Notebook – Belgian Qualifying

Features Notebook

Lewis Hamilton has beaten his championship rival Sebastian Vettel to take pole position for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver out qualified the Ferrari by two-tenths of a second following the a brilliant final run in Q3.

Hamilton and Mercedes have appeared to have the slight edge throughout the session after going fastest in all three parts of the session. Spa was expected to play to Mercedes this weekend, but Ferrari hasn’t been far behind.

Pole lap – L. Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton goes around the Bus Stop Chicane goes to the inside of the track to begin his lap and as he heads towards La Source, he crosses the track to go to the outside. He breaks at 100m board before turning in and runs to the outside and along the kerb. Then pulls across toward the support pit wall, heading to the outside hitting the kerb on entry to Eau Rouge. Goes across to the inside before flicking back to the outside on exit. Stays there for Turn Four, before going to the outside along the Kemmel Straight.

Breaks around 75m before the first part of Les Combes hits the apex before running through Eight and around the inside of Nine. Down the hill and along the kerb stays on the outside, around the apex of Brussels and back to the outside. Switches briefly to the outside before going round the apex of Eleven. Goes to the inside on exit, builds speed through Pouhon. Runs to Thirteen, which he takes around the apex before crossing to the outside for Campus. Runs to the inside, along the kerb switches back to outside, goes outside on exit

He stays there, before running into Courbe Paul Fere round the apex before opening up the car on the way to Blanchimont which he takes flat out. Slightly eases off for Turn Eighteen, before putting his foot back down. Breaks around 120m for the Bus Stop hits the apex on entry and exit runs to the outside and across the line going two-tenths faster than Sebastian Vettel.

He tweeted “I’m honoured to have raced with you. Equaling your pole position record is a dream come true. I pray for you and your family all the time.”

Mercedes v Ferrari

Hamilton may have taken pole, but for me it was closer than expected. We expected Ferrari to be close and they were, but we saw Kimi Raikkonen was obliviously giving Sebastian Vettel the tow.

Ferrari wanted to and have got Vettel on the front row and that was key in beating Valtteri Bottas, who made his own mistake on his last run. That puts us up for a really exciting race tomorrow as strategy could play a huge part in the race.

Vettel said, “Kimi here obviously had to abort his lap and he was very generous in giving me a nice tow in the last sector which I think got me like two-tenths, that helped and made it a little bit comfortable with Valtteri looking at the result.”

“It was tricky then getting into the last corner knowing you arrive so much faster with the tow and braking is never easy. It’s easy to miss it, the last corner, but I managed to get it right and across the line so that was very useful.”

Mercedes will know they need to get Bottas in front of Vettel, that is so they can use him as a buffer to hold Vettel up. As we said post-Budapest Ferrari and Mercedes have opted for different strategy’s, i.e that Ferrari have a clear number one and two, Mercedes don’t.

Vettel signs Ferrari contract

Over the lunch break, Ferrari confirmed they will be retaining Sebastian Vettel until 2020. The four-time world champion was due to be out of contact at the end of the season, but they announced a new deal as expected.

However, they will have break clauses which allows him to leave the team before the contract’s full duration – just as he did three years ago when he left Red Bull to join Ferrari.

The German had been linked to joining Mercedes, though that appeared to be very unlikely as Hamilton expressed his doubts Vettel would be willing to accept equal status with him at the Silver Arrows.

Palmer ups game

Jolyon Palmer had his best qualifying of the season before his clutch problem at the end of Q2. Renault did get him back out in Q3, but then he developed another problem, a loss of gearbox oil pressure and pulled off track in a cloud of smoke.

We know Renault have said over the summer he needs to deliver, and it appears he has upped his game. It would have been good to have seen what he could have done in that session.

Palmer said “I’ve been in a really good place with the RS17 all weekend, easily the best all year. I’ve had strong confidence in the car, it’s felt really well balanced and we haven’t had to make many changes, so this bodes well for the future.”

“We had a gearbox problem in Q3, which came after a couple of issues with a clutch sensor, so despite all that it’s a positive that we made it into the top ten for qualifying.”

His team-mate Nico Hulkenberg starts seventh.

Massa awarded grid penalty  

Williams Felipe Massa has been handed a five-place grid penalty and three penalty points on licence for a yellow-flag offence in FP3 on Saturday morning.

The Brazilian was reported and summoned to the stewards for failing to slow for double-waved yellows during the session – and, after seeing the driver and his Williams team manager and reviewing the evidence, the FIA stewards decided to penalise Massa.

Massa said “I’m so disappointed with the result. We’re not competitive enough. I thought maybe the crash would have been a problem today but I managed to understand the balance and the car. The car is just not competitive so I’m pretty disappointed.”

Red Bull lock out the third row

Red Bull as we expected was unable to really to fight with the Mercedes or Ferrari this weekend. Max Verstappen starts fifth and Daniel Ricciardo sixth, that where we expected them to be because they don’t have the power or performance that the Mercedes and Ferrari have.

They are closer than they have been and Ricciardo was over a second ahead of Nico Hulkenberg. That Renault engine isn’t delivering enough performance to allow them to challenge at the front.

Verstappen “I was really happy with my lap in Q3, it couldn’t have been better, to be honest as I feel I put everything together and got the best performance out of the car possible.”

“I’m happy with the result anyway and would say it was a perfect qualifying. I am positively surprised we are so close to Ferrari, Lewis was way ahead but in the race, I think we can be closer so perhaps a good result is possible.”

Ricciardo “I felt like if I pushed more in one part of the track it killed me in another part so I didn’t really feel we had the car to complete one lap at 100%.”

“I just felt a little bit limited with the balance. But I’m going to be optimistic and say, if that’s the case maybe that means we have got a more consistent car for the race.”

Race Preview

Tomorrow’s race will again ultimately be a battle between Ferrari and Mercedes. Looking at the long run pace during FP2, the Mercedes looked more consistent on the long run pace. They certainly will look to have the upper hand because they have the power over Ferrari.

However, Spa can be a bit unpredictable and we have seen races won and lost by the strategies team play. The circuit is unforgiving so a safety car and accidents are highly likely, while the forecast is for a dry race you can never rule out the rain.



Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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