Rosberg beats Verstappen to pole in Spa

2016 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying

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Nico Rosberg will start the Belgian Grand Prix from pole position after beating Max Verstappen’s Red Bull to pole. The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel occupy the second row.

The Mercedes driver pipped Verstappen by 0.149s to secure his fifth pole of the season. Verstappen becomes the youngest driver to start on the front-row of a grand prix.

Daniel Ricciardo will line up fifth in the second Red Bull, followed by the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. Lewis Hamilton will start last after a 55-place grid penalty.


With high temperatures yet again, teams were expecting high degredation on the super-soft tyres as qualifying began. Despite having a 55-place grid penalty for the race, Lewis Hamilton opted to make a single flying lap run in Q1 on super-soft tyres before retiring from the session.

A difficult weekend for Fernando Alonso got even worse when, after a last minute rush by McLaren to fix a suspected engine problem before qualifying, the Spaniard pulled off the circuit on his first outlap of the session with an apparent technical gremlin.

Nico Rosberg was the only driver to not run on the super-softs, posting the fourth-fastest time of the session. The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen set the pace, but Felipe Massa went quickest of all as the chequered flag flew with a 1’47.738.

With Hamilton and Alonso doomed to the back of the grid, it became a battle of survival between the Renaults, Saubers, Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso, and Esteban Ocon’s Manor. It was the Renaults who prevailed, with Felipe Nasr, Ocon, Kvyat and Marcus Ericsson eliminated.

A brilliant performance from Pascal Wehrlein saw the German through to Q2 after setting the ninth-quickest time in the Manor.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

Position Driver Team Lap time
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1’48.949
18 Esteban Ocon Manor 1’49.050
19 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’49.058
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’49.071
21 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’50.033
22 Fernando Alonso McLaren No time set


After an impressive performance in Q1, Pascal Wehrlein’s Q2 did not begin as smoothly as the Manor driver abandoned his first run after complaining of a loose wheel on his car.

Nico Rosberg immediately lowered the fastest lap of the weekend with a 1’46.999 on soft tyres. With top ten qualifiers forced to start the race on their Q2 tyres, Rosberg could have a key strategic advantage over his rivals, who all – bar Ricciardo – set their quickest time of the session on super-softs.

Max Verstappen was second-quickest in the Red Bull, followed by the two Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, underlining the team’s pace around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

With time expiring, Jenson Button moved himself into Q3 with his final effort of the session, pushing Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas out. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both improved, but were unable to secure a place in the top ten.

Jolyon Palmer secured his best qualifying position with 14th, while Carlos Sainz will be disappointed after the Toro Rosso could only manage 15th. Pascal Wehrlein was eventually able to attempt only a single lap in the Manor, but could only manage 16th place on the grid.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

Position Driver Team Lap time
11 Romain Grosjean Haas 1’48.316
12 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1’48.485
13 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1’48.598
14 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1’48.888
15 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1’49.038
16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1’49.320


As the battle for pole position began, it seemed a question of whether anyone could offer a challenge to Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.

Sebastian Vettel was the first challenger to set a time with a 1’47.296, but was immediately bested by half a second by Max Verstappen. Rosberg then took provisional pole after his first lap, a tenth-and-a-half faster than the Red Bull.

Kimi Raikkonen ruined his first attempt after oversteering onto the gravel at turn 15 and abandoning his run. Felipe Massa locked up under braking for La Source on his first flying lap, costing him half a second.

As the chequered flag flew, Daniel Ricciardo improved to go third just behind his team mate, who himself failed to improve his time. That was until the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen split the Red Bulls to secure an all-Ferrari second row.

Force India recorded a strong qualifying with sixth and seventh for Perez and Hulkenberg, while Jenson Button splits the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa to round out the top ten.

Top ten in Q3

Position Driver Team Lap time
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’46.744
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’46.893
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’46.910
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’47.108
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’47.216
6 Sergio Perez Force India 1’47.407
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’47.543
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’47.612
9 Jenson Button McLaren 1’48.114
10 Felipe Massa Williams 1’48.263

2016 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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64 comments on “Rosberg beats Verstappen to pole in Spa”

  1. Poor Max. Probably the best qualifying he’s done all season and he gets shafted by his team for strategy variation. Will lose position in the race to probably four or five rivals, just because he’s on those SS tyres. Would love an explanation, it seems so unnecessary.

    1. @hahostolze

      The explanation is that he and his engineering team decided prior to the race that it was the strategy he wanted to go with. No controversy here.

      1. Actually, I’ve now said I was premature with my comment. That itself my now be premature too, because Max said it was the team.

