Jenson Button, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2012

Button and Kobayashi share front row at Spa

2012 Belgian Grand Prix qualifyingPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Jenson Button, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2012Jenson Button took his first pole position since the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix after an emphatic display at Spa-Francorchamps.

Button took control of the session and was rarely threatened in Q2 and Q3. He duly clinched his first pole position for McLaren in his 50th race with the team.

Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi will join him on the front row.


Fernando Alonso hit the top of the times to begin with, trading best sectors with Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren driver, running more downforce, was quicker through the middle sector, while Alonso was faster along the long straights in sectors one and two.

However Button beat both their times with his last effort, which proved to be a sign of things to come.

Practically every driver returned to the track for a final effort. Pastor Maldonado set the fastest time of Q1 when he returned to the track on medium tyres.

Nico Rosberg had made an early start to Q1 having lost almost all of his running during the sole dry practice session. But it was to no avail: he slipped into 18th place after Daniel Ricciardo improved at the end of the session.

The Mercedes driver crossed the start/finish line a few second too late to begin another lap. “We dropped off too much there,” said his engineer. “We dropped off over nine seconds so we missed the chequered flag.”

Romain Grosjean was fortunate to avoid elimination. The Lotus driver ended up 17th after being held up by Narain Karthikeyan on his final effort.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’50.181
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1’51.739
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1’51.967
21 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1’52.336
22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1’53.030
23 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1’53.493
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’54.989


Sergio Perez was the first driver to head the times in Q2. A series of drivers edged the best time off him including Alonso and Hamilton.

However when Button took to the track he let rip with a 1’47.654, fastest of all in every second and over three-quarters of a second ahead of second-placed Raikkonen.

They were the only two drivers who did not return to the track for another effort in what proved to be an exciting shoot-out for the top ten places.

Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado claimed the last two places in the top ten, knocking out Nico Hulkenberg and Michael Schumacher.

But the biggest surprise was Vettel. He was tenth as the final laps begin but his final effort was only good enough for 11th place as he fell 0.012s short of Maldonado’s time.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’48.792
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’48.855
13 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’49.081
14 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’49.147
15 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’49.354
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’49.543
17 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1’50.088


Button picked up where he left off as Q3 began, returning to the top of the times as he and Raikkonen were the first drivers to set laps.

But Hamilton, who had elected not to use McLaren’s new rear wing following practice, made a mistake at Rivage and aborted his first run.

Kamui Kobayashi led the drivers out as they began their final runs. He produced a 1’47.871 good enough for second place – and no one was able to take it off him.

Raikkonen complained of understeer on his last run and fell to fourth behind Maldonado. Perez made it two Saubers in the top five, lining up behind Raikkonen.

Alonso could only manage sixth, over seven-tenths of a second slower than Button. Webber claimed seventh but will drop back with a gearbox change penalty.

That will promote Hamilton who made another mistake at La Source at the beginning of his final run, and unusually ended up well behind his team mate.

Top ten in Q3

1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’47.573
2 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’47.871
3 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’47.893
4 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’48.205
5 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’48.219
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’48.313
7 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’48.392
8 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’48.394
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’48.538
10 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’48.890

2012 Belgian Grand Prix

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104 comments on “Button and Kobayashi share front row at Spa”

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  1. I suppose I am reasonable satisfied with this result…

    1. @magnificent-geoffrey Second and fifth – surely that’s Sauber’s best combined qualifying performance (not counting BMW Sauber)?

      1. I’m struggling to think of a better one. H-HF got some great results in his early years, but I doubt it’s better than that.

    2. Play it cool man, play it cool.

  2. Well that’s most of my prediction thrown out of the window!

    1. I had a McLaren on pole with a 1m47.6s. Wasn’t expecting this driver, though!

      My race prediction is also looking pretty bad now. My top 5 was a permutation of the top 5 in the championship, but only Alonso and Raikkonen are up there.

      1. I had Vettel to be on the podium! But this is Spa so anything can happen, he can just do much the same as he did in Monaco.

    2. yep my prediction was Raikkonen and the time was 1:46.5,
      “Let’s Bring the harder tyres for SPA so drivers can really push”

      “This weekend is the weekend that the lottery stops”.

      I was so judgmental about the tyre choices for SPA, I guess i was wrong, please keep it coming. Stop with the lottery excuse, the Sauber and the Williams look great on and off the track they looked well thought and well executed, things are tight and the team that keeps their garage spot on is the team that takes the points, the best drivers and the best teams seem to be the winners this season, the practice was scarce but the same for everybody, it was fair and that’s how it is supposed to be.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        2nd September 2012, 0:47

        If it was truly a lottery, then the 3 teams at the back would have scored points or podiums. Driver skill, setup and strategy are still more important than luck.

