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. karter22 (@karter22) said on 24th August 2013, 15:25

    Well, I must say that this was a very exciting Qualifying. Starting with Q1, it was full of suspense, Q2 looked like it was going back to normal but Q3 really reaked havoc! Although a bit disappointed, Ferrari seem to be on pace or at least did look fast in the dry which is a good sign.
    I feel gutted for DiResta… I was rooting for his pole but I really cannot understand how he was pipped since the track didnĀ“t seem to be improving, in any case, it seemed to be getting worse… that was really weird!
    Anyways, it seems it is going to be a tough race for the Maranello boys although the good thing is that they donĀ“t have to worry so much from trouble coming from behind. If it is wet, the top ten will be at the first corner before the rest get traction and then the rest is going to go down to strategy but itĀ“s going to be a loooooooooooong sunday for Ferrari. If ALO makes it to third, he will be the greatest in my book!!

  2. MarcusAurelius (@marcusaurelius) said on 24th August 2013, 15:28

    Although I’m dutch I’m normally not really fond of Giedo van der Garde. But today he really did well posting 3rd fastest time in Q1 before outqualified on a dry track.

  3. JackySteeg (@jackysteeg) said on 24th August 2013, 15:49

    I do wonder – is van der Garde’s 3rd place at the end of Q1 the highest position in which one of the “new” teams has been classified at the end of an official session?

  4. Hydro (@hydrouk) said on 24th August 2013, 15:49

    I really don’t know how people can say that Rosberg’s lap was brilliant but Vettel, Hamilton and Webber’s laps were down to luck and the track improving. In my opinion all 4 laps were down to the track improving.

    • Lari (@lari) said on 24th August 2013, 16:13

      It is because at that very moment /within 30sec of Rosbergs lap, people coming after him crossing the line were significantly slower than him. Hence it was looking like track was getting worse. But as it turned out, track was getting better towards the last few minutes meaning the very last people crossing the line (without making a mistake ofc) would be the fastest. So Rosbergs time vs the track and all other front runners at that very moment was blindingly fast.

    • evered7 (@evered7) said on 24th August 2013, 16:37

      Because Rosberg improved when no one did. He was first only .5 sec down on the first lap and beat DiResta in the second lap when everyone where 1.5-2 secs slower.

      • Because Rosberg had DRS, then it was diabled as it got wetter and noone could match him.

        How can anyone honestly think Rosberg is 1.5seconds quicker than Alonso/Vettel/Hamilton on pure pace alone?

        Like….seriously?

  5. R.J. O'Connell (@rjoconnell) said on 24th August 2013, 15:53

    Both Marussias and VDG’s Caterham in the mid-pack to start tomorrow’s race. I don’t care how it happened, I just care that it happened – and it made me absolutely ecstatic.

  6. Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 24th August 2013, 16:55

    Qualifying today was Spa ( and F1 as a whole) at it’s best. By far the best qualifying session of the season currently. I think the drivers out on slicks early in Q3 lucked into their strategies and that Di Resta and Massa actually made the right calls on strategy but because of the typical Spa weather, they were unfortunate to miss out on a higher grid position. But the likes of the Red Bulls and Hamilton made their own luck via not calling it a day and going into the pits thinking that the weather got worst to the point where they were out of contention for pole, instead they stayed out and fortunately the track suddenly improved and came to them. These strategies evidently show that teams have different radars that tell different stories.

    It was startling how Rosberg was able to get around half a second of Di Resta’s benchmark never mind pip him for pole a lap later. I don’t think Di Resta and Force India will be lamenting of “what could’ve been” but rather complimenting themselves and thinking that they narrowly missed out because of unpredictable weather.

  7. JackySteeg (@jackysteeg) said on 24th August 2013, 17:33

    Brilliant! Successfully predicted the pole winner for once! Pole time was 14 seconds off but I’ve got something right!

  8. fangio85 (@fangio85) said on 24th August 2013, 17:57

    Wow lucky guys at the front. The track dried incredibly quick. Watching hamiltons pole lap, I count six huge apex misses, looked like an incredibly average lap, and yet it was pole. Shows how unpredictable spa weather is. Must have dried very quickly to allow such a lap to put Lewis on pole. That’s racing though, a few people in the lower half of the top ten probably thought they had the right strategy call. Here’s hoping for an equally unpredictable race!

  9. zimkazimka (@zimkazimka) said on 24th August 2013, 18:00

    no comments on Gutierrez?

  10. JCost (@jcost) said on 24th August 2013, 18:32

    Merc seems to be on the back foot, so it’s good to see Ham leading the grid, maybe Rosberg gets a good start and splits the bulls. Hoping for a good race, particularly because it’s gonna be my first GP at Spa. Can’t wait.

  11. Jimmyt (@jimmyt) said on 24th August 2013, 19:14

    I was surprised Massa kept his time in Q3 as he appeared to have all 4 wheels over the white line as he went through Eau Rouge at the start of his fast lap. Not that it would have made any difference to his gird placing.

  12. Top three guys got lucky with when they were out. I think Rosberg would have beat Hamilton if he could have got the extra lap in.

    Couldn’t believe it in the press conference when Hamilton talked about Red Bull with their “incredible pace”. What’s this guy watching? They haven’t had the best car since Montreal and before that was Bahrain. Mercedes were far and away the best car in Hungary.

    Alonso blew it again. Sure he got caught out by not getting that extra lap in, but before that he could only manage 4th best while Rosberg was on pole. Both Ferrari and Lotus are probably the fastest cars. Mercedes could be 3rd or 4th fastest tomorrow. Even McLaren might be quicker than Red Bull in dry race conditions.

    If Vettel can manage a podium it will be a small miracle.

  13. Bobby (@f1bobby) said on 24th August 2013, 21:14

    Hamilton was brilliant. Very exciting session throughout.

  14. kbdavies (@kbdavies) said on 24th August 2013, 21:40

    I wonder how McLaren now feel about the 50% paycut they offered Lewis last year? The driver who replaced him is in 13th, and the one he regularly outqualified is in 6th. If Jenson could put that McLaren in 6th, the Lewis could have certainly beaten Rosberg’s time, or at least DiResta.

  15. scratt (@scratt) said on 24th August 2013, 21:48

    Was lucky enough to be invited into the Caterham garage for Q1 and Q2.
    Was great to see them get through to Q2.
    What a great bunch of people. :D

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