Hamilton over Vettel in Spa Qualifying
Lewis Hamilton has won pole for the Belgian GP at Spa with a lap of 2m01.012s on the drying Ardennes mountain track. Sebastian Vettel had pole briefly with a lap of 2m01.200s but Hamilton followed him over the line on a drying track to take his fourth straight pole for Mercedes.
A rain shower at the start of Q3 made the tires a guessing game and for awhile it looked like Paul di Resta would snatch a sensational pole position for Force India.
But as the track dried up again, the Mercedes and Red Bulls blasted through to demote the Scot to fifth.
Afterward, Hamilton stood atop his car to wild cheers from his team and fans.
Sebastian Vettel (2nd, 2:01.200): "It wasn't clear if the first lap we did in Q3 was the lap on intermediate tires – so it was hard to know where we were today. We went out on slicks to start, which was quite entertaining as it started to rain pretty heavily. We then went onto intermediates and it still wasn't clear what would happen. It looked like there was more rain coming, so we all rushed to get a lap, but then it stopped and the circuit came back very quickly. The last lap tuned out to be the fastest with the circuit drying. It was difficult to know how fast you could go, I saw Lewis catching and thought I could have gone a bit quicker here and there, but in the end it was quite close across the line. In these conditions anything can happen. I'm happy today; the boys did a good job with the change from slicks to intermediates which got us an extra lap and it was a good day for the team."
Mark Webber (3rd, 2:01.325): "It was a difficult session to make all the right calls, but in the end I think we got most things right. I think it's very easy to look stupid in those conditions, but in the end we did most things pretty good I'd say. It's a little bit bizarre with the DRS going on and off in the session, but it's the same for everyone. It was a ballsy thing to go slower on the second to last lap to save the tires, when you're still not sure if the track will improve for the last lap, but in the end it worked out and I'm happy to be up there for tomorrow's race."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A really tense and exciting qualifying through all three sessions where the weather played its inevitable part. The boys did a tremendous job on the final turnaround in Q3 to get both cars back out on track so quickly, which enabled Mark and Sebastian to get three timed laps each; their last laps were enough to put them second and third on the grid. So, despite the opportunity to get everything wrong today, we managed to get most of it right. It's good to be starting second and third for tomorrow's race, which will no doubt see the weather play a part."
Thierry Salvi, Renault: "I'm sure everyone will say it, but we almost won the lottery, we just came up one number short! But a great effort from the team to finish P2 and P3, putting us in a perfect position for the race. We already know the power and the speed is there in the dry, so tomorrow it will be a case of staying on top of the fuel numbers, maps and tires to take every opportunity."
Fernando Alonso (9th, 2:03.482):
Felipe Massa (10th, 2:04.059):
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal:
Luca di Montezemolo:
Jenson Button (6th, 2:03.075): "In the dry we were relatively happy with our pace, and in the wet I reckon it was a bit better still. I think P6 for us was an okay outcome, therefore. However, we're still lacking a little bit compared with what we'd hoped for here, which shortfall we suspect is the result of an aero efficiency issue. We'll have to analyze that thoroughly before Monza. But, going back to Spa, our timing was just a little bit off at the end of Q3, which enabled the top three guys to put in laps quicker than ours. Even so, the fact that there are three Brits in the top six is just great. Looking forward to tomorrow, if the weather is wet, or changeable, as we expect it to be, then things could get tricky for all the front-runners, because I think we've all used our supply of inters. Anyway, let's see what happens. It should be an exciting race."
Sergio Perez (13th, 1:49.304): "In tricky conditions like today's you have to be in the right place at the right time, and it's a pity we couldn't optimize our potential by doing that, because on a wet track our car is pretty strong and we therefore had a very good opportunity to qualify well here this afternoon. So I'm a bit disappointed, of course, because we went out a bit too late and thereby lost the 'window', preventing us from being able to put in a lap that would have moved us through to Q3. It's a pity, because the track was improving quickly at that time, and we'd have therefore been able to improve our lap time significantly. But that's racing – and tomorrow is another day – and our car should be reasonably competitive if it rains. So I'll try my best to make up for today's disappointment by scoring some good points for the team tomorrow."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "In the portion of Q3 during which the track was wet, Jenson was the second-quickest driver out there – so, although P6 is a decent place from which to start, he would have been closer still to the sharp end of the grid had the rain persisted until the end of the session. Having said that, he did a great job and is well placed to drive a competitive race in tomorrow's race, which we expect will be a wet one. Checo had an even more frustrating time of it this afternoon, missing the one-more-lap cut-off flag by a second or two at the end of Q2, else he too would have made it comfortably into Q3. Even so, like Jenson, I'm sure he'll drive competitively tomorrow, using the likely wet conditions to his advantage in an effort to move through the field and score some valuable world championship points for us. So, overall, today was a bit frustrating for us from a number of perspectives, but our pace has been decent in the wet conditions that we expect tomorrow so we have reason to be guardedly optimistic about the race."
