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Belgian GP: Qualifying notes - Pirelli

NEWS STORY
22/08/2015

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has equalled Michael Schumacher's run of six consecutive pole positions, after going fastest in qualifying at Spa on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tyre. This was also the ninth Mercedes one-two of the season, with Hamilton's pole time of 1m47.197s.

Hamilton and his team mate Nico Rosberg were the only drivers to get through Q1 on the medium tyre. Not only that, but they were first and second fastest respectively, during their second run on the medium compound.

From Q2 onwards, the drivers all used the soft compound, which is currently around 1.4/1.5 seconds per lap faster than the medium tyre. Once again, the two Mercedes were fastest: a pattern that was repeated in Q3.

The final top 10 shootout was clinched by Hamilton after the second of two runs on the soft tyre, with Rosberg just under half a second behind. However, historically Spa is not a circuit where starting on pole is crucial for race victory, meaning that an unpredictable battle is still likely tomorrow.

Unusually for Spa, the weather remained warm and dry all day, with track temperatures exceeding 40 degrees centigrade. Dry conditions are expected to continue tomorrow, but the microclimate around the Ardennes region means that nothing can be taken for granted.

Hamilton's stunning form was also reflected in the final free practice session this morning, during which he again topped the times, using the medium tyre.

Paul Hembery: "The battle for pole between the two Mercedes drivers was stunning, with very little to choose between them right up to the end of qualifying on this amazing track. With a significant performance gap between the medium and soft compounds, and quite high degradation expected, there is plenty of scope for strategy here at Spa, with at least two pit stops anticipated for the majority of competitors. We've got a few drivers starting out of position due to penalties or other problems, so it's going to be interesting to see how they tailor their strategies and use the tyres they have saved to move up through the field."

The strategy predictor

The fastest strategy on paper for the 44-lap race is theoretically a two-stopper (start on soft, soft again on lap 15, medium on lap 30). However, some drivers might try a three-stop S/S/S/M sprint strategy to limit tyre degradation and gain track position - but this depends on individual patterns of tyre usage and traffic.

Check out our Saturday gallery, here.

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