Charles Leclerc secured an emphatic pole position for Sunday’s Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix, with the youngster leading a Ferrari front-row lockout at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
His run to clinching his third pole position was seemingly inevitable. Fastest in two of the three practice sessions and all segments of qualifying. the Monégasque driver gave Ferrari its first pole position at the Ardennes circuit in 12 years.
His final lap to clinch top spot on the starting grid was simply breathtaking, finishing a staggering three-quarters of a second clear of anyone else, including his teammate Sebastian Vettel. The four-time World Champion blamed traffic for the margin to Leclerc, but he had also simply been outplayed and outpaced.
Vettel’s final flying lap in Q3 was just enough to snatch second place on the grid, edging championship leader Lewis Hamilton by just 0.015 seconds.
That Hamilton was even in qualifying owed plenty to the speed and organisation of his Mercedes-AMG pit crew. A clumsy crash by the Briton in FP3 left his team scrambling to have his car repaired in less than two hours.
He finished third-fastest, one-tenth ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, but in truth the Silver Arrows have not been in the same race as Ferrari for the entire weekend. They won’t be competitive on Sunday unless there’s a dramatic change in conditions or a strategic misstep from the Ferrari pit wall (which is not beyond the realms of possibility, given the Italian team’s habit for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in 2019).
Cheered on by a raucous crowd of Dutch fans was Max Verstappen; the Red Bull Racing driver qualified fifth-fastest despite further power unit gremlins making their presence felt earlier on. Verstappen’s new teammate Alexander Albon, making his debut with the team this weekend, ran a different programme given he will start from the back of the grid due to engine change penalties. The Anglo-Thai driver qualified 14th-fastest.
The Renault team finally had some cheer after qualifying, with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg qualifying sixth- and seventh-fastest respectively. The former will, however, take a five-place grid penalty for the use of an additional power unit element above his allocation for the season.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen was eighth-fastest ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez and the Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen.
|FORMULA 1 JOHNNIE WALKER BELGIAN GRAND PRIX 2019 – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:42.519|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:43.267||+ 0.748|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:43.282||+ 0.763|
|4.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:43.415||+ 0.896|
|5.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:43.690||+ 1.171|
|6.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:44.257||+ 1.738|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:44.542||+ 2.023|
|8.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:44.557||+ 2.038|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:44.706||+ 2.187|
|10.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:45.086||+ 2.567|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|9.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:44.797||+ 1.859|
|7.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:44.847||+ 1.909|
|19.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:45.047||+ 2.109|
|12.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1.45.799||+ 2.861|
|14.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||no time|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|6.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:46.435||+ 2.848|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:46.507||+ 2.920|
|13.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:46.518||+ 2.931|
|16.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:47.548||+ 3.961|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|DNQ.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||no time|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:42.938 posted by Charles Leclerc
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:43.587 posted by Charles Leclerc
- Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon and Daniil Kvyat will start from back of grid due to multiple power unit element changes. Kvyat will drop a further five grid places for an unscheduled gearbox change.
- Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. will each drop five grid places for the use of additional power unit elements.
- Robert Kubica failed to qualify and will race at the FIA Stewards’ discretion.
Image via Scuderia Ferrari