Hamilton snatches pole in rain-hit qualifying thriller

2013 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013Fortune favoured the brave as rain played havoc with the qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The qualifying hour saw three unfancied cars reach Q2 after gambling on slicks, and nearly saw a shock maiden pole position for Paul di Resta.

But the Force India driver was denied the glory as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a late improvement in the weather to claim the front row.

Q1

The rain arrived at the track as qualifying was beginning leading all the teams to send their drivers out straight away, some of them queuing up at the pit lane exit. Pastor Maldonado was the first of the drivers to discover how slippery the conditions were, skating off at Les Combes.

But the rain came to a stop soon after it had started and the drivers soon found themselves nursing their intermediate tyres and deciding which compounds to use for their final runs. The drivers who committed to doing their final runs early soon found themselves in trouble.

In the dying moments of the session both Ferrari drivers found themselves in the drop zone. This left them vulnerable had a yellow flag been shown and when Di Resta spun his Force India at the chicane it looked as though a nightmare situation was about to unfold for them. Fortunately for him he was able to drag his car back onto the track.

While those who had pitted early found they weren’t able to take advantage of the ever-drying track, others were taking advantage, including a handful of drivers who had bravely gambled on slicks.

Giedo van der Garde led the trio, claiming third place in his Caterham after being one of the last drivers to start a time. The two Marussias, also on slicks, made it through as well. But the other Caterham of Charles Pic was held up at the weigh bridge, losing valuable time, and ended up last.

Among those to fall at the first hurdle were Jean-Eric Vergne and Esteban Gutierrez, both of which having impressed in the earlier wet part of the session.

The other Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo was also knocked out. “We went out too early,” he rued on the radio afterwards. “There was no point pushing straight away when the track was always going to dry. We should have waited.”

Drivers eliminated in Q1

17 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 2’03.072
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2’03.300
19 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2’03.317
20 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 2’03.432
21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 2’04.324
22 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 2’07.384

Q2

The track continued to dry in the second part of qualifying where there were few surprises. The contest for the top times suggested an exciting qualifying battle was on the way even if it hadn’t continued to rain.

Kimi Raikkonen headed the times, just a hundredth of a second faster than Fernando Alonso.

Among those to drop out in Q2 was Sergio Perez, who narrowly failed to start a time before the session came to an end. Not for the first time this year Nico Hulkenberg felt the bitter pang of missing out on the top ten by just a few hundredths of a second.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1’49.088
12 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’49.103
13 Sergio Perez McLaren 1’49.304
14 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1’52.036
15 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1’52.563
16 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1’52.762
17 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault

Q3

The rain returned for a dramatic final ten minutes of qualifying. As the skies darkened almost all of the final ten runners took to the track, hoping to get a time in before the surface became too slippery.

But Paul di Resta held back in the pits. He’d spied the umbrellas going up and guessed the conditions were going to get too wet too quickly to set a time on slicks.

The other nine drivers quickly came to agree with him as they twitched around the increasingly treacherous track. To a man they all came in to put intermediate tyres on.

Meanwhile Di Resta delivered a neat, error-free lap to take a provisional pole position. His chances of holding on to it looked set when Felipe Massa – the first driver to get out of the pits with a set of intermediates on – set a time 1.7 seconds slower than him.

Few of the other drivers made any impression but Nico Rosberg produced an inspired lap in ever-worsening conditions to claim second place. Di Resta’s hopes of holding on to pole positions were bolstered as the track became so wet the FIA instructed teams to disable their DRS.

But the conditions stabilised and Rosberg harnessed the mid-sector performance of his Mercedes to snatch pole position off Di Resta. Force India thought their disappointment would end there.

“OK Paul that is P2. Rosberg pipped us by one-tenth,” race engineer Giampiero Lambiase told Di Resta. Then he noticed three other drivers were still pushing hard. “Nope, sorry Paul, Webber, Vettel and Hamilton still on a lap…”

The three had got across the finishing line early enough to get one more quick lap in on a circuit which was improving once again. The Red Bulls looked quick, but in the middle sector Hamilton pole-axed the pair of them, covering the same ground over a second faster than either of them.

Vettel and Webber had done enough to demote Rosberg, and were quicker than Hamilton in the other two sectors. But they couldn’t keep him from pole, which duly went to a surprised Hamilton by two-tenths of a second.

Di Resta doubted he could have been higher than fifth even if he had been on the track at the end of the session. Jenson Button claimed sixth for McLaren ahead of the Lotuses on row four and Ferraris on row five.

Top ten in Q3

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2’01.012
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2’01.200
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 2’01.325
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2’02.251
5 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 2’02.332
6 Jenson Button McLaren 2’03.075
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2’03.081
8 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 2’03.390
9 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2’03.482
10 Felipe Massa Ferrari 2’04.059

2013 Belgian Grand Prix

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89 comments on Hamilton snatches pole in rain-hit qualifying thriller

  1. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 24th August 2013, 14:41

    What I like about Spa is the unpredictablility. So I hope Hamilton can be challenged by Vettel or whoever ends up near him.
    Let’s see what can Webber do to annoy Vettel as well. That will make the start very intersting too. And my bet is on Kimi. We know it’s possible to win in Spa not starting in the front row. And come on, it’s Kimi in Spa. He CAN do it.