Romain Grosjean (7th, 2:03.081): "It wasn't an easy session today with the changing weather and while it's good to be in the top ten, it wasn't exactly what we were hoping for. It was a big challenge to know what condition the track was in, to make the right decisions at the right time and to adjust the speed according to the weather. At the end of qualifying you needed to be on the on track at the right time. I'll work with the engineers later to assess why Kimi was a bit quicker in the dry, where we can improve in the wet, and options in terms of strategy. I'll give my best in the race tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen (8th, 2:03.390): "When it was dry in the second qualifying session we were fastest, so if it's dry tomorrow we should be okay for the race; even though we will not start from a great position. The last qualifying session was wet and our car does not give its best in these types of conditions. Any lap which came right at the end of the session would have helped, but if it stayed dry it would have helped more. Tomorrow is another day so we'll just have to wait and see what happens."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "It was a frustrating session for the team. The weather conditions were difficult, but the same for everyone. We displayed great pace in the dry with Kimi fastest in Q2, but unfortunately the rain returned for the final phase. We tried to get a lap in right at the start on dry tires, but the rain beat the start of the session so we had to change to intermediates. Seventh and eighth on the grid isn't where we want to be, but at least we're in the top ten. As we qualified on intermediate tires we can start a dry race on either dry compound. A dry race would be better for us, but we can't influence the weather. If it's a wet race, there are many different permutations and conditions possible so we'll be fighting for the very best result we can achieve."
Lewis Hamilton (1st, 2:01.012): "A fourth pole in a row just feels fantastic! The team did a great job to get the timing at the end of Q3 absolutely perfect and I was in exactly the right track position. I was so surprised when I came across the line to hear I was P1. I went wide in the first corner and I thought I was down on time from the read-out on my steering wheel. I just kept pushing and did a strong middle sector, then I could see I was catching Sebastian towards the end so it was a great feeling. I hope we can try and fight it out tomorrow, whatever the conditions. The Red Bulls are still ahead of us in terms of performance so results like this feel even more special because I know I've got the absolute maximum out of myself and out of the car."
Nico Rosberg (4th, 2:02.251): "It was a very difficult qualifying session and unfortunately luck wasn't on my side today. When I took the checkered flag, I was quickest at that time, but the track quicker and quicker for the guys who had got the extra lap and eventually ended up in the top three positions, so I must be happy with fourth place on the grid. Our car seems pretty good in all conditions here this weekend which makes me hopeful of a strong race performance tomorrow afternoon."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "It was obviously a very tricky session for everybody this afternoon and we were far from perfect but we did enough things right to get the job done. In the closing seconds of Q3, track position was critical and Lewis - running last on the road on the final lap - did a great job with the opportunity he had. We were not sure how it would turn out as DRS had been disabled for that final lap, then we saw his time in the second sector and started to get excited. Nico didn't get the extra lap but he was fastest of all when his session ended and it's a fantastic team result to have two cars starting in the top four after such a mixed qualifying. We are expecting similar conditions tomorrow so we will have a good chance of success. But we will have to run a smart race and make the right decisions to do achieve it."
Toto Wolff, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "That was a very tough qualifying session and another one where it was easier to get things wrong than right. It was very close indeed for Lewis in Q2 when he made it through by just two-hundredths of a second and that showed how challenging the entire hour was in terms of tactics and strategy. It was crucial to get on track at the right time and our result in Q3 was a great team performance. Both drivers produced special laps: Nico was top of the timesheets when he took the checkered flag and then Lewis delivered another of his magic laps, especially in the middle sector. Our engineers have clearly found a good set-up for these mixed conditions and we are expecting more of the same kind of weather tomorrow."
Nico Hulkenberg (11th, 1:49.088): "It was a tricky day again qualifying in weather conditions like these. This morning I was struggling a bit on the medium tire. Again this afternoon it wasn't' the easiest, but I guess that's the same for everyone with the weather, as it's always challenging. It was a wet Q1, which is always exciting, but I think we did a solid job there. We were only missing about three hundredths to get into Q3. P11 seems to stick to me. But it's a good starting point for tomorrow. I hope we have a good race pace, so that we can score some points."
