Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018

Hamilton snatches pole as Force India star at damp Spa

2018 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton took pole position after a rain shower hit Spa-Francorchamps in the latter stages of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. Championship rival Sebastian Vettel will start alongside him.

The dramatic final stages of qualifying saw Force India lock out the second row of the grid in the slippery conditions.

Q1

Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari drivers took soft tyres for their Q1 runs, allowing them to save a set of super-softs for later. All three easily made it through as did Valtteri Bottas, notwithstanding the fact his power unit penalty will relegate him to last on the grid.

A miserable home weekend continued for Stoffel Vandoorne. Having been last in all three practice sessions, and despite getting a tow from team mate Fernando Alonso, he ended up last again in Q1. Alonso also failed to cut.

The pair were separated by the two Williams drivers. The other car to drop out at the first round was a Renault and, unfortunately for the team, it wasn’t the one which would be starting at the back anyway.

Nico Hulkenberg made the cut for Q2 but a pair of power unit penalties means he will start from the back row. With Carlos Sainz Jnr missing out on a place in Q2, Renault’s fears the race weekend wouldn’t be one of their strongest were realised.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’44.489
17Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Renault1’44.917
18Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’44.998
19Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’45.134
20Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’45.307

Q2

In dry conditions the fight for pole position looked extremely close. Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen were separated by just five-hundredths of a second in Q2.

While Hulkenberg opted not to run any further Bottas chose to continue and take a place in Q3. That was bad news for Pierre Gasly, the first driver to miss the cut for the top 10. Team mate Brendon Hartley was just two-hundredths of a second slower.

Despite a strong showing in practice neither Sauber driver made it into the final 10. A somewhat scruffy lap by Charles Leclerc left him 13th and Marcus Ericsson got out of his car before the final runs began.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’43.844
12Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Honda1’43.865
13Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’44.062
14Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’44.301
15Nico HulkenbergRenault

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Q3

Drops of rain began to fall as Q3 began. The change in weather made the final minutes of qualifying an edgy, nail-biting affair.

The drivers queued up to join the track on slick tyres as soon as the session began. But with the rain intensifying almost all of them immediately returned. Bottas, who led the field around, was fortunate not to hit anything when his car snapped out of control at Blanchimont.

The only drivers who didn’t head for the pits were the Force India pair, who gambled on the rain shower passing quickly. It didn’t, and Sergio Perez had an even closer near-miss when he lost control at the top of Raidillon. Both joined their rivals in the pits for intermediate tyres.

Bottas didn’t return to the track – his purpose in reaching Q3 may have been to give his team mate the benefit of a slipstream, which the wet conditions rendered too great a risk.

The Ferrari pair led the way when the track was at its dampest, with first Raikkonen then Vettel leading the times. But as the track dried out Raikkonen had to head for the pits, missing his opportunity to run when the surface was at its best.

Vettel was on track when the track was quickest – but so was Hamilton. With his final lap the Mercedes driver leapt a remarkable three seconds clear of the field. Vettel clawed much of that back with his last run, but still ended up seven-tenths of a second behind his rival.

The Force Indias, now on intermediates, then produced the surprise of the session. First Perez, then Esteban Ocon set the third-quickest time, locking out the second row of the grid.

Romain Grosjean put his Haas fifth ahead of Raikkonen, followed by the Red Bull pair. Max Verstappen said afterwards the team hadn’t put enough fuel in its cars to ensure they could run in the final laps.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’58.179
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’58.905
3Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes2’01.851
4Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes2’01.894
5Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari2’02.122
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari2’02.671
7Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer2’02.769
8Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer2’02.939
9Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari2’04.933
10Valtteri BottasMercedes

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2018 Belgian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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73 comments on “Hamilton snatches pole as Force India star at damp Spa”

  1. Raikkonen, as well as both RBR-drivers, ran out of fuel at the end, LOL. How unlucky. #IncompetenceAtItsBest

    1. It looked like the wanted to turn then around onto Inters asap and changed tyres outside. This means that they had no option to fuel the car for extra laps.
      We would have praised their strategy during the top 3 interviews if the rain got worse.
      @jerejj

    2. Are they going to join Bottas at the other end of grid?

    3. or maybe thats just a risk.. a gamble.. you know.. the kind of gamble you take entering the pits or not during vsc or Sc, they went light on fuel to be faster on dry, no expecting the rain to comeback..

