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Hamilton takes Spa pole

NEWS STORY
26/08/2017

Ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 23 degrees C, while the track temperature is 35 degrees. The overcast skies of FP1 have given way to sunshine (and a few clouds), with 0% chance of rain.

While Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheets in FP1 and earlier this morning, it is teammate Sebastian Vettel who is currently wearing the biggest grin, the German having agreed a new deal with Ferrari which sees him in red until 2020.

Lewis Hamilton was quickest in yesterday's second session, suggesting that Mercedes might be looking at another Silverstone-style weekend, but the performance of the Ferraris earlier has put doubt on that sort of domination.

Indeed, it was mixed morning for Mercedes, with Hamilton third, albeit just 0.001s off Vettel's pace, and Bottas fifth, the Finn clearly unhappy with the balance of his car.

Having ditched the Monza-style aero of yesterday, Daniel Ricciardo was a lot closer to his teammate's pace this morning, but both Red Bulls remain over a second shy of Raikkonen. Little wonder that Christian Horner is hoping for rain on Sunday.

Best of the rest earlier was Jolyon Palmer, the Renault driver under intense pressure to start delivering.

On a number of occasions the Force India pair were quickest in S1 but each time they failed to maintain the pace over a full lap, that said few would bet against another double points finish.

It was a mixed morning for Toro Rosso also, Carlos Sainz finishing ninth quickest, while Daniil Kvyat brought out the double yellows when he suffered a loss of power on the Kemmel Straight.

Rounding out the top ten was Fernando Alonso, who, thus far, has escaped the penalty blitz his teammate has suffered this weekend, Stoffel Vandoorne currently facing a demotion of around 65 grid positions. And the weekend is still young.

Williams, which has had a torrid weekend so far, what with Felipe Massa's crash in FP1 and then a fine following a mix-up over Lance Stroll's tyre, had more bad news earlier when the Brazilian was handed a 5-place grid penalty for not slowing under the waved double yellows.

Ahead of the opening phase of the session, work continues on the cars of both Kvyat and Ericsson.

The lights go green and Hamilton leads the way, followed by Bottas, Perez, Ocon and Raikkonen. The Finn reports a "massive, massive vibration from the rear".

Hamilton gets things underway with a 44.316, with Bottas posting 44.773 moments later, the Finn quickest in the first and final sector.

Raikkonen splits the Mercedes duo with a 44.729 but moments later he is demoted when Vettel bangs in a 44.275.

The top four, all on the supersofts, are covered by 0.498s.

Massa goes fifth and Stroll sixth, both over 2s off the pace, despite being on ultras.

Still unhappy with his vibration, Raikkonen is told to pit.

A 45.673 sees Vandoorne go fifth, ahead of the Williams duo.

Hamilton begins another flying lap, the Briton going quickest in S1. Meanwhile Verstappen posts 44.535 - on the ultras - to go third.

Hamilton crosses the line at 44.184 to go quickest despite only two PBs.

As was the case earlier, the Force India duo are blitzing S1. Question is, can they maintain the pace?

Ocon goes seventh with a 45.277, while Perez posts 45.591 to go eighth, both losing time in S2.

Alonso goes tenth, slipping in behind his teammate, as Bottas improves but remains fifth 0.589s off the pace.

Palmer splits the Force Indias with a 45.447 as Kvyat and Ericsson head out.

With 3:00 remaining, the Saubers are joined by Grosjean, Kvyat and Stroll in the drop zone, with Massa, Sainz and Magnussen hovering.

Grosjean improves to twelfth with a 45.728, while teammate Magnussen goes eighth.

Vandoorne gives Alonso a tow up the hill allowing the Spaniard to post a PB. Another PB in S3 sees the McLaren driver improve to 11th (45.668).

As Massa begins a flying lap, it looks as though Stroll won't be going out again.

Massa improves to fifteenth (45.823) but a late improvement from Sainz means the Brazilian is out.

A late improvement also for Vandoorne, courtesy of a nice tow through Blanchimont from his teammate, who goes tenth with a 45.441.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Vettel, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Vandoorne.

We lose Massa, Kvyat, Stroll, Ericsson and Wehrlein.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spa, here.

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