  3. The grid is really surprise. Well done Button, Well done Kobayashi! We will see 3 midfield driver can do well and what Kimi can do either.

    1. what worries me is that once that new wing in put on Hamilton’s cars, there will be no stopping him.

      1. Well, you never know. When Vettel was unbelievably fast in Valencia, everyone feared it’s the beginning of the end but such thing never happened.

        1. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
          1st September 2012, 16:10

          RE vettel valencia if you watch his pole lap he was driving completely differently to everyone else i don’t know if the mclaren car simply could not do it but certainly mark did not. Seb was the only one close enough to the barriers especially on apexes he could have high fived the marshals it was a strange one. Like he had discovered a new way of driving that circuit.

      2. Hamilton had the same rear wing as Button but still wasn’t as fast and reverted to the older rear wing and was slower. So there goes that conspiracy.

      3. @aimalkhan
        “what worries me is that once that new wing in put on Hamilton’s cars, there will be no stopping him.”

        Not really, if I understand correctly it is a special low DF wing for here and Monza, it won’t help as much if at all for the rest of the campaign. I might be wrong though. Also LH couldn’t drive (do well) with it so had it took off.

  4. Impressive by PM. I am surprised Saubers out qualified the Ferrari’s. And, I must say JB picked the right setup & should be pretty strong for the race. That Triathlon really helped.

  5. Oh God, Kobayashi and Maldonado so close to each other at one of the most frantic starting layout…
    I mean, will they survive the 1st turn ?
    How many people will run wide tomorrow andtake advantage of that ?

    Well done JB. It was time too !

    1. I think Charlie said you can’t use runoff area for advantage in 2010 or 2011.

      1. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
        1st September 2012, 16:12

        It’s fine if you’re avoiding maldonados-likely-2-wheeling-and-backwards-facing-by-that-point-williams.

    2. I know! I’m seriously nervous for tomorrows start.

      First of all I hope Kamui can get a good start, because he started in 3rd in China and it was awful. But then if he gets a good start you have to wonder if Maldonado is going to try something stupid. Atleast there is plenty of run off, that should minimize the chances of a crash.

    3. Omg Button, He’ll be sweating on getting through the first turn tomorrow.

      Sounds like it was a really exciting session, am sad that I missed it!

      1. I would love to say that Maldonado will have learned by his mistakes from this season and will play it cool at the start, but you know he won’t. He couldn’t get through the summer break without crashing. It’s going to be a great first lap – I think kimi will also be aiming at p2 out of the first corner. Can’t wait! Great driving by JB, too.

  6. I can’t work Button sudden pace out, he is such a strange driver when it comes to his car setup. He has been spectacularly mediocre most of the season with the notable exception of two or three races, but suddenly flukes into the perfect setup after free practice was basically a write off and all of a sudden he’s qualifying like Senna! With his high top speed as well he looks a great bet for the race tomorrow too.

    Raikkonen is the danger, he should have much better race pace than Maldonado and probably Kobayashi although the Sauber’s have looked quick all weekend. Another damage limitation weekend for Alonso surely trying to protect his lead, he must be praying for rain but the gods do seem to be with him with everyone in the title race but Kimi behind him.

    1. Hats off to Button.. I really didn’t see that coming.. and I’m pretty sure he didn’t as well. I think the lack of running really played to a few drivers’ advantage, and it was almost a lottery today regarding when the tyres would start working. It still it took a cool head and opportunism to take pole today and JB managed that.

  7. We may be in for more surprises. Remember Maldonado is under investigation for impeding Hulkenberg in Q1. And there are reports on Twitter Raikkonen is under investigation for cutting Eau Rouge.

    1. Saubers 2nd and 3rd? That would be an best-ever even if you included BMW Sauber, wouldn’t it? (2008 Bahrain, 1st and 6th, is also 33 points of qualifying position, if that makes any sense).

    2. Saubers 2nd and 3rd? That would be an equal best-ever even if you included BMW Sauber, wouldn’t it? (2008 Bahrain, 1st and 6th, is also 33 points of qualifying position, if that makes any sense).

    3. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
      1st September 2012, 15:47

      I hope to god maldonado gets a penalty so jenson kamui n sergio can have a clean start.

      1. wonder if he’d listen to you or Pastor..

        1. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
          1st September 2012, 16:36

          Even if he did listen to me i’d never get a reply even god can’t remember a name so overly elongated as mine :)

  8. ShaneB457 (@shaneb12345678910)
    1st September 2012, 14:42

    I knew the Lotuses wouldnt be that quick here because of the cool track temp. And I wasnt surprised with Maldonado either. From what I saw from free practice, the car looked so stable and fluent. The williams is so good with mechanical grip. In Spain PM made up something like 6-7 tenths in the last sector in quali over the other cars. So really the Williams makes up quite a lot of time I guess in the middle sector plus the first corner and the bus stop chicane.