  2. Very impressive pole by Lewis.
    Happy for the whole Racing Point FI team.

  3. I hope you will not take into account the 4.3 seconds between Vettel and Raikkonen who passes his qualifying average to more than half a second while Kimi could not leave for lack of gasoline … But I in doubt because of your contempt for the Finn.

  4. Didn’t watch quali

    Why did no one do a Paul di Resta in Q3 and go out straight away on inters?

    Surely in makes sense for the smaller teams to take a gamble?

    1. @paeschli, as I understand it, there was an initial burst of rain between Q2 and Q3, but it was very short, only affected a short stretch of the track and seemed to have already dried up by the time that they started Q3.

      It seems that the second burst of rain only hit just as the cars were going onto the track – what probably happened is that the teams initially thought that it was another of those passing bursts of rain that would dry up quickly, but it ended up proving to be more intense than first thought. That is why nobody initially went out on the inters – as that second burst of rain hadn’t been expected, it looked like the track was going to dry up too quickly for them.

  5. Rematch of last year’s Ardennes duel. That Ferrari must have lesser drag than the Mercedes.

  6. So if Mr Stroll had bought Force India a bit sooner, would Lance be starting from third on the grid tomorrow?

    One of the most interesting qualifyings for some time in my opinion. Should be a fun start tomorrow.

    1. Yes ofc. Stroll is the rainmaster in qualifying after all. Everyone remembers his feats.

    2. Not saying that Stroll is better than Ocon (quite the opposite) but his qualy in Monza was even better than Ocon’s 3rd place yesterday.

  7. What makes lewis’s phenomenal lap even more outrageously better is that vettel started his final lap a few moments before lewis finished his so basically got anothrt lap and with conditions improving at such a rapid pace. The fact he still finished 7 tenths behind lewis says it all.

    1. Lewis’ lap was indeed amazing, but Seb had an issue with the battery. He ran out of power on his final lap (according to Seb already on the Kemmel-straight). So he had to re-charge the battery, which was definitely a disadvantage. Considering that fact, his lap was actually very good.

  8. I wish to see f1 car beat 919 track record but its rain hmmmm…..

    1. The record was actually beaten by Vettel’s time in Q2.

      1. @toiago, and not just Vettel, as Kimi and Hamilton also set Q2 times that were faster than the 919 Evo managed.

        1. And their cars actually adhere to the regulations.

  9. How come Force India weren’t referred to as Racing Point on the FOM graphics? Too short notice?

    1. Or to avoid confusing fans?

      1. @f1bobby @paeschli because the constructor is still called Force India. Racing Point is effectively like a title sponsor replacing Sahara in the name

          1. @f1bobby Stroll racing.

    2. Radio 5 said it was agreed to by all in order to avoid confusion as Patrick says.

      1. Ironically it confused me that they were still being called Force India! :P

  10. Good one Ferrari! Screwed Kimi over again.

    Based on Alonso’s post qualy interview, it really does sound like Mclaren have no idea what is going on.

    1. Screwed Kimi over again.

      Sacrificed (again) to the Nordic rain gods maybe.

    2. or maybe his side of the garage was too ambitious, they gambled for a dry Q3 session with less fuel (less weight) to try to beat vettel who even with more fuel have the pace to beat raikonen regularly.. dont blame ferrari, blame his side of the garage, even the redbull were light on fuel, the rain was unexpected

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        25th August 2018, 23:45

        You’re not assuming malicious intent? What kind of F1 fan are you? /s

  11. Pleased for Racing Point FI.

    A strong quali will be great for staff morale. Points to start the standings comeback tomorrow hopefully.

