Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020

Dominant Hamilton breaks Spa track record with pole position

2020 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix, beating his team mate by over half a second and setting a new track record for the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

The world champion dedicated his performance to actor Chadwick Boseman, who died this weekend. Valtteri Bottas narrowly beat Max Verstappen to third place.

Q1

Mercedes showed their hand as soon as qualifying began. Having been no more than two-tenths of a second quicker than their closest rivals in final practice, their first efforts in Q1 put them eight-tenths ahead of Verstappen and almost a second clear of the rest. Daniel Ricciardo took up fourth place, the Renault thriving in the quicker sectors, fractionally ahead of Carlos Sainz Jnr’s McLaren.

For Ferrari the situation looked grave going into qualifying. They were slowest of all in final practice, and after their first runs in Q1 Sebastian Vettel looked doomed to an early exit.

As the final runs began they, the Ferrari-powered customer teams, the Williams drivers and a handful of others jockeyed for the final places in Q2. Vettel and Charles Leclerc both opted to break free of the queues of traffic and run without the benefit of a tow from a car ahead. Even so, both wrung enough out of their final laps to secure their progress to the next round. “We need a tow,” Leclerc told his team on the way back in, “but it’s a fine line between traffic and tow.”

Kevin Magnussen had a twitch of oversteer at the exit of Stavelot which put him into a gravel trap and left him last. Team mate Romain Grosjean also dropped out, complaining about the time he lost at the FIA weigh bridge. Fellow Ferrari users Alfa Romeo were last to set their times, but neither Antonio Giovinazzi nor Kimi Raikkonen had enough to make the final 15.

Nicholas Latifi also dropped out at this stage, but George Russell once again took his Williams through into Q2.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’43.743
17Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’43.838
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’43.950
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’44.138
20Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’44.314

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Q2

The Mercedes and Racing Point drivers, plus Verstappen, opted to start Q2 on the medium compound tyres, seeking a strategic advantage for the start of the race. The Mercedes pair comfortably banged in the fastest times, with Verstappen less than half a second behind in third. But neither Lance Stroll nor Sergio Perez could get their pink cars into the top 10. The pair lapped within eight-thousandths of a second of each other, indicating there wasn’t much left in the RP20, but were around three-tenths shy of Daniil Kvyat’s 10th-placed AlphaTauri.

Ferrari couldn’t break into the top 10 even using soft tyres. Vettel was a further three-tenths behind the slowest of the Racing Points.

With the pink cars likely to improve their times after switching to soft tyres, Carlos Sainz Jnr and Daniil Kvyat were the drivers under pressure. But a great final lap by Sainz ensured he accompanied team mate Lando Norris into the final 10.

Kvyat made it no further, and dropped out along with the other AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly. Both were quicker than the two Ferraris. “There’s not much more I can do,” sighed Leclerc, whose 1’42.996 left him two-tenths ahead of Vettel, and four-tenths of a second off his pole position time from last year.

Red Bull choreographed their drivers’ final run’. Verstappen did a ‘sighter’ lap on soft tyres, but aborted it after the final corner to ensure he did not improve his time, which would have changed his starting tyre compounds. Albon ran behind him, benefiting from the slipstream, and securing his place in Q3 on soft tyres.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri-Honda1’42.730
12Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’42.745
13Charles LeclercFerrari1’42.996
14Sebastian VettelFerrari1’43.261
15George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’43.468

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Q3

Hamilton led the field around the seven-kilometre Spa circuit for their final runs, clearly confident in his ability to set the pace without the benefit of a tow from another car. And he had every right to be: A clean lap from him, and small errors by Bottas at La Source and Pouhon, left him over half a second clear after their first runs.

Verstappen initially slotted into his usual third place. But further back Ricciardo was well-positioned to get a slipstream from the other Red Bull, and nicked third by less than two-hundredths of a second from his former team mate. But Ricciardo’s final run, following team mate Ocon, produced no improvement, and he headed for the pits before taking the chequered flag.

That opened the door for Verstappen to re-take third, which he did, and very nearly went one better. Nearly two-tenths faster than Bottas through the first sector, the Mercedes was much faster in the middle part of the lap, but Verstappen held the advantage through the final sector. It wasn’t quite enough – he fell short of a front row start by 15 thousandths of a second, his car running out of battery energy before the lap ended.

