belgian Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by

    “Come on baby!” said Charles Leclerc as took a stunning pole position for Sunday’s Belgium Grand Prix, the Monegasque a staggering three quarters of a second clear of Sebastian Vettel as Ferrari locked out the front row at Spa Francorchamps….

    You have to say it was coming, Leclerc having led two of the three practice sessions and all segments of qualifying to put a Ferrari powered-car on P1 at Spa for the first time since Kimi Raikkonen achieved the feat 12 years ago in 2007.

    Vettel bemoaned traffic, which was a problem for all of the field despite this being a 7.004km lap. All the drivers wanted to line themselves up in order to slipstream another car, but this caused a car park at the final chicane and also led to the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas getting too close for comfort.

    That said, Vettel still made it a front row lock-out for Ferrari – but only just, his final lap just 0.015s quicker than championship leader Hamilton’s effort.

    Mercedes, who have taken the last six poles at Spa, have not been at the races this weekend, with the Brackley-based team under pressure to even get Hamilton’s car ready in time for qualifying after he crashed in final practice.

    But the Briton recovered to finish third, a tenth ahead of Bottas with Max Verstappen – roared on by a huge Dutch contingent, decked out in orange, in fifth. His new Red Bull team mate Alexander Albon, making his debut with the team this weekend, was 14th after running a different programme as he was already set to start from the back due to engine penalties.

    Daniel Ricciardo finished an impressive sixth, one place ahead of Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg with Kimi Raikkonen edged out into eighth. Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, who signed a new three-year deal on Friday, and Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10.

    Q1 – Leclerc stars as Kubica and Giovinazzi suffer engine failures

    The session was only two minutes old when it was halted by a red flag, caused when Robert Kubica’s Mercedes engine let go and caught fire in spectacular fashion. It was the second failure in as many days for the German manufacturer on a weekend where, like all their rivals, they brought a new specification.

    A headache for Mercedes, no doubt. But the delay did at least give the works team more time to work on getting Lewis Hamilton’s car ready for action after he crashed heavily in final practice earlier on Saturday. It meant on resumption, the championship leader could join the fray immediately. Without the delay, it would have likely have been touch and go to get out in time.

    Leclerc picked up where he left off in practice, lighting up the timesheets to go 0.522s quicker than Vettel, with Bottas and Hamilton a staggering one second further back. Elsewhere, there was tension at Red Bull as Verstappen reported a problem on his first flying lap, forcing him to box to investigate.

    But there was no need to worry as the Dutchman got back out with three laps to go and promptly went third fastest, ahead of both Mercedes, whose headed out on fresh tyres but were forced to abort their runs along with the rest of the field when Antonio Giovinazzi, running the new spec Ferrari, stopped on track on the exit of La Source with a suspected power unit problem.

    The session was red flagged, with teams told that with only a minute to go, it would not be restarted. Pierre Gasly was the best-placed driver to get knocked out, the driver demoted to Red Bull finishing two places ahead of Toro Rosso team mate Daniil Kvyat in his first race back with the Italian outfit. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, meanwhile, failed to escape Q1 for the first time since Australia.

    Knocked out: Gasly, Sainz, Kvyat, Russell, Kubica

    Q2 – Ferrari on song as Mercedes close the gap

    Leclerc maintained his position at the top of the times, but his advantage was slashed to just over a tenth of a second over Vettel – and that was despite being down on his Ferrari team mate in the first two sectors.

    Mercedes were closer than they’ve been all weekend, with Hamilton just 0.216s off the pace after a flurry of runs. There was no repeat of the problems that afflicted Verstappen in Q1, the Dutchman easing through in fifth, a tenth behind Bottas and three quarters of a second off the pace.

    Everyone apart from Verstappen, Stroll and Albon headed out for a final run. Leclerc improved by a fraction, as did Vettel with the gap between the two down to less than a tenth of a second. Hulkenberg and Magnussen proved in the closing stages, hauling both into the top 10.