Esteban Gutierrez (21st, 2:04.324): "I'm much happier with the car today. We were able to solve the issues we had in FP2 yesterday. Everything was looking good until the last part of Q1. We changed to a new set of intermediates too early, and that was the wrong choice. The track was drying and the tires were gone after one lap, which was the main issue. There is not much we could have done at that moment, when the decision was already made, but I tried to do the best with what I had. In these weather conditions, it all comes down to the right tire selection. Tomorrow will be a gamble too as the forecast is changeable. It will come down to the strategy, so we have to be very flexible, open to everything and very efficient. Whether it's a dry or a wet race, we need to get it right."
Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal: "The result today does not reflect our true potential. We came ever so close to our direct competitors this weekend and made a step forward. That's why I'm not satisfied with the result, particularly because we missed Q3 yet again by just three hundredths of a second. The chance to still score points in the race tomorrow is quite high, so we will concentrate on that now."
Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering: "We were happy with the overnight changes we made, and the cars performed well in the dry FP3. It was a typical eventful, wet-dry Spa-Francorchamps qualifying. Ultimately, for Esteban we didn't make the most of it going out in Q1. For Nico it was frustrating in Q2 being so close to make it to Q3. Maybe we were a bit conservative running the new tire a bit earlier than some of the competition. But this is a circuit where anything can happen in the race, and we'll make the most with our strategy tomorrow."
Paul di Resta (5th, 2:02.332): "Fifth place on the grid is a great result. At the start of Q3 I knew that I wanted to go straight out on the intermediates. It was a brave decision and the team let me go ahead with it, while the others chose dry tires. I knew it was our best chance to get up towards the front of the grid and it paid off. It's a shame that the rain stopped a bit too early because there were only a few cars that were quicker than us in the wet and they just got ahead at the end of the session. The main thing is we are in a strong position for tomorrow and we will come back tomorrow ready to fight."
Adrian Sutil (12th, 1:49.103): "I'm feeling disappointed with how things ended up today because I think we had the potential to get a better result. In Q2 I was on my final flying lap a bit too early and the track was getting quicker all the time. So we should have waited a bit longer and I think that would have made the difference to make the top ten. Also, I had some traffic on my fastest lap and that cost me some time."
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal: "As soon as it started raining before qualifying we knew that it was likely to be an unpredictable qualifying session. The track conditions were constantly changing from wet to dry and it was vital to be on track at the right time on the right tires. With Paul we judged this pretty much to perfection and for a while we were looking good for a front row start. But the rain eased up and he dropped down to fifth, which is still an excellent result. Adrian looked competitive in Q2 but we didn't maximize our time on the drying track and he missed out on Q3. The big question mark for tomorrow is the weather. We've looked more competitive in the dry, but whatever the conditions we will push hard to come away with a strong result."
Pastor Maldonado (17th, 2:03.072): "Today the changing weather conditions made it difficult to be on the right tires at the right time and we went on to the intermediate tire a bit too early. The lap here is very long and by the time I got to my second lap when the track was improving, the tires had already gone and I couldn't be competitive. The cars race pace is quite good so we will be pushing hard to make up places and I still think we have an opportunity to finish in the top 10."
Valtteri Bottas (20th, 2:03.432): "It was a disappointing qualifying because we had the ability to be higher but we were caught out by the changing track conditions. We went out on intermediate tires earlier than others but the track was drying faster than we expected and by the end we could probably have got away with being on dry tires. We were also struggling for overall grip on the intermediates and we were sliding quite a lot in the corners and this was losing us time. It's a shame as there was a good opportunity to do well today, but hopefully the weather will be like this tomorrow as it gives us the chance to look at different strategy options."
Xevi Pujolar, Chief Race Engineer: "We knew qualifying would be wet and it started well with the track getting better throughout Q1. The end of the session would be where it was all decided and we brought both cars in for a new set of intermediate tires. A few teams took the risk to change onto dry tires, which worked for them, although the majority came in for intermediates as well. We were at the front of the queue so had time for more laps, but as the tires were at their best on the first lap it meant that as the track improved we were unable to improve our times and unfortunately we did not progress beyond Q1. Overtaking is possible at Spa-Francorchamps and we have a good car for the race with a good top speed, so we can still make progress in the race tomorrow."
Jean-Eric Vergne (18th, 2:03.300): "What happened today is easy to explain, it was just a team mistake. These things shouldn't happen, but everyone gets it wrong now and again. It is very frustrating, as the car has been good enough this weekend to qualify really well in either the wet or the dry. As soon as I left the pits for the second time, I knew I was in trouble and I also had a bit of trouble with traffic, with some cars on slicks around me. Therefore, this was a clear missed opportunity, as I believe I could have been in the top five in the dry and the car was clearly working well in the wet too. It's going to take me a bit of time to get over the disappointment, but now there is no use getting angry and, in any case, I really believe I can still have a good race tomorrow and score some points. We can learn from this afternoon and ensure we don't make this mistake again."