Ricciardo held fourth ahead of Albon and Ocon, the latter moving up to sixth with his last run. The Racing Point drivers opted not to run again while Lando Norris was unable to move up from 10th.

In the battle of the Mercedes drivers, Bottas had nothing for Hamilton. The world champion improved his time again with his final run, lowering the track record to a 1’41.252, keeping his team mate over half a second behind.

Hamilton dedicated his performance to the memory of Chadwick Boseman. “Today is a really important pole for me, because I woke up to the saddest news of Chad passing away,” he said.

“It’s been such a heavy year, I think, for all of us and that news just really, really broke me. It was not easy to just get back into focus coming into today with that hanging on my heart.

“But I wanted to go out there and drive to perfection because what he’s done for our people and what he’s done for superheroes shows all these young kids that it’s possible. He was such a shining light. So ‘Wakanda forever’.”

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’41.252
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’41.763
3Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’41.778
4Daniel RicciardoRenault1’42.061
5Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’42.264
6Esteban OconRenault1’42.396
7Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’42.438
8Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’42.532
9Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’42.603
10Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’42.657

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2020 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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68 comments on “Dominant Hamilton breaks Spa track record with pole position”

  1. Absolute masterclas by Ham, crushing his teammate. Just as Ver (shame of the 0.15s) and Ric

  2. I know Hamilton is not good at Eau Rouge… This is not over yet. Thankfully we did not have a congregation in qualifying… They better keep this up at Monza after what happened last year.

    1. proud_asturian
      29th August 2020, 15:22

      Stop trying to spin this web of lies to make your guy look better.
      Mercedes will win easily.

      1. Hamilton lost the lead when starting pole here in 2013 and in 2018. I don’t remember if he lost the lead in 2008. In 2015 and in 2017, he was challenged by Perez and Vettel. This is not over yet, and Hamilton and Bottas can easily be lower down the order on the end of lap one.

        1. He lost the lead due to the fact that you get a massive tow down the long straight, nothing to do with “not being good at Eau Rouge”.

          I agree , the run down the Kemmel straight will be epic on lap 1 and any lap after a SC. Danny RIC could well be leading this as he seems to be running very low wing, but he’ll get overtaken quite easily after that I expect.

          Is Max running more wing in case it rains?

          1. “Nearly two-tenths faster than Bottas through the first sector, the Mercedes was much faster in the middle part of the lap, but Verstappen held the advantage through the final sector.”

            If he was running more wing, wouldn’t he be faster or match Mercedes in Sector 2?

          2. @davidjwest Verstappen seems to be claiming that he’s somewhere in the middle in terms of set up. He has stated that he believes Mercedes have gone for a higher downforce set up, which seems to be more focussed towards Sector 2 and is potentially more geared towards wetter weather, whilst Renault seem to have gone for the alternative option of a low downforce set up that prioritises the first and last sectors and is more geared towards a dry race.

            For himself, Verstappen has said that he’s gone for a set up that he thinks is somewhere in the middle – basically, it’s not perfect for either situation, but he’s hoping that it is a reasonable enough compromise between the two options. Mind you, with his speed trap figures generally being towards the lower end, it does suggest that he’s perhaps a bit biased towards the higher end of that spectrum.

    2. Bottas did seem to say he fancies having a chance tomorrow @krichelle! I guess we can all hope that one of the guys right behind Hamilton does manage to get ahead before he disappears into the sky at the top of the hill :-)

  3. proud_asturian
    29th August 2020, 15:21

    Kick Bottas please.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      29th August 2020, 16:54

      Why are people so determined to have a go at Bottas for sometimes being comfortably beaten by the best qualifier on the grid? He’s 4 times this season been within a tenth or so or beaten Hamilton. He usually is close. This isn’t a complete disaster…

      1. @thegianthogweed To be honest, my issue with Bottas is how hopeless he appears to be on Sundays, rather than Saturdays. Even when he qualifies on pole, he is almost always still 2nd best in race pace. Someone like an Alonso will not challenge Hamilton any more in qualifying than Bottas would, but the difference would be on Sundays.

        1. Did alonso challenge Hamilton in race pace at canada 07? Or usgp 07? Or japan 07? Or many of the other races where Hamilton was clearly faster in qually and the race than alonso?

