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Hamilton takes pole at Spa

NEWS STORY
29/08/2020

Going into today's qualifying session the question on most lips isn't so much who will take pole, but rather where will Ferrari end up.

Twelve months ago the Maranello cars were first in every practice session, going onto lock-out the front row and win, courtesy of Charles Leclerc, making his debut on the top step of the podium.

This morning they finished 17th and 20th, and while the shambles of sending everyone out together in the final moments of a session appears to have become, traffic jam or no traffic jam the Maranello pair wouldn't have fared any better.

While Mattia Binotto might blame the tyres, weather, aero or the colour of Vettel's underpants, the fact is the team - and its customers - has never recovered following the investigation of its 2019 engine, the engine that powered the team to three successive wins last year.

On a day the Italian team will celebrate getting both cars through Q3, Binotto and his men must look ahead to Monza with trepidation, while there looks to be very little to celebrate at Mugello the week after.

The nonsense of the final moments of this morning's session means that we don't have a grip on the pecking order, but, other than Mercedes, Red Bull is looking very strong, while Racing Point is also well up in the mix.

While McLaren, Renault and AlphaTauri have had their moments over the course of the three sessions, the latter two have suffered various issues that suggest that while pace is good reliability could be a factor.

Veteran Kimi Raikkonen has consistently finished ahead of the Ferraris this weekend, but it's worth noting that the Finn had a number of his lap times delated earlier after he exceeded track limits at T19. With the FIA clamping down on the practice we may yet see other drivers fall foul of the much-needed rule.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 16.1 degrees C, while the track temperature is 24 degrees, the heat of Barcelona, even Silverstone, a distant memory.

The lights go green and the Haas pair - who have endured a traumatic weekend thus far - are the first to head out. We saw the pair running as one earlier, and it does indeed appear that they were practicing tows.

Grosjean is the quicker of the pair in S1, while his teammate has the edge in S2. At the line Magnussen posts 45.377 and Grosjean 45.073.

At which point Ocon, Norris, Verstappen, Ricciardo and a whole load of others head out.

As the Haas pair prepare for the second flying laps, all 20 drivers are on track.

Norris goes quickest in S1 but then Gasly goes quicker. However, in S2 Verstappen posts a purple, going on to cross the line at 43.408. Gasly goes second (43.475) ahead of Norris.

Leclerc posts 44.228 to go sixth, but as more drivers post times the youngster slides down the timesheet.

Ricciardo goes quickest (43.309), ahead of Sainz and Verstappen, only to be demoted when Hamilton posts 42.323 and Bottas 42.534.

Following the first wave, it's: Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Sainz, Verstappen, Albon, Stroll, Gasly, Ocon and Perez. Leclerc is 14th and Vettel 18th.

Along with Vettel, Latifi, Raikkonen, Grosjean and Magnussen comprise the drop zone, with Giovinazzi, Leclerc, Russell and Kvyat hovering.

Magnussen improves to 17th with a 44.314 while Verstappen goes third with a 43.197, the Red Bull driver clearly having fuelled for two flying laps.

With 3:50 remaining the field, bar Magnussen and Verstappen, head out for the final assault.

Again, the majority of drivers head out as one, Grosjean keen to work his way through the traffic.

With drivers seeking tows form the teammates, the traffic loads to a number of drivers almost tripping up over their colleagues.

Leclerc is in clear air, but can the Monegasque take advantage?

As one would expect there are lots of PBs in the opening sectors, but no really significant improvements.

Leclerc goes 12th (43.656), as Gasly goes 4th and Kvyat 5th. Vettel goes 13th and leapfrogs his teammate.

Stroll goes fifth, Russell 14th and Perez 9th. Vettel is 14th.

Leclerc makes the cut by the skin of his teeth, finishing 15th, but we lose Raikkonen, Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Latifi and Magnussen.

Quickest was Hamilton, ahead of Bottas, Verstappen, Gasly, Stroll, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Sainz, Perez and Albon.

Having made it into Q2, it is highly unlikely that either Ferrari driver will progress further, but who else will fail to make the cut and will anyone attempt to qualify on the mediums?

The lights go green for Q2 and with an eye on the sky there are soon 8 drivers on track, with the Mercedes pair leading the way.

The Mercedes pair are on mediums as are the Points and Verstappen, the rest are on softs.

Hamilton sets the benchmark, crossing the line at 42.014. Bottas posts 42.126, Norris 42.827 and Sainz 42.959.

A 42.777 sees Gasly go third, but in an instant he is demoted by Ocon, Ricciardo and Verstappen (42.473).

Albon goes sixth with a 42.722.

Leclerc goes 13th (43.959) but is subsequently demoted when his Ferrari teammate stops the clock at 43.693.

Russell has pitted without posting a time.

Fourth and fifth for Renault is very good, though Ricciardo reports a brake-by-wire issue.

Surprising that the Points are 11th (Stroll) and 12th on the mediums. Will they switch to the softs in order to climb the timesheet?

The Points lead the way as the final assault gets underway, followed by Russell, Gasly, Leclerc and Ocon. As more drivers head out all are on the red-banded rubber.

Norris reports that Ocon is "moving quite dangerously".

All are on track bar Ricciardo who has that brake issue.

Stroll goes quickest in S1, with teammate Perez only marginally slower.

Perez goes 6th but is demoted when Stroll goes 5th.

Leclerc goes 13th and Kvyat 10th, thereby demoting his teammate.

Vettel can only manage 14th (43.261), while Ocon goes 8th.

Albon goes third, ahead of his teammate, who aborts his lap, as do the Mercedes pair.

"****, there is nothing more I can do," sighs Leclerc.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Bottas, Albon, Verstappen, Sainz, Ricciardo, Stroll, Ocon, Perez and Norris.

We lose Kvyat, Gasly, Leclerc, Vettel and Russell.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spa, here.

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