          1. Yeah, it’s a bit typical, all spin. I’ll refrain from apportioning blame. But hope tomorrow is (much) cooler, the SS will work better and Max might not lose so much. Or rain, even.

          2. ColdFly F1 (@)
            27th August 2016, 16:23

            20%-30% chance of rain tomorrow between 10am-4pm in Spa.

    2. It was “poor Max” decision not teams and both Ricciardo and Horner confirmed that.

      1. @mike @dex022
        He’s just making up excuses (already), just like he always does. And weren’t his “rivals”, bar Ric and Ros, also on SS? According to the article they were.

        1. The article is wrong. Both Ferraris were on softs as well, not supersofts

        2. Who is making excuses? Max? Not at all, he says clearly it was his own decision and he thinks to start on the SS is the best strategy. Quote of the official post qualifying press conference (—belgium.html):

          Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) Max, why in the first place did you not try it on soft in Q2? Didn’t you have trust to do it?
          MV: Because I decided, together with the team, that I wanted to run the supersoft. I think that’s the best strategy to go into tomorrow – but we’ll see how it pays off.

      2. @dex022, as you say, it seems that Max was the one who made the final decision to go for the supersoft tyres, so it seems that it is wrong to blame the team for that choice.

        It might be because Red Bull only have a limited number of sets of the soft tyres (they only ordered three sets, as opposed to six of the supersofts) – Verstappen might therefore be going for a SS-S-S-S strategy, whilst Ricciardo is potentially running that strategy in reverse (i.e. S-S-S-SS).

        On another note, there is another mistake in the article – Vettel and Raikkonen set their best Q2 times on the soft tyre, not the supersoft. They did go out for a lap on the supersoft tyres, which might explain the confusion, but it looks as if that was just a single lap (i.e. they were just putting a heat cycle through those tyres) instead of a serious attempt at a lap time.

    3. You’re all right and I was premature. His own fault, own decision, own risk. Shame.

      1. Well im glad we sorted that out… your research next time.

  2. I think both Ferrari should be in front of Ves.
    Kimi certainly had the pace but maybe that 1st lap error put pressure on him for 2nd attempt and Vettel mistake at the end of that lap was just meh.

    1. Kimi had a scrappy first sector and Vettel screwed up the last corner.

      Anyway, let’s see what happens tomorrow with the slightly cooler temperatures.

    2. should + could…?
      Both Raikkonen and Vettel didn’t have that perfect lap which is needed for the pole…

  3. Every team needs an experienced driver next year. So Haas has gone out and immediately signed Felipe Massa.

    1. Monisha is so jealous right now, she only managed to sign two drivers this year.

    2. Er, I don’t understand the joke, can someone explain?

      1. @keithcollantine 10th place is written above to be occupied by Massa driving for Haas

        1. @mike I meant written as being occupied by Massa, or whatever, you get the idea

          1. Ah, I see, well done. :p

          2. 10 Felipe Massa Haas 1’48.263
            it wouldn’t surprise me to see a Haas in the top 10 to be honest…Force India got pole out of the blue a while back. Massa in the top 10 would also not be surprising……but Massa driving for Haas? lol

        2. @davidnotcoulthard @rick2k9 @paeschli My mistake. Have corrected it.

      2. Sauber got itself into some litigation last year for signing at least 3 drivers to race at the same time.

        1. Also using the same seat and dress to fit two differently sized drivers :)

  4. mjrFerrari612
    27th August 2016, 14:13


    What a lap

  5. Well, good times. Pretty much the grid as I imagined it to be. Booring quali… Only one to overperform in Q3 was Max, Q1 Wherlein and Q2, we best forget…

    1. The 1.46,999 Rosberg did on the Soft tyres in Q2? Maybe not overperforming, but is was pretty impressive if you ask me.

      1. @gdewilde
        That’s why he is trying to forget.

  6. Wow what a qualify from MAG – took PAL with 4/10 and secured the best grid result for Renault this year – after a deleted time in the start forcing him to drive with old tyres. He sure also work under pressure! INCREDIBLE .. no need for PER, BUT or BOT in that team next year!

    1. I’m pretty sure he won’t be on the grid next year though.

  7. Also Mclaren was mighty in middle sector at list on JB Q2 lap so that chassis is really not looking that bad as some people say. Honda looks much,much better now but it is still obvious that they lack power compared to any engine except Ferrari 2015. I think that middle sector time showed that Honda is still main reason why Mclaren is behind and not their chassis. More power=more downforce and wing for all around grip=less tire strain,better cornering,better exit=better lap time.

