Hamilton storms to Spa pole

22/08/2015
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's qualifying session the air temperature is 22 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 39 degrees. It remains bright and sunny.

With only three pole-sitters going on to win the race in the last ten years, the usually coveted position is clearly not quite as critical here.

Following this morning's dramas, this morning's final practice session was somewhat muted, the only incident being a couple of wobbles and drivers getting a little frustrated with one another.

Having been out-paced by his teammate in both of yesterday's sessions, this morning it was Lewis Hamilton's turn to lead the way, the Briton edging out his main title rival by 0.498.

Having finished behind the Red Bulls yesterday, Ferrari flexed its muscles this morning, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen looking strong, though not as strong as the Mercedes duo, particularly in S2.

Sergio Perez was fifth quickest, ahead of the Red Bull duo, with teammate Nico Hulkenberg eighth, the force India strong in the first two sector but losing out in the third.

Despite Rob Smedley's assurances that his team is confident, Williams has failed to impress thus far, both drivers over a second off the pace.

Though the Toro Rosso duo are outside the top ten, both drivers got through a busy programme and the Faenza outfit is looking stronger than its position on the timesheets suggests.

And then there's McLaren. As expected both drivers are to have new engines this afternoon, which means that having incurred a 55-place penalty between them yesterday, will incur a further 50 places today. And they wonder who some people are losing interest in the sport.

Alonso and Button are not alone in being hit with penalties, with Grosjean set to lose out (5 places) following a gearbox change and Verstappen (10 places) after his team changed his engine.

The lights go green and Bottas leads the way, followed by Maldonado and Merhi, the Manor driver is already on the option rubber, as is Nasr.

Merhi posts 54.079 to get proceedings underway, but this is soon beaten by Bottas who stops the clock at 50.195. Moments later however, Hamilton goes top with a 49.577.

No messing as Rosberg eclipses his teammate by 0.079s, whilst Perez and Hulkenberg take fourth and fifth for Force India.

Nasr goes fourth, but like his teammate he is on the softs.

Vettel goes quickest in S1 as Raikkonen can only manage 51.139 to go ninth overall following a mistake at Rivage (T8). Vettel posts 50.187 to go third, 0.689s off Rosberg's pace.

Sainz (softs) goes fifth with a 50.238 as Button posts 52.919 to go sixteenth. Moments later teammate Alonso goes seventeenth (53.214).

Perez heads out on the options as Massa finally leave his garage, the Brazilian also on the softer rubber.

With just over five minutes remaining, the Ferrari duo also switch to options, as more and more drivers make the switch. Rosberg is out again but on the primes, Mercedes clearly confident at this stage.

Perez goes quickest in S1 and Maldonado in S2. Hulkenberg splits the Mercedes duo with a 49.499 as Perez goes quickest with a 49.006. A 49.288 sees Raikkonen go second, thereby demoting Hamilton to seventh.

Kvyat goes fifth (49.469) as Hamilton goes quickest in S2 on the harder tyre.

A 49.264 sees Vettel go second, as now Rosberg goes quickest in S1.

Despite being on the harder rubber, Hamilton goes quickest again, crossing the line at 48.908. Moments later teammate Rosberg posts 48.923. The Mercedes is simply awesome here.

"I've lost power," complains Verstappen, "there is something wrong." The Toro Rosso driver is currently seventeenth.

A late improvement for Ericsson ends Button's dream of making the cut, as Verstappen improves to thirteenth... despite having no power.

A late improvement also for Bottas, who posts 49.026 to go fourth and thereby demote Nasr.

Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Rosberg, Perez, Bottas, Sainz, Vettel, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Kvyat and Hulkenberg.

We lose Nasr, Button, Alonso, Stevens and Merhi.

As in Q1, Bottas is first out for Q2, his Williams teammate joining him shortly after. Both are on options which will be the case from here on in.

As Bottas begins his flying lap, Hamilton is told that he has no telemetry.

Bottas posts 49.678 as Hamilton and Rosberg trade fastest sector times.

Massa eclipses his teammate with a 49.645 but this is soon beaten by Hamilton (48.024) and then Rosberg (47.955). Early days, but that's 1.69s between the German and Massa.

Hulkenberg goes third (49.215) as Raikkonen grinds to a halt at Stavelot (T14). Replay has his car sounding like a steam train... "Something's wrong," reveals the Finn. "Understood, switch off," he is told.

Meanwhile, as Perez has gone third, and Ericsson seventh, the session is red flagged in order to allow Raikkonen's car to be removed.

A couple of minutes later the session resumes, the TV cameras picking up on Verstappen who is walking down the pitlane. Initial speculation suggests his session is over following that power loss problem in Q1. That said, after reporting the problem he went on to improve his time.

"That's it for us," the teenager, who is already facing a ten-place penalty, is told.

The session resumes but there is no mad rush to get back to work, indeed, only Kvyat and the Williams duo eventually head out. With less than four minutes remaining there is little room for error, especially if another driver encounters an issue that brings out the flags.

Vettel is one of eight drivers yet to post a time, including Raikkonen and Verstappen.

Kvyat post 49.228 to go seventh, but is it enough?

Perez and Ricciardo are both on hot laps, the Australian going sixth, only to be demoted by Maldonado.

Vettel goes third and Perez fourth, thereby demoting his own teammate.

A late charge sees Sainz go tenth, thereby dumping Hulkenberg into the drop zone, while Kvyat also misses the cut.

Rosberg is quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Perez, Massa, Maldonado, Grosjean, Ricciardo, Bottas and Sainz.

We lose Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Ericsson, Raikkonen and Verstappen.

Yet again, Bottas gets proceedings underway, the Finn followed by Grosjean, Hamilton and Massa.

At 197 mph, Perez is quickest through the speed-trap, ahead of Hamilton, Rosberg, Hulkenberg and Maldonado.

Soon, all bar Perez and Sainz are on track, various drivers posting purples on their out laps.

Bottas posts 48.567 to take provisional pole, with Grosjean posting 50.118 moments later.

A 47.449 see Hamilton go quickest with Rosberg posting 47.895 shortly after, the German 0.446s of the pace. Replay shows Rosberg making a mistake at T15.

Massa goes fourth, ahead of Ricciardo, Vettel, Maldonado and Grosjean.

With 3:38 remaining, the Lotus duo head down the pitlane, to get the final assault underway. Hamilton leaves the Mercedes garage, ahead of his teammate.

Perez, on his first run in Q3, goes quickest in S1. Moment later however, Rosberg goes quicker.

Grosjean improves to fourth (48.561) as Hamilton improves in S2.

The Briton improves to 47.197 whilst Rosberg also improves but remains 0.45s off the pace.

Disaster for Ferrari as Vettel can only manage ninth (48.825).

Hamilton takes pole, ahead of Rosberg, with Bottas third, ahead of Grosjean, Perez, Ricciardo, Massa, Maldonado, Vettel and Sainz.

Hulkenberg is eleventh, ahead of Kvyat, Ericsson, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Nasr, Button, Alonso, Stevens and Merhi.

Whilst it is clear that Mercedes has this virtually wrapped up, let's not forget last year's shenanigans.

Strong performance from Bottas, but how about Grosjean and Perez, whilst one can only speculate as to what went wrong for Vettel and, indeed, Ferrari.

So, an interesting grid for tomorrow's race and just to spice it up a little further there is talk of thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon.

It would take a lot to eclipse Hungary... but you never know.

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Published: 22/08/2015
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