        2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          29th August 2020, 17:40

          But do you really think there will be that many drivers on the grid that would challenge Hamilton on a regular basis? They will be a few, but very very few that will be a better option than Bottas for the team itself. For viewers, they may find it boring, but most of the time, Bottas does his job fine which is what the team want. People shouldn’t complain of him doing his job. And given the level of credit Hamilton gets, Bottas probably isn’t as bad as people think. He seemed to get more praise at Williams and if he leaves Mercedes he will likely prove that he’s still extremely good. Hamilton is just that much better.

    2. Put Alonso in Albon’s car. Redbull will be Champions by now.

      1. Then why didn’t Alonso beat a rookie Hamilton at McClaren @Rott?

        1. @paulguitar Not sure if this is what Rott means, but it is actually possible that Red Bull could win the constructors championship with Verstappen and Alonso (or Leclerc say) in their cars, finishing 2nd and 3rd in many of the races and the championship overall, pushing Bottas down to 4th. Max is already pushing him into 3rd. Not that Alonso would regularly beat Hamilton in a Red Bull. He wouldn’t. Nor in a Mercedes for that matter.
          Actually I think Alonso’s F1 career as a top driver may be effectively over. If he came back, I suspect a Schumacher 2 scenario is more likely.

      2. Constructors, maybe. Drivers? Nah.

  4. Really tight midfield.. ha ha ha

    1. It is tight, behind the Mercs (and I still believe Max is a step further than the rest). But behind? Very small margins throughout the sessions.
      Of course in the race they’ll spread out but let’s see if the Renaults that are fast in the high-speed sections can mix it up a bit in the early stages to disrupt the normal strategies…

  5. Pole Position! RaceFans net!
    Absolutely the best ever F1 fan site ever!
    Thank you Gentlemen!

  6. How come Renault are right at the sharp end here in Spa?
    Ferrari played un-sporting tricks and were found out, but who are the others yet to be found out? Food for thought…..

    1. You see. Ricciardo is way better than max. Redbull again screwed Albon to give how to Max, Bottas had no tow, Ricciardo had no tow and Lewis certainly didn’t have any tow.

      The best drivers will shine.
      ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

      1. You see. Ricciardo is way better than max.

        ah.. that’s why he is lower on the grid.

    2. Or maybe the track just suits their car? Or they have done a really good job with their set up for qualifying?

      Not everything is a conspiracy, eat the tin-foil hat if you’re hungry.

    3. Renault have a decent engine and a car that lacks downforce. So low downforce circuits like spa, monza and silverstone they’ll do well and why they were nowhere in Hungary.

      1. It’s true.
        I always thought Spa was a bit of a mid downforce setup, but more recently it seems to be run with no wing at all. I remember Jenson’s infamous high downforce setup well though!

    4. I know it’s redundant, but it’s important to remind people that no, Ferrari was not “caught acting” in such a way.
      Grey areas and rule clarifications and deals are the standard in F1, today for me, tomorrow for you.

      1. Of course they weren’t cheating, that’s why the results of the FIA investigation are there for everyone to see. Clean as a whistle.

      2. emuLOAD, thanks to the opacity of the FIA’s investigation, we do not know exactly what the situation is either way – we’re left in the strange limbo where Ferrari might not have been officially declared to have cheated, but equally was not declared to be innocent of the charges either.

        Whether you support Ferrari or not, I don’t think either side can really say that the decision has been anything but a failure, given that it has overshadowed the team to the point where it might well be worse than if they’d been found guilty in the first place – if they had been, then arguably we might have had more of a resolution than the current uncertainty and speculation.

        Rodber, with regards to your question, it has been said that, over a single lap, their power unit does actually seem to be reasonably competitive in terms of power output – it’s in race trim where they seem to drop back. Their chassis does also seem to be a bit like some of Force India’s older cars too, where the car was designed around a philosophy of lower drag, albeit at the penalty of slightly less maximum downforce.

      3. No evidence of cheating? Use your eyes – look at where the red cars were at Spa in 2019 and today.

        Not cheating? If it quacks like a duck…

  7. Live and learn wannabees. Hamilton tests and experiments with every corner in practice and then puts it all together in qualifying. A superb day’s work. Bottas ‘P2 is great at Spa.’ Sure, a great slipstream awaits on the Kemmel Straight, but lets see if he can actually hold on to P2 first. Still don’t know why Stroll gets so much flack. He’s a lot closer than Bottas, Albon and even Norris are to their team mates.