  9. Whats wrong with Mercedes…??? I mean they are touching new bottom at every race weekend…. They dont upgrade their cars, then they mess up while sending their drivers to save themselves getting eliminated at end of Q1…. At the start of season, one would have expected them to fight with Redbulls, Mclaren and Ferrari…. Forget about the top three they are being outpaced by Saubers, Williams and Force Indias… A big shame for Mercedes who call themselves as one of the top car-sellers of the world….

  10. Q1 didn’t really make for many surprises, other than Rosberg. Glad to see De La Rosa being able to stick it in front of a Marussia, however, Pic isn’t a great qualifier and Karthikeyan isn’t a great driver. Makes me wonder if HRT are actually better than Marussia but are just held back by Karthikeyan?

    Really disappointed in Mercedes, China seems like a distant memory right now. Arguably Rosberg could benefit from having fresher tyres tomorrow (and a new gearbox!) but they don’t instill any enthusiasm in me as they once did.

    Reasonable Q2. Shame to see Massa seemingly slip back into old ways, but let’s see how he fares up in the race tomorrow. Well done to Vergne once again for beating Ricciardo and managing to drag himself out of Q1.

    Q3 was pretty spectacular. Didn’t expect JB at all, he was just on it all throughout the session with a 2011 Vettel-esque style. .3s gap to 2nd place is a big deal this year. I predicted Raikkonen would grab pole so I’m a little disappointed he didn’t, but more than satisfied with his replacement. Sauber are the heroes today. Absolutely stunning effort from them today and if they’re able to look after their tyres as well as they usually do tomorrow then I predict a good points finish for them.

    1. davidnotcoulthard
      1st September 2012, 14:50

      ..And avoid Pastor?

      1. Really disappointed in Mercedes, China seems like a distant memory right now.

        Indeed, it amazes me how much Mercedes have fallen back since the start of the season, apart from two or three races they have been spectacularly mediocre.

  11. Why is everyone so suprised at Jenson getting pole,when the car is right for him he’s fast. No need to support Hamilton yet

    1. ruth517 (@spanishconnection)
      1st September 2012, 15:31

      When JB gets a good car ( as with Braun ) he is usually successful however the rest of the time he is a whinger and 2nd best to his teammate.

    2. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
      1st September 2012, 16:23

      What im surprised at is that mclaren would make such a foolish call re lewis, even redbull the team that won monza on the corners are going for straightline speed this weekend terrible call. Even if it was a 60/40 gamble you would say that low drag is 60 and high downforce would be the 40 given the last 50 years of data.

  12. What really worrying is the red bulls lack of pace,when reporter ask vettel what went wrong ,vettel said nothing wrong with the car its just they dont have enough pace.Even the podium looks like a long shot from where they qualified.I am not sure but is this the worst qualifying session for red bull this year??

    1. But vettel also said that the car should have a good race pace. I expect the lotus and the Ferrari to have good race pace while the mclaren , Williams and the dauber not to perform as good. Last but not least I have a gut feeling that kobayashi and maldonado(if te still keep their positions after the investigation from the stewards ) will cause a big crash and that some of the wdc contenders will be involved in it. Maldonado and kobayashi have absolutely nothing to lose and a lot to win as kobayashi winnig his first race and the first race for the sauber team , and Maldonado to erase all the mistakes he has made this season .

      1. i agree kobi and maldonado will be pretty charged up to make a move and spa has a history of first lap crashes ,if alonso got involved in any accident and got DNF then surely the championship would have been wide open

      2. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
        1st September 2012, 16:32

        “I expect – Ferrari to have good race pace”
        “while the mclaren – not to perform as good.”

        mclaren spent the only dry session practice 3 this morning working on race pace they didn’t go low fuel, where as fernando alonso’s only dry practice session was spent almost entirely on fumes in the tank for qualy.

        1. no. I watched p3 and he wasn’t in fumes . He did at least 5-7 laps in each stint and every lap he better his time. Also I’m saying this about mclaren because of what happened in the last race and many other races. Fast in qualifying not so much in the race.

          1. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
            1st September 2012, 18:43

            If i was a betting man i would say prior to today no one has run 7 laps of fuel in a practice session all year there’s only one reason to do it and that’s to find a pure qualy setup.

            As for recent race pace the race winner hasn’t set the fastest lap all year that’s formula one 2012 for you.

