Nico Rosberg mastered the Spa-Francorchamps circuit to secure pole position for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix. Rosberg recorded a 2:05:591 to better Hamilton to the top spot and keep his championship rival behind.
Going back to Friday, both sessions were topped by the Mercedes drivers. Unlike the final free practice, which saw Valtteri Bottas finish on the top spot with both Mercedes down the order, as team set out to find their qualifying set up.
As qualifying approached, the rain fell over Spa. A heavy down poor drenched the 7 kilometre track in rain and hail, leaving a damp track for the start of Q1 in its wake. Despite the return of the sun, the track temperature was just 21 degrees, with an ambient air temperature as low as 9 degrees Celsius.
Knowing the track conditions were far from perfect, teams sent their drivers out to queue for the start of Q1. Instead of waiting for the track to dry out, teams had to send their cars out due to the threat of more rain. Most opted for intermediate tyres, however Bottas, Sutil and Massa chose to go for the full wets.
The first times began to appear on the board with Vergne, Kvyat and Grosjean. But it was Valtteri Bottas going clear at the top with his full wets.
Although, It wasn’t long until the Mercedes were in their familiar one-two positions. Ricciardo originally had taken the top spot, whilst Hamilton ran off at the final chicane. However, Lewis rejoined the track and still went top, before improving a little later on.
Andre Lotterer had struggled across Q1 with a couple of offs down at turn 5 and les Combes. Not only was Lotterer finding himself off the track, he also was finding himself in 22nd place, 5 seconds off his team-mate and outside the 107% rule until the very late stages of Q1.
He was at least able to make it till the end of Q1. Unlike Gutierrez who was forced into pulling to the side of the track at turn 15 with a technical problem.
Jules Bianchi managed to provide Marussia with a Q2 appearance after finishing in 14th place. But for Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Chilton, Gutierrez, Lotterer and Ericsson, they all found themselves out of qualifying.
Maldonado span at the Bus Stop chicane on his penultimate lap meaning he had just one lap to get into Q2. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to do so and found Sutil getting a Q2 appearance. Hulkenberg was the biggest casualty of Q1 by being knocked out. The German lost confidence in his car after loosing break temperature and found himself out in Q1 for the first time this season.
Come Q2 the track remained wet, but that did not stop Sutil and Grosjean from heading straight out. They were soon joined by a heap of drivers, whilst the race stewards decided to disable DRS as more rain fell on parts of the track.
The first time of Q2 came through Romain Grosjean with a 2:13:974. Rather far off the pace set by Rosberg in Q1 with his 2:07:130. The first comparative time came through Valtteri Bottas who set a 2:08:591.
Rosberg soon was on top once more with a 2:08:108. Taking the top spot from Alonso. But Nico’s team-mate would soon take the top spot from him as Lewis went a whole second faster. Even beating Nico’s Q1 time despite the worsening conditions.
Despite being clear of the field, the Mercedes duo continued to battle for the top spot in Q2. Rosberg had a chance to get the better of Hamilton after going purple in sector one. But an off at Rivage lost him time and he finished his lap half a second behind Hamilton, who himself improved. By the end of the session, Rosberg managed to close the gap to just over a tenth of a second.
As the chequered flag fell to bring Q2 to an end, Bianchi and Grosjean were eliminated. It was unclear who would join the pair whilst others continued to improve. But by the end, Vergne, Sutil, Kyvat and Perez joined the pair out of qualifying.
For Q3, all the drivers continued to use the intermediate tyres with the track remaining damp. Vettel had waited at the end of the pit lane to ensure he ventured out first but was soon joined by Alonso and Rosberg.
Alonso however ran off at les Combes during his first lap, compromising any potential surprise early on. By the end of his lap, he was three seconds off of Rosberg’s table topping time. Whilst Hamilton scuppered his lap after running off at La Source and finished six seconds back to Nico. Despite being a four-time world champion, even Vettel was struggling to stay on the track and also found himself running wide at Les Combes.
With the sun returning to Spa, the track began to dry quickly in places, but remained drenched in others. This didn’t stop Hamilton setting his personal best sectors on a lap that took him to P2, seven tenths down on Rosberg.
Going into the important final runs on a track getting ever quicker, drivers hit the pits for fresh intermediate tyres instead of risking a set of softs.
With the chequered flag looming, Vettel crossed the line to start his final timed lap. But his best lap time up to then was over two seconds behind Rosberg, and he was unable to find the necessary time.
The same went for Lewis Hamilton, who had found time in the first two sectors despite running deep into turn one. He ended his lap one tenth down on Rosberg’s fastest time. But even if he had beat his team-mate by a tenth, Nico would have still secured pole position after he improved on his final lap.
Despite Alonso looking like the closest challenger to the Mercedes over the practice sessions, it was Vettel who took third place in qualifying. Ricciardo could have had the chance to challenge his team-mate to that position, however he ran wide through turn 18.
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||2:10.105||2:08.868||2:07.717||24|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||2:10.089||2:08.989||2:07.911||21|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||2:10.666||2:10.084||16|
|18||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||2:11.267||8|
|Q1 107% Time||2:16.029|