Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019

Leclerc dominates qualifying to lead Ferrari one-two

2019 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying

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Charles Leclerc led every step of the way in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix and ended up over seven tenths of a second ahead of Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel.

Q1

Williams had lagged well off the pace throughout qualifying so it was hardly unexpected both drivers went out in Q1. Even so the session managed to be a disappointment.

First George Russell had to abort his first run after his dashboard screen went “crazy”, flickering between different displays. Then Robert Kubica’s power unit failed spectacularly as he rounded Blanchimont, the FW42 coming to a smoky stop.

The session was red-flagged before anyone had chance to set a time. When it resumed, with 13 minutes left on the clock, all the remaining drivers joined the track.

The interruption gave Mercedes more time to finish their work on Lewis Hamilton’s car, which had been badly damaged when he crashed in final practice. He easily set a time good enough to reach Q2, but neither of the Mercedes were anywhere near the Ferrari drivers.

Leclerc produced a superb first lap, a 1’43.587, which put him over a second and a half ahead of the quickest Mercedes. Even Vettel couldn’t get close – he was over half a second slower than his team mate.

There was concern at Red Bull when Max Verstappen had to abort his first run after losing power. His final effort secured him third place, a second slower than Leclerc, despite having to pass a queue of cars at the end of the lap.

Moments after that Antonio Giovinazzi parked on the drop towards Eau Rouge having apparently also suffered an engine problem. With less than a minute left on the clock, there was no time left for anyone to improve. That was bad news for the Toro Rosso drivers and Carlos Sainz Jnr, all of which dropped out.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’46.435
17Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’46.507
18Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda1’46.518
19George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’47.548
20Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes

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Q2

Mercedes revealed their true performance in the second part of qualifying. While Leclerc lowered his benchmark time to a 1’43.376, Hamilton got within two-tenths of a second of him. Vettel improved too, moving closer to his team mate.

With their final runs the Ferraris moved further ahead of the Mercedes again. Leclerc found another four-tenths, breaking the 103-second barrier, while Vettel moved within a tenth of a second of him. That left Hamilton half a second behind.

Neither Albon nor Stroll had any incentive to continue any further. Stroll set the quicker time of the pair, however, which under 2019’s revised rules means he will start ahead of the Red Bull.

Romain Grosjean was inside the top 10 as the final runs began. But Kevin Magnussen, who led the pair out of the pits, improved enough on his final run to grab the final spot in Q3. Lando Norris also dropped out, missing the cut by a tenth of a second.

Nico Hulkenberg joined his team mate in Q3 as well. Ricciardo, Verstappen and Raikkonen all got through, the trio separated by a mere three-hundredths of a second.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’44.797
12Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’44.847
13Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’45.047
14Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’45.799
15Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari

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Q3

Q3 began with almost farcical scenes as drivers tried to find good slipstreaming slots among the traffic while also preparing their tyres for the final qualifying efforts. Hamilton nearly ran into Bottas at one stage as they fell into line.

But the irresistible speed of the Ferraris on the straights proved too much for their rivals to overcome even with a slipstream. Hamilton managed to split them on their first runs, edging Vettel back into third.

Hamilton, however, began his final run between the two red cars and Vettel enjoyed a strong tow from the W10, setting the quickest time through the first sector. Through the middle of the lap Vettel was close to Hamilton and Hamilton not far behind Vettel, and neither enjoyed particularly good runs as a result. While Leclerc got even quicker – setting a 1’42.519 for pole position – Hamilton fell to third behind Vettel, who was almost three-quarters of a second slower than his team mate.

Bottas was little slower than Hamilton in fourth, and Verstappen on his own in fifth. He was followed by the Renault pair, Ricciardo having dodged his way through the Q3 traffic to set his lap. Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10.

Top ten in Q3

1Charles LeclercFerrari1’42.519
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’43.267
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’43.282
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1’43.415
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’43.690
6Daniel RicciardoRenault1’44.257
7Nico HulkenbergRenault1’44.542
8Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’44.557
9Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’44.706
10Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’45.086

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2019 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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36 comments on “Leclerc dominates qualifying to lead Ferrari one-two”

  1. Vettel is really running out of excuses for me. To be outqualified by 0.75s to your 21 year-old teammate is a huge blow, and is really quite inexcusable for a 4-time world champion. Since Canada, Leclerc has basically been dominant over Vettel in qualifying, and once he gets a bit of luck and eliminates some of his mistakes, he’ll be the clear number 1 at Ferrari. Seriously worrying times for Vettel, as Leclerc is only going to improve from here on out. 2014 was bad enough, but people put that down to his sudden lack of confidence in the new generation of cars. I don’t think you can really make too many excuses if 2019 and 2020 go the same way.