    As a result, Grosjean was handed an early bath, ending up 11th fastest. He was knocked out with Lando Norris, meaning McLaren failed to reach Q3 with either car for the first time since Spain. Lance Stroll and Alex Albon, who didn’t set his fastest lap because he knew he was set to start at the back of the field, also failed to make the cut while Giovinazzi’s engine failure meant he was unable to set a lap time.

    Knocked out: Grosjean, Norris, Stroll, Albon, Giovinazzi
    Q3 – Ferrari deliver on potential despite traffic problems

    There was some bizarre antics between the Mercedes duo on the out laps as Bottas slowed almost to a stop at Stavelot as he tried to get a gap. Hamilton tucked in behind him – because he didn’t want to lose a tow on his push lap – and even locked up when he was caught out by just how slow his team mate was going.

    This affected both of their first sectors on their first runs, with Hamilton ending the quicker of the two, but they were blown out of the water by Leclerc who pumped in a lap six tenths quicker. His Ferrari team mate Vettel made a mistake and was eight tenths of a second behind in third.

    The faffing around on their outlaps meant the whole field had to do very quick in-laps to get back in the pits and rejoin in time to complete a second run. There was then a repeat of the silliness as everyone backed off at the bus stop chicane, with Hamilton even jumping ahead of Vettel, to leave him running behind Leclerc.

    None of this seemed to faze Leclerc, mind. He simply got on with it, pumping in another fastest lap to extend his lead at the top of the charts – and no one else could respond. It meant he outqualified Vettel for a six consecutive race.

    It’s certainly advantage Ferrari, the Scuderia taking their 63rd front row lockout to move one behind Mercedes in the all-time list as search for their first victory of 2019. The omens look good for them, too, with the winner of eight of the last nine races having started on the front row.

    That said, last time Hamilton started third on the grid, which incidentally was at the last race in Hungary, he went on to win the race. Plenty, then, to look forward to tomorrow, when the conditions are set to be very different with the temperatures are expected to drop by around 10 degrees Celsius.

  2. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc asked his team to abandon “perfect slipstream” during qualifying. has the full details.

    Charles Leclerc asked his Ferrari Formula 1 team to abandon “the perfect slipstream” and send him on-track “whenever the car was ready” for his Belgian Grand Prix pole lap.

    Leclerc had a comfortable advantage after the first runs at Spa and eventually qualified on pole by 0.7s after improving on his second attempt, while teammate Sebastian Vettel had to battle to join him on the front row.

    After securing his third pole of the season, Leclerc said the improvement was down to changing strategy after his first run.

    “At first I really targeted the perfect slipstream for the first run in Q3,” he said. “But after that I felt the tyres were not ready for Turn 1 and I actually lost quite a bit of time.

    “For the second run in Q3 I asked to be sent whenever the car was ready, to be alone and try to do the job alone without slipstreams.

    “In my opinion, on my car, it felt better to have tyres in the right window than having the slipstream so we went as soon as possible.”

    Vettel, by contrast, had to improve on his second run to overhaul Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for second.

    He did not follow Leclerc’s lead and ended up part of a gaggle of cars that held each other up at the end of the lap, which he said cost him time.

    “It was more important to get the tyres in the right position for me, or in the right place,” said Vettel.

    “On both laps I was too close to the cars in front and the tyres were not right to start the lap with. It was lose/lose. The straights were good but I was too close and lost quite a lot of time in sector two.”

    Hamilton locked up and almost rear-ended teammate Valtteri Bottas while trying to slow down on a warm-up lap, and Bottas almost hit another car in the same way.

    “On the perfect scenario you have got the tow and the tyres in the window,” Hamilton said.

    “In Q3 I don’t think so, everyone was backing up and we had that slow section, with [Nico] Hulkenberg I think it was and Valtteri and myself.

    “And again in the next one, everyone was backing up again into the last corner. The second one was a bit of a better chance but it’s still very, very tricky. I don’t think it was optimum for all of us.”

  3. Lewis Hamilton felt that the slow speeds drivers needed to do to prepare for their qualifying laps at the Belgian Grand Prix left them in a “dangerous” situation.

    With drivers eager to stay close to the cars in front of them so they could benefit from a tow, as well as keep their tyres in the right operating window, a number of cars bunched up ahead of the first runs in Q3.