    1. I believe it’s because he’s behind Perez who was outqualified by Occon in their time. Great racer, not the top qualifier. But I must say I’m happy stroll is getting closer.

      1. Perez looks great when nursing tyre matters. That’s why I can not see anything coming from Stroll rather than average achievements.

    2. To be fair, this is Stroll’s best season by far. Maybe opinion will turn around in time, but it’s too early at the moment.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        29th August 2020, 16:57

        Take away stroll’s points scored in britain, he would have 30 points vs 32 for Perez. Give him at least 4 for retiring in the first race and take away 2 for that dirty move on Ricciardo in Styria. He would then be tied with Perez. I’ll be honest, I think it can be confirmed that Stroll has looked at least as good as perez so far this season. And if qualifying was Stroll’s weak point, given how close he is again, I do wonder if Stroll is getting good here or Perez is just not good at all in qualifying. Even Hulkenberg comfortably beat Stroll on Saturday in his 2nd weekend.

        1. And what about Perez missing 2 races due to Covid lol

    3. Yes, HAM delivers once again and it’s phenomenal.
      But besides having the best car there is also no pressure from his teammate.
      Don’t get me wrong, HAM is the man. But when people say Bottas‘ P2 is good when he is crushed by HAM by 0,5, it frustrates me. Bottas should do better and put the pressure on. Other drivers could benefit from the Mercedes drivers fighting each other. Now there is nothing like that. And it is not going to change any soon.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        29th August 2020, 17:05

        @bartvander
        I’ve said this on another page. Bottas wasn’t the only driver to loose out by his team mate by half a second. Albon, Magnussen, Latifi also did. Did they not all frustrate you? They are not against the best qualifier on the grid. As this track, if one driver does a perfect lap, the other has got to be simple flawless to be close as it is the longest by far.

        This year, it isn’t all that common that Bottas doesn’t challenge Hamilton at all throughout all of qualifying so it is unlikely to be that frequent. They have been well under a tenth apart 3 times. Even in the first british grand prix qualifying, Bottas looked better than Hamilton right up until the moment Hamilton put in a perfect lap and beat him by 3 tenths. Most of the time, it is Hamilton making the difference rather than Bottas underperforming. He did a bit here at Spa, but again, a good few tenths was down to just how good Hamilton did.

        1. @thegianthogweed

          Actually I’m an but frustrated about Albon’s performance too. 2 strong RB drivers would also put the pressure on Mercedes more.

          I get your point about Hamilton making the difference. I just tink Bottas and Albon aren’t capable of doing so. From a Mercedes point of view it’s their ideal combo of drivers, I just think there might be drivers out there who would could make the difference more often and put the pressure on HAM even more (especially on Sundays).

          Apart from this, making the difference for such a long time EVERYTIME, is a phenomenal performance by HAM, no doubt about that.

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            29th August 2020, 19:54

            @bartvander

            The thing is, Bottas has shown in the past few seasons that in around a third of the races per season, he can at least get the better of Hamilton (who I personally think is overall better than Verstappen). Last year, Verstappen was NEVER outraced or outqualified by pure pace from either Albon or Gasly. I personally think Bottas is quite a lot better than Albon and it really is down to Hamilton that makes people think Bottas is worse than he is. He lacks some aggression, but he is certainly quick on average and I would say his one lap pace is easily in the current top 5 on the grid. Race pace, not so strong, but still don’t think a large amount of drivers would do any better when paired with hamilton.

    4. Yeah, it’s more likely the positions at the end of lap 1 will be: 1) Hamilton, 2) Verstappen, 3) Bottas.

  8. Lewis knew tyre temperature into and out of La Source mattered more than a faint tow, job done.

    But Kemmel on Lap1 tomorrow is going to be tricky…

  9. Starting at pole at SPA it’s a bit of a curse. If you can scape first corner, there comes a never ending straight where you’re giving a tow to everyone else.
    VER learned his lesson and will take the outside on the first corner. Leclerc will pass a lot of cars just to loose the positions after lap 2.
    Crystal ball out.