    1. Strangely it doesn’t surprise me a lot to see Leclerc matching and even beating Vettel. The excuses for 2014 were always weak, both Alonso and Hamilton had bad years but they never lacked the most important thing: pace. I hope for Sebastian he can do better in qualifying, it’s sad to see a legend of the sport performing like that.

      1. @francorchamps17 I agree. Even in 2011 or 2016, which were “bad” years for Hamilton, he was still extremely quick, and matched/beat his teammate in terms of both wins and qualifying head-to-head, but bad luck and some questionable racecraft were the reasons he was behind. As for Alonso, it’s pretty similar as well. 2013 or 2015 weren’t exactly his best seasons since his early years with Minardo and Renault, and even then he was clearly quicker than his teammates. At no point did Hamilton or Alonso ever struggle in the way that Vettel did. I honestly now rate Vettel as a good driver with a great work ethic, who had a midfield-level teammate and Newey to compensate for his deficiencies.

        1. @mashiat 2016 wasn’t “bad” for Hamilton. He had a massive lot of technical issues and then races like Spa where he had to start from last position because he needed replace the broken parts to be able to race.

          Rosberg was ahead of Hamilton in 9 races (Hamilton ahead of Rosberg in 12), but 4 of those 9 races where Rosberg ended up in front, Hamilton couldn’t participate (properly or at all) in Q3 and Rosberg was gifted that “win”. So it was really 12-5 for Hamilton.

    2. And the best part is thar Ferrari strategy will give the vidtory to VET.

    3. Vettel is almost having a Gasly moment with his recent performance against Leclerc.
      This young driver just continues to amaze with his delivery.

    4. @mashiat, having watched the onboard, it has to be said that Vettel’s fastest lap wasn’t that great either – he went far too deep into Bruxelles and went very wide at that corner, was a little too hot on the entry into Les Fagnes, with a bit of oversteer as a result, and had a small lock up into the Bus Stop chicane, although he sort of got away with that one (he ended up going wide of the apex on turn in, but was just about OK).

    5. Its a stupid myth that young drivers keep improving, now a days with the sims and amount of practice these drivers get they come into f1 close to their top form. Perhaps they come into f1 stronger at first because they have more to prove then their older rivals

      1. @carlosmedrano I disagree. Ask any F1 drivers out there, and they will 100% tell you that you definitely do improve as a driver from the time you enter as a rookie to a few years down the line. Are you telling me that Bottas is the same driver who was only slightly quicker than Maldonado? Or Verstappen is the same driver who was matching Sainz, and slightly behind Ricciardo in 2016? Perez was behind Kobayashi in his debut season, then proceeded to beat him the following year. Fact of the matter is that drivers do improve over time, especially when they first join F1. There are some who have maybe not quite done so, such as Grosjean or Vandoorne, but they represent exceptions rather than the general rule itself. And testing has become far more limited than ever, so I’d argue drivers nowadays have more scope for improvements, than back when unlimited testing was allowed.

    6. @mashiat
      Vettel has a very good excuse, just like he had in 2014:

      Both Daniel and Charles are better.

  2. Charles out qualifies his 4x world champion teammate for the 6th race in a row now. And this time by a massive 0.750s…

    Only 21 yrs old…. simply UNBELIEVABLE.

    1. “Simply unbelievable”?
      It’s not that we’ve seen an 18/19/20 year old do the same against the guy who beat that same 4-times WDC quite comfortably in recent years, no.
      Very believable if you ask me.

    2. Seems like the ass whopping Ricciardo gave Vettel was not just a bad year excuse

    3. “Only 21 yrs old…. simply UNBELIEVABLE.”

      Well, in all fairness, 19-20-21 year olds have been dominating the old guard since late 2016 in case you haven’t noticed.

      If I remember correct Verstappen gave the guy who beat the 4 time WDC a whooping so bad he fled to Renault……

      So, unbelievable not really, exectional non the less.

      1. @niki101 A whooping? Not really.

        In their first year together (from Spain onwards) Ricciardo beat Verstappen comprehensively in points, qualifying head-2-head and podiums.

        Even after that first year Ricciardo was also better in 2017 in all categories and in 2018 both had two wins, RIC had 2 poles to none for VER, VER outscored RIC but also had 4 less DNF’s to his name (even despite Max’ start to the year)

        1. @jeffreyj I don’t understand how Ricciardo was better than Verstappen in 2017. Verstappen was better than him in all regards, and was only behind on points due to the points lost due to DNFs. Here are some of those statistics.