    • Nick (@nick101) said on 24th August 2013, 15:35

      I’m sorry to say it, but I highly doubt Hamilton has a hope in hell of converting his pole position into a win tomorrow – a bit of a theme for Hamilton.

      Just look at his whole weekend so far. The only reason he got pole was due to crossing the line last – end of. He and Rosberg have been struggling all weekend and I would not be surprised to see even Button finish ahead of the Mercs tomorrow.

      • Jean-Christophe said on 24th August 2013, 17:30

        Did they not seem to struggle in Hungary? You don’t know what they were doing during practice, do you? It’s been reported that they had been using a used engine together with testing new parts. So I wouldn’t jump into such conclusions too fast.

      • Seized Up said on 24th August 2013, 18:12

        The only reason he got pole was due to crossing the line last – end of.
        - Really? -
        MW, SB + LH all benefitted from a tracking drying rapidly and they all started their lap within a few seconds of each other. LH extracted the most from his car, particularly in sector 2.

        And that’s despite the Redbull looking to have a better package and car setup *all* weekend.

      • MagillaGorilla (@magillagorilla) said on 24th August 2013, 18:32

        @nick101 it’s been a theme of the entire season for merc gp to look as if they are struggling in practice and only to pull out the win or podium due to a pole. There is a reason they’re second in the WCC, not sure what season you’ve been watching, FPs dont give any insight into how tomorrow goes, if they did everyone would be winning the predictions here. Either your just that unaware or you’re just not a fan of Mercedes, but to say that Button may finish ahead of both… I highly doubt this since Nico and Lewis are good rain drivers.

        However, time will tell when tomorrow comes.

    • João Oliveira (@oliveiraz33) said on 24th August 2013, 17:39

      Webber’s car will break down… so he won’t do nothing to Vettel don’t worry lol

      I think the chances of hamilton depend on weather… It’s true that today he had the best track position when he conquered pole, but normaly he defends well in the races..

  2. Jake (@jleigh) said on 24th August 2013, 14:43

    Hamilton’s middle sector was just…wow! The rest of his lap was pretty bad!

    • zippyone (@zippyone) said on 24th August 2013, 19:15

      I know, right? I saw his 1st sector time and thought no way will he take pole. 2nd sector was over 1 second quicker than bulls.

      Very exciting qually…. now for a very exciting race please :)

  3. Great qualifying session.that is the beauty off1 never ceases to delight. Extraordinary lap from lewis given tricky weather conditions.

  4. The first three (particularly Hamilton) if I’m honest were just really fortunate with the timing of their laps. I thought Rosberg and Di Resta were the drivers of the session but then again you could call that as a good strategic decision from Red Bull and Mercedes on Hamilton’s side and they did get the job done all said and done.

    • PhilEReid (@philereid) said on 24th August 2013, 14:49

      @vettel1 I wouldn’t say Di Resta’s lap was exactly all that brilliant, because if you think about it, he only had that opportunity by being fortunate everyone else went out (also good team strategy). Rosberg’s lap was mega, bit it all came to nothing in the end and maybe should have done what the Red Bulls and Hamilton did.

    • adamx84 said on 24th August 2013, 14:50

      Agree the first 3 were fortunate, but di Resta was also fortunate in a different way (if track position is fortune).

      Rosberg clearly the standout driver, although should also be noted Hamilton put over 1s in to the Red Bulls on the middle sector with identical conditions, so clearly earned his position.

      • Hamilton put over 1s in to the Red Bulls on the middle sector with identical conditions, so clearly earned his position.

        The only thing clear from that fact is that the Mercs and the RB’s were running very different downforce levels on their cars.

    • kimrogue (@kimrogue) said on 24th August 2013, 14:51

      Ros Brawn revealed that Di Resta had set the time with DRS (which was deactivated soon after). So, I don’t rate it very high. But, full marks to Force India for grabbing the opportunity given that non of the other teams could think of it. But then they lost the plot by bringing him in too early. This really was an up and down session. Hope the race stays this way!

    • Jake (@jleigh) said on 24th August 2013, 14:54

      @vettel1 why do u say particularly Hamilton?

      • @jleigh because he was pretty much last over the line and just seemed not in the same class as Rosberg through the rest of the session.

        @jason12 I’m guessing it was simply complacency from Force India in thinking they’d have a comfortable enough margin and not fully recognising just how much the track would improve towards the end of the session. 5th’s good though and he is in a great position for racking up good points – maybe even a podium if things pan out well for him!