    2. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
      1st September 2012, 15:42

      “vettel said nothing wrong with the car its just they dont have enough pace”

      in fairness though he says that every time he’s not on pole most drivers are thinking that for most of the races most of the seasons. The difference is when timo glock etc don’t get pole he doesn’t get swamped by reporters wanting to know who stole the wunderkids magic beans.

      1. Sorry, but that’s simply not true. If Vettel makes a mistake, he says he made a mistake. Or, in his manner of speaking, “did a mistake.”

        1. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
          1st September 2012, 21:40

          Yes but if he didn’t make a mistake which he doesn’t do often, what else is there to say for him or any driver? my point is everything he says is page 1. Barring mistakes 23/24 drivers would say they need more pace on any given day.

    3. @smokinjoe – I wouldn’t worry too much yet; Spa and Monza are very high speed circuits and traditionally Red Bull don’t perform so well on them (2011 being an exception). Come the Asian rounds we’ll see what their real pace is.

  13. Weird grid and Alonso’s win. The race should be interesting!

  14. Exciting qualifying, was rooting for Kimi, but then again, despite his 4 wins, he only had one pole at Spa. Not too worried.

    I was kind of surprised by Button’s pace, but it’s nice to see him on it and finally get his first pole for McLaren. Red Bull not being on it I think is due to top speed and the hurting from no more blown diffuser, thus less grip in the fast corners. I think they’ll be more up front tomorrow, though. Sauber need to keep their drivers in the top 10 and Mercedes.. What on earth is going on there?

    Wouldn’t be surprised if Alonso manages to improve his lead tomorrow, nor would I be surprised at first lap shenanigans with this grid..

    1. I forgot to mention: Nigel Melker just had a pretty heavy crash coming out of Eau Rouge, red flagging the race for barrier repairs.. He’s conscious, but I hope he’s alright. One of the Netherland’s better young drivers.

      1. In 2009 Kimi won from starting sixth and in 2004 he won from starting seventh, Kimi doesn’t need to qualify well in order to win at Spa. Just a positive thought.

  15. I think the best way to describe Button’s performance is to liken him to the Pirelli tyres – a small operating window, but when he’s in that window he’s up there with the very best.

    1. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
      1st September 2012, 15:52


      just kiddin it was great, just felt we could all benefit from a bit of brian blessed.

    2. Michael Brown (@)
      2nd September 2012, 0:59

      I also described Massa pre-2009 as a Pirelli tire. When he had the car working just right he fought for the championship in 2008.

  16. Hearing Kimi will get a penalty for cutting Eau Rouge? Any news on this

    1. @um1234 This was just tweeted by Finnish F1-reporter:
      Räikkönen just came out of stewards office – laughing. “No desicion yet”, he said to me

      I guess we still have to wait.

  17. A couple of hot-spots tomorrow:

    – Button – it’s gonna be interesting if he will maintain his advantage or slip back during the race,
    – Raikkonen – who is going to challenge for the win for sure, no need for him to approach this GP in a different / safer manner,
    – Sauber – both Kobayashi and Perez looked insanely quick and they are the only ones at least on pace with Raikkonen and very close to Button’s rhythm and they are racing in cars that are extremely gentle with their tyres. Plus, Maldonado, at least in theory, looks like a fairly easy pray for Perez. I’d say they have finally found that missing link in qualifying performance and they’re in with a serious chance here,
    – Alonso – who, without a doubt, will do ANYTHING to keep Hamilton and the Red Bulls behind, no matter what happens in front.

    Now, add a determined Schumacher, Rosberg starting at the back looking set to make up ground, a fairly quick Grosjean who might go for an extreme strategy, Maldonado being at the front before La Source – a renowned pile-up-prone corner, the chance of rain and the chance of a safety car to all this.

    It’s gonna be chaos out there tomorrow…but it’s gonna be a treat.

  18. Button dominated qualifying but i feel he has left it too late to challenge for the title this year

    1. Agreed, just like last year.

    2. 2009 in reverse ?

  19. what worries me is that once that new rear wing in put on Hamilton’s cars, there will be no stopping him. i hope i am wrong though.

    1. Don’t worry, that will need an update sometime in the future and he will be 0.8secs behind again ….. :)

  20. Force india has lost his force,,,,,,,, ,,, there are no more force to reckon with,,,,,, sauber,,, williams are more fasrter then them,,,, i think there lossing the downforce ,,, because of very unidentical nose ,,,, wheres william and saube has very flat nose,,, ,,

    1. Well, Force India qualified in front of Red Bulls, Ferraris and Mercedes.

    2. Sauber and Williams are even faster than texted bulls and the Ferraris. And that’s a lot to say given all the resources the two big teams have

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