    Hamilton nearly ran into the back of teammate Valtteri Bottas at one point as they slowed to avoid faster cars approaching them, while Bottas later locked up to avoid hitting Nico Hulkenberg.

    The world champion said he could never remember having been forced to go so slowly before, as he suggested things may need to change in the future.

    “I think this year is definitely the slowest we have been, and today felt a little bit dangerous at one point because we were going around Turn 15 on the kerb and there was a car coming and I couldn’t move,” said Hamilton. “I couldn’t go on the grass. I was stuck behind Valtteri and Hulkenberg.

    “I can imagine that if I was on a lap and I was coming around to find everyone crawling around at 5mph it would be a bit of a worry and a bit of a distraction.

    “I am not really sure what we can do to stop it from happening. Maybe we have to be on the pitlane speed limiter or something like that.

    “You should not be able to go at 5mph or 2mph or whatever…it was literally going as slow as possible to let people past.

    “I did it in Austria I think to let everyone by because I was the first guy out there and the tow is so strong this year with these cars. They talk about the front wing being easy to follow but it has just caused a lot more drag, it is a draggier car this year so the tow is a lot more powerful than we have ever experienced.”

    Former world champion Sebastian Vettel believed that the situation had been exacerbated by tyre temperatures now being so critical to tyre performance.

    Asked if he felt new rules were needed to prevent this type of situation, Vettel said: “I am not in favour of any more rules, I think we have too many anyway.

    “What we should change actually, and what we should take from this seriously, is that tyre-wise we should not be so much on the limit.

    “Obviously you are fighting for a tow and so on, but you are also fighting to get into the optimum window, which years ago it was not that critical whereas now it is.

    “You are fighting for the best spot on the track which will hit the peak in Monza for finding the right tow because it does make the difference, but that has always been part of those type of tracks.

    “But I feel if we had better tyres, we could play with probably a bit more speed and so on.”

    Hamilton added: “I agree with Seb. Every weekend they [Pirelli] put the [tyre] pressures up so high it is crazy, which again makes it a little bit harder for us.

    “But again, the tyres are so hard. So getting then working, and they are talking about taking blankets off for the future, but we will never get temperature in the tyres if they do that.”


  4. Red Bull have pace to fight Mercedes in Belgian GP says Verstappen. provides the news story.

    While Max Verstappen concedes Ferrari will be in a league of their own in the Belgian Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver reckons he can take the fight to Mercedes and challenge for a podium…

    Verstappen’s Dutch fanbase, decked out in orange, have loyally followed him across the globe, packing out the joint at Red Bull’s home race in Austria and doing the same this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.

    He could only reward them with fifth on the grid for Sunday’s race, where temperatures will drop around 10 degrees Celsius, around 1.1s off pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and four-tenths off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in third.

    But that hasn’t stopped him raising hopes of reaching the rostrum for the third successive race and sixth time this season.

    “It looked fine,” he said of Red Bull’s race pace. “Of course tomorrow is going to be a different day in terms of temperatures, so it’s a little bit difficult to predict how we are going to perform.

    “I expect we can be close to the Mercedes cars and I expect the Ferrari cars to be ahead, because with their top speed, even if you would be faster than them, you wouldn’t get them on the straights. They are a bit difficult to beat.”

    Verstappen, running the old spec Honda engine this weekend while team mate Alexander Albon took penalties to get the the Japanese supplier’s latest update, endured power issues in Friday practice – and they came back to haunt him on Saturday.

    “The whole weekend, we couldn’t use our normal power modes so all the time I wanted to go up on power, like we normally do every weekend, and the engine went into an error,” he said.

    “So I had to run quite conservative in qualifying so even compared to our normal power, we were down. It cost us a couple of tenths, which is of course not what you want around Spa, but yeah, that’s how it is.

    “We know what it [the problem] is, I need to do two changes on the steering wheel to get it back to normal.”

    Verstappen said that he didn’t think the problem would hurt him on Sunday “because you can’t use your qualifying performance in the race” and added: “Maybe Mercedes and Ferrari can defend a few times with qualifying modes, but that’s it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *