Hamilton takes Belgian GP pole ahead of Vettel and Ocon

Thanks to the rain in Q3!

By Franck Drui

25 August 2018 - 16:05
Hamilton takes Belgian GP pole ahead (…)

Lewis Hamilton took his 77th career pole position at Spa-Francorchamps, making the most of difficult wet conditions in the final Q3 segment of qualifying to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and surprise third-placed qualifier Esteban Ocon of Racing Point Force India to the front of the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix.

In the early stages of Q1, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen led the way using soft tyres to set a time 1:42.585. He was joined on the yellow-banded rubber by team-mate Vettel, who slotted into P2, and the Mercedes drivers. Red Bull’s Verstappen then briefly split the red and silver cars, however, using supersofts to take P3 ahead of Hamilton.

The championship leader soon moved to second spot, though, with a lap of 1:42.99 and with five minutes remaining Räikkönen sat in P1 ahead of Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen.

In the second Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas, who is set to start at the back of tomorrow’s grid due to engine penalties, was late to the action, only emerging in the final minutes of the session. Using supersoft tyres he jumped to P2 ahead of Hamilton with a lap of 1:42.805. The top five drivers, Räikkönen, Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen then stayed in the garages as the clock counted down.

Bottas’ vault up the order left Sauber’s Marcus Ericssson, the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, and the Williams cars of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin in the drop zone.

And it was Ericsson who made the big jump in the final moments, with the Swede putting in a good lap of 1:43.846 to vault to tenth place.

Elsewhere, Carlos Sainz was complaining of a lack of grip and it was the Renault driver who slipped down into the P16 slot vacated by Ericsson. Sainz was thus eliminated ahead of Alonso, Sirotkin, Stroll and Vandoorne.

Raikkonen again set the pace early in Q2, posting a time of 1:41.627 to sit just under two tenths of a second clear of Hamilton, with Vettel a further three tenths of a second back.

Vettel climbed to the top of the order in the final runs, with a lap of 1:41.501, while Raikkonen held on to second place ahead of Hamilton and Bottas. Verstappen went through to Q3 with a lap of 1:42.554 ahead of Racing Point Force India’s Sergio Perez and Haas’ Romain Grosjean, while Daniel Ricciardo was eighth in the second Red Bull ahead of the second Racing Point of Esteban Ocon and the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

That meant that out went the Toro Rosso’s of 11th-placed Pierre Gasly and 12th-placed Brendon Hartley, while Sauber’s Charles Leclerc qualified in P13 ahead of Ericsson and Hulkenberg.

The rain that had been threatening for some time eventually began to fall just as the field took to the track for the start of Q3, on slick tyres. The wet weather quickly intensified and by the end of opening laps the conditions were proving treacherous and as a slew of cars spun and rejoined all the drivers headed for the pit lane to move to intermediate tyres.

The Red Bulls of the Verstappen and Ricciardo were first out on track again and Verstappen quickly moved into provisional pole position with a time of 2:02.849, while Ricciardo took P2, two seconds adrift of his team-mate thanks to a mid-lap off.

Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen then moved to P1 with a lap of 2:02.671, while Ricciardo improved to apparently consolidate his hold on P3. Vettel then dropped the Red Bulls to P3 and P4 as he bypassed Raikkonen to take provisional pole with a lap of 2:02.446.

The rain was now easing off, track conditions were rapidly improving and timing would be crucial. Raikkonen, along with the Red Bull drivers missed out on getting in a final lap and they were quickly eclipsed by Racing Point Force India’s Sergio Perez and Haas’ Romain Grosjean who jumped ahead of them.

Hamilton then made the biggest improvement, vaulting to pole position with a lap of 1:58.179. Esteban Ocon also improved in the second Racing Point Force India and the Frenchman scored a career best qualifying result with third behind Hamilton and Vettel. Perez took fourth in the second Racing Point car ahead of Grosjean and Raikkonen, while Verstappen was forced to settle for seventh place, with Ricciardo in eighth position ahead of the second Haas’ of Kevin Magnussen and the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas. Bottas, who is set to take an engine-related grid penalty tomorrow didn’t set a time in Q3.

Pos.DriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 timeQ3 time
01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG 1:42.977 1:41.553 1:58.179
02 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:43.035 1:41.501 1:58.905
03 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:44.003 1:43.302 2:01.851
04 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:44.004 1:43.014 2:01.894
05 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:43.597 1:43.042 2:02.122
06 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:42.585 1:41.533 2:02.671
07 Max Verstappen Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:43.199 1:42.554 2:02.769
08 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:43.604 1:43.126 2:02.399
09 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:43.834 1:43.320 2:04.933
10 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG 1:42.805 1:42.191 -:—.---
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Honda 1:44.221 1:43.844
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Honda 1:44.153 1:43.865
13 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:43.654 1:44.062
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:43.846 1:44.301
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 1:44.145 -:—.---
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Carlos Sainz Renault F1 1:44.489
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:44.917
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:44.998
19 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:45.134
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 1:45.307


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