Lewis Hamilton has beaten Sebastian Vettel in the closing moments of qualifying to take pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix by seven-tenths of a second in changeable conditions. Despite the tiniest margins earlier in the session, when the rain came in the closing moments it was Hamilton which held the edge over Vettel.
As the top ten started their first laps in Q3, many drivers were forced to abort the first flying laps and switch to the inters. That put Red Bull onto the back foot as they were late to react to the weather. But Mercedes reacted perfectly allowing Hamilton to pull out one of his fanatic laps going fastest.
After a turbulent month and following a takeover, the ‘new’ Force India made a brilliant start locking out the second row with Esteban Ocon third and Sergio Perez fourth. The team were recused from administration, have lost all the points they scored in the first half of the season.
Romain Grosjean was another benefactor from the changing conditions, like the top teams Haas fuelled the cars for two times runs in the closing moments allowing him to take fifth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen
Hamilton said “That was one of the hardest qualifying sessions l can remember. None of us have been driving in the rain this weekend so l cannot even express to you how difficult that was.”
Vettel added “I knew all of the laps don’t matter apart from the last one, was a bit chaotic and not great from a management point of view.”
“It wasn’t a nice ending to a great qualifying up to that point. It’s great fun but obviously not very rewarding when you know you could have done a bit better
While Hamilton and Vettel gained Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen had just started their laps as the track dried for the dry tyres. The length of Spa meant they were not able to respond to the changing conditions starting sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.
Haas’s Kevin Magnussen will start ninth, with Valtteri Bottas tenth. Bottas opted not to set a time in Q3 after he was awarded a penalty for exceeding his power unit allocation which sees him start from the back.
Pierre Gasly out-qualified his teammate Brendon Hartley, both drivers will start eleventh and twelfth. However, the New Zealander spun the car at La Source as he started his lap. Hartley locked the rears breaking for the hairpin losing two tenths, also compromising Gasly’s final lap.
It was another good session for Sauber, both Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson had run in the top ten early on in Q2. However, were unable to improve in the closing moments, Leclerc two tenths slower and Ericsson a quarter of a second off, meaning they start thirteenth and fourteenth.
The summer break hasn’t allowed McLaren or Williams to progress, both cars were knocked out in Q1 and will start behind both the Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz.
Sainz missing out by two-tenths of a second, after complaining about a lack of rear grip. Renault has brought a new floor for Spa, but it has appeared not to help them at the power sensitive circuit. Sainz was three tenths faster than Hulkenberg.
McLaren suffered a blow, Fernando Alonso seventeenth while Stoffel Vandoorne twentieth. Last year, despite the Honda engine they. Had been knocking on the door of Q3.
Vandoorne had no help, a combination of car problems and a spin had compromised his build-up and left him last in all three practice sessions. Yet a problem-free qualifying failed to offer any improvement despite the McLaren team-mates helping each other with a tow down Spa’s long straights.