Qualifying for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix delivered a few surprise results and star performances, but one fact was without doubt: the Mercedes’ were going to thrash the field in deciding the starting order for Sunday’s 44-lap race.
Our own Chandni Patel shortlists her winners and losers in qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps…
Of course the ultimate winner of qualifying was Lewis Hamilton, who set the benchmark time and then lowered it even further on his second run to take pole position. It was his sixth pole position in a row – a result not achieved since Michael Schumacher over the 2000-1 seasons – and his tenth of the season, which ensures he will win the ‘Pole Position trophy’ this season. Hamilton will start ahead of his teammate and main championship rival Nico Rosberg.
Sergio Pérez made it into Q3 and finished in P5 for qualifying, which was something of a surprise as his teammate Nico Hülkenberg – who is traditionally the better qualifier – failed to make it into Q3 after a mistake at La Source. Force India is tipped to be a dark horse around this track, where they have historically been competitive.
The Lotus F1 Team duo of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado finished fourth and eighth fastest respectively after a very troubled weekend for the team so far. The team is surrounded by yet more rumours of legal troubles – this time they are being sued by former test driver Charles Pic – which is hardly good timing while its owners are apparently in the final throes of negotiating a sale of the team to Renault. On-track, the qualifying performances were great: this is the first time the duo has made it into Q3 since Canada earlier this season. Grosjean will, however, take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, but this will still keep him in the top 10 for the start and within range of potentially challenging for the podium.
Kimi Räikkönen (pictured top) was one of the drivers who once again lost out in qualifying, stopping on track with an apparent loss of oil pressure. It is a shame for the Finnish driver, who this week confirmed he would continue with Ferrari for next season. Teammate Sebastian Vettel fared little better, qualifying ninth-fastest in Ferrari’s 900th Grand Prix.
It is no doubt that McLaren are having a very tough season with their renewed partnership with Honda. But adding to their problems after changing several components in the car, both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso have been given a combined 105-place grid drop for the coming race on top of qualifying a lowly P17 and P18 respectively.
Nico Hülkenberg was a big surprise in this qualifying as he was tipped to be in the top 10, but finished just outside in his 50th Grand Prix with Force India. The German made a rare mistake by locking up on the approach to La Source and running wide.
Daniil Kvyat was also another casualty in the Red Bull Racing RB11, missing out getting out of Q2 for the first time since Bahrain this season.
Having already had a new internal combusion engine fitted to his Toro Rosso, Max Verstappen faced further problems with power delivery in Q1. He decided not to run in Q2 to save mileage on the engine, knowing that he didn’t have the pace to make in-roads in the top-ten to limit the damage of the 10-place grid penalty he would face.
Images via Sutton Motorsport Images