          Qualifying: Ver 13-7 Ric
          Race: Ver 5-2 Ric
          Laps ahead: Ver 371-156 Ric
          Wins: Ver 2-1 Ric

          Even by his own admission, Ricciardo was not able to live with Max that season, and that continued into 2018. Ricciardo may have had more poles, but he was destroyed in both qualifying and the race, in a manner that even his DNFs can’t explain.

          1. @mashiat

            No one but a few resentful people know how Ricciardo was better than Verstappen from 2016-2018.

            But then again, some people believe the earth is flat, vaccines don’t work…..etc etc.

        2. @jeffreyj

          In their first year together (from Spain onwards) Ricciardo beat Verstappen comprehensively in points, qualifying head-2-head and podiums.
          Well, in all fairness, Ricciardo, in his xth year of single seater formula cars, barely beat a kid in his 3rd year of single seater car, especially given the fact that the kid switched teams after a couple of races.

          And in 2017 and 2018 the kid (still in only his 4th and 5th year of single seater formula cars) was driving in circles around that same Ricciardo; waving at him every time he passed him.
          And it really doesn’t matter what you think, or what “facts” you drag up; the truth is that everyone professionally involved in the sport, teambosses, mechanics, drivers (even Daniel), sponsors and the press, do believe Verstappen gave Daniel a whooping so bad, he actually had to flee to be able to breath again.

          But let’s be frank; I’ve been reading your comments on Verstappen for quite a while now, and the sad truth is that your arguments have nothing to do with the reality, but are purely driven by a refusal to acknowledge, for whatever reason, the achievements of Verstappen.
          (When literally everyone with half a functioning brain thinks Verstappen was the best driver of the first half of the season, arguing against it makes you a flat-farther (best case scenario) or a resentful little kid (worst case scenario).

          I’m almost inclined to believe that you’re the poster formerly known as KRXX.

          1. -flat-farther-? = flat-earther!

          2. @niki101 I have VER as the best driver this year.

  3. If Vettel finishes behind Leclerc tomorrow and at Monza, he needs to get out of that seat for next year, and Ferrari need to focus on Leclerc. This has been embarrassing to watch.

    1. I think Leclerc is simply thát good and I also feel Vettel just isn’t quite as good as his 4 championships suggest he is.

  4. Hopefully Ferrari don’t screw it up for Leclerc

    1. They almost did at the beginning of the second runs of Q3 when they asked Charles to look for slipstream. When you have that much of an advantage on the straights why risk it and make it complicated? Charles did well and asked his team to give him free track to set his time.

      1. @amg44
        “Charles did well and asked his team to give him free track to set his time.”

        Odd, than why did he went out of his way, passing either Bottas or Hamilton, to get behind Verstappen?
        It’s almost as he knows something the rest don’t……

  5. Going by the long run displayed yesterday Lewis has a very strong chance of a win tomorrow. Go Lewis go.

    1. Even if he has superior pace to the Ferrari, he is seriously going to struggle to overtake them given their straight-line speed advantage.

  6. Damn Leclerc dominating Vettel

  7. Keith, you might want to fix the following line in your article “Through the middle of the lap Vettel was close to Hamilton and Hamilton not far behind Vettel, and neither enjoyed particularly good runs as a result.”

    Now, I’m fairly sure that Vettel cannot be both in front of and behind Hamilton simultaneously – I guess that you meant to refer to Leclerc being ahead of Hamilton there…

  8. Surprised the gap between Ferrari and Mercedes came down to 7 tenths. It looked like Ferrari will get pole by a second. Good recovery by Hamilton at the end. Really hope Charles wins this one and its going to be close between Ham and Vet for the second place.

    1. @amg44

      If Hamilton picks up a place at the start or first corner, and the Ferraris don’t have a big pace advantage – if Leclerc’s qualy lap was mainly brilliant driving, in other words – then Hamilton and Leclerc might be fighting each other for the win. The better Leclerc’s driving was in qualifying, the harder for him to win.

  9. Maybe Charles is just exceptional…..

    1. He is, there is no doubt about that.
      Have been following him and Max since their karting days, and the prospects for the neutral viewer in the coming decade are looking increasingly good :D

      Let’s hope Lewis is gonna stick around for a couple of years, Renault gets their act together and we’ll see some proper fireworks.

  10. Come on Charles, get your first win tomorrow, fingers crossed :)

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