Hamilton Takes 78th Pole in Belgium
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium- R.I.S.—With a last-minute rain shower beginning to dry up at the end of the final session of qualifying Saturday for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton took advantage of this situation of being one of the last cars to come over the line last to win his 6th pole of the season, with a 1:58:179 best time, taking his 5th pole in a row at this circuit. Sebastian Vettel was caught out by this situation, but took second, while the Racing Point Force India cars of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, under a recently brand-new owner, locked out the second row by finishing third and fourth, respectively.
Afterwards Hamilton had a lot to say but knew there is one part of the weather he could really trust.
“I think that was one of the hardest sessions that I can remember for a while,” said Hamilton. “Obviously in the rain in the last [qualifying in Hungary] was obviously incredibly difficult there but this one was straight from slicks to inters. You only have a few laps to find the grip, get the tires up, to understand where the track was drying and where it was wet because it was really patchy throughout the whole lap. towards the end it was drying up in some patches, and still wet in others. I can’t find the words to describe how difficult it was. If you look at the laps, I went off at Turn 1 and again into Turn 12, so I only had one lap left otherwise I would have been a lot further down the order. I knew I had the pace, it’s just about trying to find the balance of not pushing too much but not backing off too much. It’s different every single corner. At no point can you ever be complacent. I’m super happy, the team have done a great job. The rain is always a friend to me.”
Both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel took the first two sessions in the dry, realizing that there would be a rain shower predicted towards the end of the qualifying period. When the situation did arrive, it was on time and caught many drivers off guard, making such drivers as Valtteri Bottas suddenly spin off the track and head back into the pits for intermediates. This made some unknown drivers who never are at the front of the grid, appear at the front in a surprising fashion. But as soon as the rain began to diminish in a rapid fashion, Hamilton was going into his final chance to take pole, just when the shower was starting to let up. As all drivers were completing their laps, Hamilton was the last to do so, catching just the last second when the track was dry, and when the lap times were getting better. For the Briton, it was his fifth pole in a row here, and the sixth for a Mercedes powered car.
McLaren drivers Stoffel Vandoorne, driving on his home track and Fernando Alonso, who both realized that their set up, which had been giving them trouble all season, did not fare any better at this high-speed circuit and never made it out of the first session. Raikkonen set a new track record in the second session, but was eclipsed by teammate Vettel just minutes later, with a 1:41:500 best time.
The American Haas F1 Team had a great session to continue their fight for the best of the rest with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finishing fifth and ninth, respectively. Raikkonen ended up sixth and was disappointed after his mechanics needed to solve an issue in the garage in the last few minutes of qualifying, denying any chance for the Finn to improve his time. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were next in seventh and eighth, while Bottas, who recently had an engine change for race day, stayed in the pits late, realizing that a good effort up front would be useless, having to start from the back row on Sunday.
But for Hamilton, things went well for him. However, the Briton realized that the race pace is not on his side, but it has worked out lately.
“They (Ferrari) were favorites today and they will be favorites tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean necessarily they are going to win,” added Hamilton. “They have been favorites for quite a few races now and we have managed somehow turn it up on its head and come out ahead.”
JOHNNY WALKER GRAND PRIX OF BELGIUM
At Circuit Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Final qualifying results
1 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes-- 1:58:179
2 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari
3 Esteban Ocon(FRA) Racing Point Force India
4Sergio Perez (MEX) Racing Point Force India
5Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas F1 Team
6Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari
7Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing
8Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing
9Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team
10 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes
11Pierre Gasly(FRA) Toro Rosso
12 Brendon Hartley (NZL) Toro Rosso
13Charles LeClerc (FRA) Sauber
14 Markus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber
15 Nico Hulkenberg(GER) Renault
16 Carlos Sainz (SPA) Renault
17Fernando Alonso (SPA) McLaren
18 Sergey Sirokin(RUS) Williams
19Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams
20 Stoffel Vandoorne(BEL) McLaren
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.