    1. i honestly believe they would be fighting with red bull if they had the same engine, renault doesn’t look bad this year

    2. @dex022
      Yep. He was just 0.1s over 10th place in 1st sector, but then pulled out over 1s more in the 2nd sector! As Brundle said, this is the chassis sector, so let’s see how good it is, and indeed, it showed it’s extremely good chassis.

      1. Extremely good chassis in comparison with 10th place maybe.

  8. Wow Ferraris are real close to Mercs and Bulls.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      27th August 2016, 16:19

      That’s the new measure of success?
      Ferrari’s to be close to Mercs and RBR (and add McLaren next year).

  9. Agree with dex022 – sad to see, lets face it MClaren didn’t make it this year…and only 9 races left to save the honor..then a reset….Honda never proved to be F1 ready despite having some of the best drivers and the best chassis – fools…sorry

    1. There’s still next year, and the one after, and 2019, etc

    2. “despite having some of the best drivers and the best chassis”
      McLaren has the best chassis? I hear that a lot, but I didn’t think anyone actually believed that (especially not the folks at McLaren, as they know the data …).

      1. nase, whilst there are some who have claimed that McLaren have the best chassis, I do not believe that McLaren themselves have made such a claim.

        I think that they have previously claimed to have the third best chassis on the grid, saying that they think they are behind Mercedes and Red Bull but ahead of the rest of the pack. That claim does not seem implausible – there are probably at least five teams that I think most observers would agree have a worse chassis than McLaren.

  10. Massa driving for Haas? After being the number 2 at Ferrari for a long time, this would officially make him Ferrari’s number 3 driver :D

  11. i didn’t know Massa drove for Haas…

  12. If Ferrari have some real race pace, it’s Rosberg vs Raikkonen for the win. Should maybe add Vettel and Verstappen to the picture too.

  13. @ kieth massa is Williams isn’t it??

  14. *David – yes but this was not their aim and strategi… keeping MAG and BUT would have been the right driver strategi then…. now ALO should be lucky to secure a title in a MClaren – its pure roulette next year – and propably also in 2018..and ALO didn’t work for free…healthy business is no.1 priority for MCLAREN..this wasn’t..

    1. Lol, BUT and MAG are both out of McLaren prefeered lineup… Despite them being fairly decent…

      But ALO winning 2017 title or 2018? Very very unlikeley… Unless they found a major loophole in regulations.

      McLaren would be best running Vandorne and KMag, spending their money on development, not expensive drivers..

      1. Exactly my point…why use the money on WC drivers taking 1/10 sek while the car loses 1/1 second/lap. If they were figthing in the top it would make its a laugh…ALO: “GP2 engine”….hahaha…this stunt was so stupid and MClaren almost kicked both PER and MAG out of F1 too – two great drivers who will fight for WC in the future…

  15. It might not be such a bad idea. Track temperatures are meant to be a lot cooler tomorrow giving the SS a better chance of lasting. If he makes a good start we could be in for a surprise….

  16. … and if someone can make a tire last long it’s Verstappen.

  17. Wrong title.
    Should be:
    Rosberg’s narrow escape for pole.

  18. Tomorrow in Spa
    temp.drop 24 Celsius 14:00
    if bad luck around15:00 intermediates.

  19. @keithcollantine It would be nice to add the tyres used in the tables. But maybe it isn’t available? It would avoid some misunderstandings about relative performance.

    1. @spoutnik I do agree there! In the meantime, ROS, RAI, VET, RIC all set their Q2 times on the Soft tyre out of those in the top ten, and the rest set theirs on the Super Soft.

  20. @keithcollantine The part about Q2 is factually wrong. Apart from Verstappen, all the top 3 teams drivers had set their Q2 times on the softs

    Anyway, this has all the ingredients for an amazing race tomorrow. Let’s hope it doesn’t disappoint

    1. I pointed it out in earlier article.

      It seems @keithcollantine missed the tyre choices of the top 5 drivers in P2.

  21. Hamilton Alonso… er… back row start.

    1. If they were in cars of roughly similar performance, the race would be highly entertaining!

  22. I’ve only seen highlights.

    In Q2 they appeared to show Rosberg exceeding track limits, but it was not mentioned in commentary. Was anything said?
    I’m sure if the stewards had deleted the time soon enough Ros would have just cruised round and set a time, I’m just curious why it was deemed significant enough to show, but not worthy of mention?

  23. @willwood great write up but what’s this “turn 15” nonsense? give me the corner names! for people who don’t watch the sessions we need to have a fixed vocabulary for these corners – admittedly i haven’t got a hope in hell for abu dhabi but i do know my stavelots from my paul freres.

  24. Blastermaster
    28th August 2016, 2:51

    As always at Spa, so unpredictable.
    I for one can’t wait for the green light.
    RIC for the win

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