The world champion dedicated his performance to actor Chadwick Boseman, who died this weekend. Valtteri Bottas narrowly beat Max Verstappen to third place.
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
|16||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1’43.743|
|18||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1’43.950|
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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
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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
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||1’41.778|
|5||Alexander Albon||Red Bull-Honda||1’42.264|
|7||Carlos Sainz Jnr||McLaren-Renault||1’42.438|
|8||Sergio Perez||Racing Point-Mercedes||1’42.532|
|9||Lance Stroll||Racing Point-Mercedes||1’42.603|
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