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 –