    1. HAM has lots of chances to get P1 back again on the same straight. I don’t worry that much for him given that BOT is in the other Mercedes.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        29th August 2020, 17:35

        Bottas is usually reasonable at defending though. The best chance by far without DRS is on the very first lap. if Bottas manages to get Hamilton then, it will likely have to be strategy that gets Hamilton by again.

    2. *lose
      Fair comments though, I remember Verstappen in 2016 being silly and trying to launch it down the inside, good that he’s been out of that phase of his career for a good while now.

      1. Nonsense 2016veas Vettel’s fault, 2019 was 100% verstappen’s fault at Spa. Verstappen actually hit kimi twice last year at spa. Verstappen has been a silly crash happy driver his entire F1 career until only this year when he he is driving lonely races.

    3. With the Renault straight line speed, it could well be 4 wide by the end of the straight! If it’s raining as well, it is anyone’s guess!

  10. Masterclass from Hamilton and what a sobering moment for Ferrari! Whatever’s happening there needs to be sorted out, and really fast. As for Renault, that was some gain!

    1. I don’t think ferrari is half as bad.

      COVID 19 major epicenter was where Ferrari hails from, they were completely handicapped even before the season started.

      2020 is a write off.

      1. Honestly, COVID has wreaked havoc everywhere. And remember the cars were ready way before COVID, it’s just embarrassing really!

      2. Trying to blame Covid-19 for Ferrari’s ills is “interesting”. All Ferrari’s problems are entirely of their own making.

      3. Rott, the thing is, that doesn’t really work as an explanation for why Ferrari’s car was already looking down on pace in pre-season testing, since the development period and the pre-season tests all pre-dated the outbreak.

  11. I’m a Ham fan but I actually hope Bottas will take the lead and Ver in p2 and Ham p3 by the end of the first lap to make for an exciting race. We desperately need sprint races that will see these 3 at the back of the grid.

  12. The midfield is starting to shift again… Renault is starting to genuinely look good in qualy when the track is fast and flowing. They’ve also had good results in Silverstone (Daniel 5th) and in Styria (Ocon 5th). They are slowly becoming the best of the rest in qualifying, at least on fast tracks… Race pace is another matter though, RP seems to be better there, while McLaren doesn’t feel as strong as last year.

  13. Binotto made Domenicali to look competent.

    1. Funny, since the Elkanns took over management, the Scud has gone downhill faster than a streak of weasel pee.
      Their last competent TP was Mattiacci, it would seem. The Kimi/Seb combination was a boost to the team, catapulting them from the Alonso era debacles to [almost] rivalling Merc at the front, with a shot at the title that Seb scuttled in 2018…
      Ferrari was best of the rest 2016 to 2019. Now they are speeding straight back to Alonso’s days and failure once more. Maybe that can be averted when rule changes kick in in a couple of years. Maybe.

      1. Arrivabane was good. Very passionate.

        Instead of firing Vettel for his lack of racing ability, they fired the wrong guy. Such a shame.

  14. What a disappointment from Lewis. I had him on 1:41.100 in my prediction.
    Ferrari… no words)))

  15. No way is it going to rain tomorrow unfortunately.

  16. Riccardo on pole and Vettel at the back in F1.5

  17. Ham-Bot-Ver. There was a post on Reddit where the user posted a picture showing screen burn effect on his TV screen Showing Han-Bot-Ver. Safe to say the tv screen gonna burn more.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      29th August 2020, 19:58

      @knightameer

      That is an annoying effect with modern displays. With me watching the BBC news in the morning daily for years, there is the time box in the bottom right corner. The outline of that stays there for quite some time after using the monitor for something else. Not sure how long that user must have had a static image of those 3 drivers. Either it’s been there for way too long or they have a big problem with their display!

    2. Besides plasma screens (which are hardly modern anymore), burn-in is mostly an issue with old displays. I remember the TV from my teenage room having a grid permanently burned in from a strategy game i played for a few weeks.

      It’s still possible for it to happen, but it takes much more abuse before it happens.

  18. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    29th August 2020, 21:10

    The man, the driver, the legend! That lap surely put a smile on the Black Panther’s face in heaven.

    Pure masterclass!

  19. Is there any chance of rain?

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