Hamilton clinshed his sixth pole position in a row, the first man to achieve this since the mighty Schumacher. He was followed by Rosberg who he obliterated with almost half a second! In third place William’s Bottas took up the tag of best of the rest. His pole also meant Hamilton clinched the not-exactly-coveted pole position trophy today.
Ferrari’s qualifying was also dismal. Raikonnen celebrated his one year extension with Ferrari by stopping out on track with a “drop in oil pressure”. The noise coming from the car suggested otherwise and he will start way down the grid! Things did not go better for Vettel who, although he made it into Q3, had a horrible run and will line up in 9th tomorrow.
McLaren-Honda’s qualifying was a real disappointment and they only managed 17th and 18th position with Button leading the charge. Not that it mattered however as they will be starting from the back for taking a new PU anyway. Rumour has it that FIA officials are currently installing kerbs at the German-Belgian border crossing for them to start.
The stage is set for a cracking race tomorrow. Yes we have Hamilton and Rosberg that will scamper off into the distance and the battle down the order will be interesting however the start is where it’s going to be at. Throw in the expected rain tomorrow and we have the ingredientes for a great race!
How it unfolded
Q1: As the lights went green it was Bottas in the Williams that left the pits to set the first timed lap. He was followed by Merhi in the Manor. The duo was followed by the Mercedes, Force Indias, Bottas, Lotuses, Verstappen and Nasr.
Bottas set the first time of 1m50.195s however this was soon eclipsed by Hamilton and then Rosberg in 1m49.498. Meanwhile Vettel slotted his Ferrari into third place with a 1m50 a whole .68s slower than Rosberg. His teammate Riakonnen however ould only manage 1m51.139, 1.64s slower than Rosberg.s time. This was due to the Iceman exploriing the outer limits of Rivage, ok he ran really wide.
Sainz managed to sneak his Toro Rosso into fifth but was one of very few running the softs. This of coruse meant than no one was really safe and although it fell quiet with 8min to go it was only temporary.
While Rosberg attempted abouther flying lap on a pair of mediums, Perez, Vettel, Raikonnen, Grosjean and Kvyat all eclipsed rosbergs time on softs. Perez in his Force India crossed the line in 1m49.006.
Perez’s time at the top was only temporary as first Rosberg and then Hamilton went faster. Hamilton’s new fastest time was only 0.0015s faster than Rosberg but 1m48.908 for Hamilton was good enough to give him fastest time in Q1.
Apart from the two Mercedes cars Perez in his (Mercedes powered) Force India was third followed by Bottas, who in a late charge elevated himself from the dropzone up to 5th, one place ahead of the Ferrari of Vettel.
Raikonnen, Grosjean, Kvyat and Hulkenberg completed the top ten.
It was however dire for McHonda. Both Button and Alonso got eliminated. If there was a sliver lining it was for Button who out-qualified his highly rated Spanish teammate whith “the best lap [he’s] done in a long time“!
Q2: As the lights went green Bottas again lead the charge. A short while later both Hamilton and Massa left the pits. Significantly, everyone was on Softs!
It was not plain sailing for Hamilton though as he was informed by his team “we don’t have telemetry at the moment“. This did not seem to affect the British driver as he crossed the line with a 1m48.024. Perhaps it did as Rosberg crossed the line in 1m47.955 taking the top position.
Hamilton could not respond though as Raikonnen’s Ferrari ground to a halt with a horrible noise coming from his ICE. It shounded like a one of his horses providing horsepower wanted to get out, and considering Ferrari is already down on power, that in iteself is not good.
Just before the red flag Nico Hulkenberg showed Force India meant business this weekend by taking third ahead of the Williams’ of Massa and Bottas. Not to be outdone though Perez took third place from Hulkenberg. The question was, could Force India maintain their pace when the lights turned green and into Q3?
Eight minutes left in Q2 and the lights went green however, no one ventured out. It was setting up to be a last minute dash, one flying lap and that’s it. In fact, Mercedes felt so confident, a whole 1.23s ahead of Perez, that Hamilton even got out of the car.
Back to the track and Bottas again led the way! He was followed by Kvyat, Ricciardo, Massa, Maldonado and Vettel. With both Raikonnen and Verstappen out with engine worries only three more were going to drop in Q3, but who?
As the flag dropped it was Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Ericsson that did not make it. The top ten was made up of Roseberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Perez, Massa, Maldonado, Grosjean, Ricciardo, Bottas and Sainz. So again Rosberg piped Hamilton to P1 but would he be able to carry the speed when it mattered?
Q3: The lights went green and yes, you guessed it, Bottas out first followed closely by Grosjean this time. This was what we were waiting for for three weeks! Crunch time in Formula 1, Q3!
Bottas posted a 1m48.5 but Hamilton made small change of that with a 1m47.449. Rosberg crossed the line in 1m47.895 almost half a second slower than Hamilton courtesy of a mistake on the run out of Paul Frere.
After a run each the top 8 were Hamilton, Rosberg, Bottas, Massa, Ricciardo, Vettel, Grosjean and Maldonado.
With three minutes to go Hamilton headed out with a set of new softs, followed closely by Rosberg, also on new softs. Could Rosberg hack it?
As the flag dropped it was Hamilton taking pole from Rosberg with a time of 1m47.197. Hamilton appeared to make up all his time in the second sector, obliterating Rosberg and crossing the line 0.458s faster than his teammate.
Bottas managed best of the rest to take third 1.34s behind Hamilton. He was followed by Grosjean in a resurgent Lotus and Perez in the Force India, the charge from the latter frizzed out.
Ricciardo, Massa, Maldonado, Vettel and Sainz rounded out the top ten.
Of course some penalties were applied so the grid for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix looks like this:
|4||Sergio Perez||Force India|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|10||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull|
|18||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso|