Lewis Hamilton will start the 2015 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix from pole position, after beating Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg by almost half a second in Saturday’s qualifying session. It was Hamilton’s sixth consecutive pole, and his tenth of the season.
Behind the two silver cars, Valtteri Bottas was a distant third for Williams, with Romain Grosjean taking a superb fourth for Lotus. The Frenchman will drop five grid places, however, thanks to a gearbox change penalty.
Sergio Perez secured a season-best fifth for Force India, ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Massa in the second Williams, and Pastor Maldonado in the second Lotus. Sebastian Vettel was ninth in a very poor session for Ferrari, with Carlos Sainz rounding out a tightly-packed top ten for Toro Rosso.
Kimi Raikkonen meanwhile was a big-name casualty of Q2, after technical issues forced him to bring his very sick-sounding Ferrari to a halt approaching Turn 14.
The first part of qualifying had offered an ominous sign of Mercedes’ advantage, as Hamilton led Rosberg on 1m 48.908s to 1m 48.923s despite both using Pirelli’s medium tyre, which has proved around 1.5s slower than the softs the rest of the field used. Perez was at least right with the Mercedes pair on 1m 49.006s, while a late-improving Bottas worked his way into fourth on 1m 49.026s. The Finn had been in the drop zone until his late breakthrough, and his improvement therefore demoted Sauber’s Felipe Nasr into 16th – the Brazilian eliminated despite setting a 1m 49.952s, within 1.1s of Hamilton’s benchmark.
Behind Nasr, Jenson Button beat Fernando Alonso at McLaren, with 1m 50.978s to 1m 51.420s for 17th and 18th. Both cars have had further engine changes for the weekend, though they won’t influence further the team’s back-of-the-grid starting positions that have already been mandated by the stewards.
Will Stevens narrowly headed Marussia team mate Roberto Merhi, with 1m 52.948s to 1m 53.009s.
Rosberg got back on top in Q2, pipping Hamilton’s 1m 48.024s with 1m 47.955s, and they opened the gap to their pursuers – Vettel for example was third with 1m 48.761s. There was bad news for the Scuderia, however, as Raikkonen came to a halt without completing a lap.
While Perez was fourth, Force India team mate Nico Hulkenberg dropped out in 11th place on 1m 49.121s, as did Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat on 1m 49.228s. Less surprising was Marcus Ericsson in 13th on 1m 49.586s for Sauber. In the second Toro Rosso Max Verstappen opted not to run, preferring instead to save a set of tyres given his impending 10-place grid drop, while Raikkonen was left in 15th.
Into Q3, and Hamilton’s first flyer gave him a resounding early advantage as he clocked 1m 47.449s to Rosberg’s 1m 47.895s. The German had made a fist of the second sector, however, which meant he had potential time in hand… Bottas got closest to the two Silver Arrows with 1m 48.567s ahead of Massa on 1m 48.937s, but Vettel was a disappointing fifth on 1m 49.698s.
Rosberg and Hamilton were neck and neck through the first sector of their second runs, but Hamilton was simply irresistible over the rest of the lap and improved to a magnificent 1m 47.197s. Rosberg improved too, but was firmly in his team mate’s shadow with 1m 47.655s.
Bottas held on to third, improving to 1m 48.537s, but the surprise was Romain Grosjean’s jump up to fourth for Lotus on 1m 48.561s. Perez grabbed fifth on 1m 48.599s, fractions ahead of Ricciardo on 1m 48.685s, Massa on 1m 48.685s and Maldonado on 1m 48.754s. Just two-tenths of a second therefore covered third through to eighth.
Vettel paid the price for the closely-matched field, as a 1m 48.825s proved good enough only for ninth, ahead of Sainz on 1m 49.771s.
|Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying Results|
|10||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||1:49.109||1:49.065||1:49.771||-0.946||11|
|Grid penalty: Grosjean (5 spots – Gearbox Change), Verstappen (10 spots – Engine Change), Button and Alonso (back of grid for Engine Change).|