  12. Always happy to see it rain and Ferrari lose their advantage. Pity about the fuelling though. And kind of strange that of all teams, Red Bull didn’t gamble on a bit more fuel in case of rain, given that in the dry they’d be off from challenging pole anyway.

    1. what? youd rather see Hamilton run off again? no thanks.

      1. Well, I’d like to have seen the Red Bull’s challenging for pole too, and Raikkonen, put it that way.

        1. Red Bull had less of a chance of pole in the wet. Look at the rear wings. No where near enough downforce to be as quick in the wet as Ferrari or Mercedes.

      2. @x-f1-x The rain levels the performance of the cars, so it’s down to the drivers. If Hamilton is first, so be it, he did a better job!

      3. Then tell Vettel to stop him.

    2. What advantage are you talking about?! HAM was up there with the fastest Ferrari all the time so far this GP!!! After Q2 was over he was only 0.05sec behind VET. Also, on what facts you make out of this world predictions for RAI?! I read some of your comments guys after FP1 and you were already making from RAI the pole sitter simply because he was on top after FP1!!! Guys, please come down to earth, VET is obviously faster than RAI in 90% of the races. Based on that, VET is fav on all races in the end. Compared to VET, RAI is worse than BOT vs HAM. At least BOT had some races where he dominated HAM. Not the case with RAI. I’m still waiting too for that race where beats VET without doubt.

  13. Think that there are fans of Formula 1 who do not believe in the “luck” factor.
    Today luck, as so many other times, was called “rain” and favored some pilots (Lewis, Ocon, Perez) and was fatal for others (Kimi).

    1. Sorry mate u have it wrong. Time ING is everything and some drivers are supreme in the wet aka Hamilton. He does it time and time again. Every serious F1 fan knows Ferrari has the overall better package but Hamilton seems to somehow make it happen.

    2. The rain simply brings the cream to the top.

    3. Everytime I hear someone say luck when referring to rainy conditions, I find one less person who is truly a fan of f1.

  14. Still wondering what Ferrari did to Raikkonen different than Vettel.

    1. I think that they fueled them both the same. However, when everyone dived to the pits to put inters on, Raikkonen went out straight away, whereas Vettel for some reason stayed in the garage some 2 minutes more (effectively the lap “extra” that Vettel managed in the end and Raikkonen didn’t). Everyone was a bit caught out by the rain and Ferrari especially seemed a bit chaotic, but if Vettel had gone out immediately after putting on the inters maybe he too would have had to forfeit his last attempt due to a lack of fuel.

      1. Is this an opinion of yours or does it have background? @toiago

        1. It was what I thought from the session and what the guys at Sky were saying, @alfa145. Since then both Vettel and Raikkonen have both said that they had actually some problems after all, which made what I said false.

  15. Weather forecasts say dry tomorrow.

  16. Hamilton is gaining 0.5 seconds in the middle sector.

    That is 2010/2011 Newey territory.

    1. you cannot be that daft……
      Mercedes is running more rear wing/downforce than Ferrari which makes them faster in sector 2(twisty) and slower in sector 1 and 2(straights)… the two teams just attacked the circuit with a different philosophy..
      Hamilton being faster in sector 2 means absolutely nothing.

      1. Go back and look how Vettel’s rear wing was in 2010/2011 with a so and so engine, not made for a high speed track….

        It means Hamilton has a machinery with monster downforce plus a monster engine.

        It means absolutely everthing.

    2. Hammy certainly has a great car under him.

      1. when doesn’t he?

        1. He loves to tell us he’s the underdog in the Mercedes.

          1. But, according to Hammy himself in the post-qualifying interview, he thought that he would make up the deficit in his car’s performance to Ferrari in the dry.
            Comments like these show why we don’t all need to be his fans, he’s got more than enough love coming his way.

        2. 78 pole positions. This man is amazing.

          1. Only one team has had a realistic chance of pole in most of the races over the past 5 seasons.

  17. Newey made that rear wing only for Spa and Monza back then.

  18. Tomorrow we’ll see who has the best engine.

    I suspect it will be Mercedes.

    1. 2014 to 2017 Mercedes had the engine.
      2018 it is clearly Ferrari with Vettel who are working hard
      and gaining in that department

      while ALONSO is still babbling…

      But Mercedes has also got the best chassis since 2014,
      you can not deny that either.

      1. We’ll see tomorrow. I suspect that Hamilton will be passing Vettel halfway up the Kemmel straight.

        Hammy loves to talk down his equipment to make his performance seem relatively better.

        1. I agree he and his car is the best ever.

          1. Not sure which F1 you watching, Mercedes have a good package, but Ferrari’s package is definitely better

          2. Mercedes took a fairly commanding win in Hungary. It was a track that was supposed to suit them the least.

            Mercedes have been sandbagging again on Fridays this year.

        2. ‘We’ll see tomorrow. I suspect that Hamilton will be passing Vettel halfway up the Kemmel straight.’

          You must be feeling very foolish.

      2. Agree on engine, but red bull had the best chassis at least this year.

  19. Also good for Hamilton there was no gravel….

    1. Almost like he knew the track layout and where he could safely push? Maybe Vettel should learn that trick :)

  20. Way I see it, we are on the brink of the WDC closure. Either Vettel find a way to win tomorrow, or he can start rehearsing that runner-up smile.

    1. Yes, it’s, like I said before, really going in hamilton’s way this year, the only thing counting against him is the hungary curse (win hungary race, lose title).

      All this rain in the last races helped mercedes massively, I’m one who really likes the rain, but it’s taking a fought championship and giving it to mercedes, because if you look at bottas’ performance in the past 2 races’ wet moments, you’ll see he’s still faster than ferrari and red bulls.

      1. If Ferrari truly is the one to beat, why is rain an issue. It’s like you guys hate him because he is just too good, where you should love to see his performances. Vettel is the one who is giving the points to Mercedes. Half the races should be wet and the other half dry, I say. Let the best man/car win.

        1. Michael Brown (@)
          26th August 2018, 4:40

          I’d like a close championship, but I guess that means I hate Hamilton.

        2. But is Ferrari truly the one to beat?! I keep reading about their engine… well, they had the best engine in one year from the early 90s too… didn’t help them much, they were like RBR now: 3rd/4th team and occasional winners. Did the Mercedes engine, at least in 2014 – when it had the biggest advantage over the competition from all these years -, turned all teams who were using it into front runners?! No! The fact that HAM was like only 0.15sec behind the fastest Ferrari in the last 2 FPs and like 0.05sec after Q2 just shows Mercedes is just as fast and all this talk about Ferrari’s engine and their straight speed is mostly a myth, just some talk by HAM/Mercedes to inflate/make heroic their results + some other reasons. Last year Mercedes managed to outqualify Ferrari few times even by 0.7sec! Some still claimed they’re equal. Still waiting this season a race where Mercedes is outqualified by that kind of margin, in order to make come true all these engine remarks. And I think I’m right this time just as I was with the Honda engine. Unlike most guys around, I never made a big fuss about the Honda engine ’cause I knew it wasn’t that weak. It was, still is, a weak engine, but never had the feeling it was that complete disaster most guys presented it. This year’s switch proved I WAS RIGHT: it was more the McLaren chassis at fault rather than the engine. Also, the fact that TR is in the same position as they were before is the final proof that Honda is not that complete disaster.

      2. really going in hamilton’s way this year

        Yep it’s amazing what can be achieved when you drive better than the rest. Let’s not forget Hamilton has had 1 more gearbox grid penalty than Vettel, one more race ending mechanical issue and one more qualifying mechanical issue. But he’s overcome all that to lead the championship by nearly a race win even though he doesn’t have the best car. True champion stuff from him!

        All this rain in the last races helped mercedes massively, I’m one who really likes the rain, but it’s taking a fought championship and giving it to mercedes

        Both Raikkonen in Hungary and Vettel in Spa said that Ferrari had the car for pole so let’s not lie and say Hamilton’s wet weather performances are the car and not the driver, because it’s simply not true.

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