        • @vettel1

          “Fortunate” is not a word I’d use for the drivers occupying the top three grid positions. The teams (Merc and RB) got the strategy calls right. It was similar to Malaysia really in many ways, if you recall. Hamilton looked mighty in qualifying there, but Vettel took pole by coming in for a new set of intermediates. In the end, arguably ROS was the driver of the session, but the top three were almost as good.

          • @sankalp88 Don’t get me wrong I was fully expecting all three to put in a strong performance and they definitely delivered but Rosberg just looked the better driver today. Yes, getting the lap in at the right time is all part of the game absolutely but I can’t help but feel Hamilton just wasn’t as quick as Rosberg today.

        • zimkazimka (@zimkazimka) said on 24th August 2013, 17:50

          don’t forget that Grosjean is starting directly behind him. that’s a dangerous position in Spa.

        • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 24th August 2013, 18:32

          @vettel1 I think in such conditions , making sure to be the last one to cross the line is just as much guile as luck .So blaming Hamilton is not going to achieve anything . Usually vettel makes sure that he is the last one to cross the line . If you notice Hamilton simply took the risk as there were only 3 seconds after he crossed the line to the checkered flag in Q3 . He tried the same in Q2 and wasn’t successful and almost got eliminated in Q2 (10th) . Besides , Rosberg did a killer lap but lost out because he could not get another lap . That way if it rains , If I am leading , I’d watch out for Nico. I will be , of course , rooting for Hamilton ;-)

          • @hamilfan I’m not “blaming” him for anything, just passing observation! I’ve grouped Vettel and Webber in the same category of late benefactors and actually was only really complimenting Rosberg, not really criticising any of the other three!

    • vineet (@vineet1658) said on 24th August 2013, 15:17

      @vettel1
      Yes… just like Vettel in canada.

    • zicasso (@zicasso) said on 24th August 2013, 20:39

      Rosberg in my view was the better driver as he (if am not mistaken) improved his time twice while the others were walking backwards trying to beat Di Resta’s. I just wasn’t expecting Webber, Vettel and LH to beat that time. Super exciting when they did it but a bit sorry for Di Resta.

      • I think you’ll find Rosberg had the benefit of DRS in Q3, then it was disabled and noone could match him until the track dried.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 24th August 2013, 22:18

      @vettel1, remember, the last/first 3 had to have enough fuel onboard to run that lap, a handicap on the earlier laps.

  5. Krichelle (@krichelle) said on 24th August 2013, 14:49

    I just had a thought… Is the Mercs car setup for wet race… Cause Rosbeeg and Hamilton were quick in the wet particularly through the middle sector… But Hamilton gets lucky with the last lap of all.. Seriously.. Are Mercedes going for a wet setup and compromising their straightline speed… Cause that’s going to prove critical on the first lap… From La Source to Les Combes…

  6. liam (@) said on 24th August 2013, 14:49

    Feel Bad Rosberg what a lap. everybody else was average

  7. Eggry (@eggry) said on 24th August 2013, 14:51

    I feel sorry for Lotuses and Ferraris. They were just very unfortunate. I hope their race pace would do something.

  8. Ben (@scuderia29) said on 24th August 2013, 14:55

    damnnn if alonso had got across the line in time to do another lap i think he would have made it on the 2nd row

  9. Jason (@jason12) said on 24th August 2013, 14:57

    Merc seems to be doing a better job strategically and responding to car problems (for some reason critics call this sandbagging).

    Here’s to hoping for rain tomorrow as Merc otherwise just don’t seem to have the pace.

  10. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 24th August 2013, 15:01

    Brilliant Quali! This is why I love Formula 1!!!!

    Good Job Lewis, the title hunt starts here!!!!

  11. tmax (@tmax) said on 24th August 2013, 15:06

    WOW !!!….. That’s what I am talking about……

    What a Session !!!!! Want more of such Thrillers…….

  12. This time, Vettel is on a low downforce setup while the Mercedes have a high downforce setup. We’ll see if Hamilton can run away with it, or if Vettel can pass him quickly with his straight line advantage.

  13. I don’t understand how people are remarking about certain drivers “getting lucky”, that’s the nature of qualifying, everyone had the same amount of time to set their best lap, everyone was on the same track, timing your run that you would end up posting the last time is something I’m sure engineers can estimate.

    I think Kimi’s being hamstrung from time to time by his team where they make tactical mistakes from time to time. Jenson beating the Lotus and Ferrari teams spoke to his skill in the wet and the fact he was positioned to take advantage of the quickly drying track (I guess those grooves did work!)

  14. Deej92 (@deej92) said on 24th August 2013, 15:22

    That was an absolutely fantastic qualifying session. I was very pleased to see van der Garde and the Marussias in Q2. But after all the twists and turns, the front row has a familiar look: Hamilton and Vettel. Bring on the race (and the rain)!

  15. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall) said on 24th August 2013, 15:24

    That qualifying session was brilliant. Love Spa, love the rain.

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