Daniel Ricciardo (19th, 2:03.317): "That was down to bad timing more than anything else. We went out at the very start of the session and that went fine, with a wet track and the chance of it getting a bit wetter before drying out later. I believe we should have waited a bit longer before fitting the second set of Intermediates. We went out too early for that second run and by the second lap, the tires were already worn and that was when the track conditions were at their best. Obviously, it's very frustrating, but now all we can do is put it behind us and concentrate on tomorrow. We have to learn from this and make sure we get it right next time."
James Key, Technical Director: "Up until Q1 we had been having a strong weekend, looking competitive in the dry and not too bad in the wet either in FP1. Jean-Eric in particular was showing good form and looking forward to qualifying, so we went into Q1 knowing there was a good chance the track would dry out towards the end. We timed our final tire change at a similar moment to others, but somehow we were in the wrong place at the wrong time today: we should have had two cars in Q3, instead they both went out in Q1. Should we have switched to slicks? Some of the cars that are usually at the back of the grid took that risk, but in our case, it's hard to know. As a team, we should apologize to the drivers, work out what went wrong to ensure we don't do it again and, most importantly, see what we can do to still get the best out of the cars tomorrow."
Giedo van der Garde (14th, 1:52.036): "What a fantastic day! I'm so pleased for the whole team that we made our second appearance of the year in Q2, that we finished clear of the Marussias and start the race from 14th. It was a pretty brave call to be the first to go out on slicks and for the first lap it looked like it might not pay off, but then on the final lap of Q1 I had it all hooked up just right and finished the session the highest we've ever been in Q1. I have to say I didn't really believe it when my engineer Juan told me where we were – I was just at the top of Eau Rouge on the cool down lap and he said I was in P3! That was such a good feeling, for me, the team and everyone who's supported me. In Q2 we knew that if it stayed dry we'd be aiming for 14th and we went out on a set of mediums knowing we had to keep pushing as the track got better and better. I think there was maybe a little more lap time if we'd maybe started the run a bit later, but, realistically, not enough to go into Q3 so finishing 14th, over 0.5 seconds clear of our nearest rival was the target and we achieved it by good work from everyone. Saturday had started well after the guys did a good job on Friday night, making a number of changes to the car that meant I started Saturday with much better balance and with the oversteer we'd had on Friday gone. FP3 was a good session for me and we made further improvements on both runs on the hard tires and on the mediums which were working pretty well on the performance run, but we knew there was still more to come in quali. We couldn't have dreamt it would come together well enough for Q1 to end with me in P3, but we took full advantage of the conditions today and 14th is a just reward for being brave and taking our chance."
Charles Pic (22nd, 2:07.384): "Saturday started well for me. On the first FP3 run the car balance immediately felt better than either session on Friday, especially mid-corner so it was easier to put the car where I wanted it in the corners. Overnight we'd also improved the downforce levels so the whole package felt better. For run two we made a small change to improve grip and that also worked so we went onto the option tires with a car that was working well and that carried through to the performance run. For quali the rain had started just before the session but it wasn't too heavy so we went straight out on a set of intermediate tires which we had good pace on in the wet conditions. My first run was good and a dry line was just starting to appear when I came in to pit. Unfortunately I was then called to the weighbridge which cost us the time needed to do three laps with the set of slicks so the team made the call to stay on the inters for the second run and unfortunately it didn't work out. I'm obviously pleased for the team that Giedo made it through to Q2 but now my focus is on fighting for a decent finish tomorrow and with the weather looking like it could be as changeable as it was today we could have some good opportunities to fight in the race."
Jules Bianchi (15th, 1:52.563): "Today is a fantastic result for the Team, who were so happy to be back in Q2. This was a nice feeling for everybody, including myself, as this was also the first Q2 of my F1 career. Things have been steadily improving for us over the weekend and I'm really happy that all the hard work paid off for us today. This result was not about luck because everyone was faced with the same dilemma at the end of the Q1 session; whether it might be too dry for the Intermediate tire or too wet for slicks. On the first lap on the final run it was hard to make up my mind what to do; only the drivers could see what the track condition was really like and it was different from corner to corner. By the end of the lap I had decided just to go for it and stay on the Medium tire and that gamble was exactly the right call. Tomorrow we line up on the seventh row, which will be a nice moment, but of course we don't really know what the weather will bring. We have everything to gain and we will make the most of every opportunity."
Max Chilton (16th, 1:52.766): "What a great day for everyone! Together with Jules I'm so pleased to help put the Team into Q2 again. It was such a tricky qualifying, and as we can see from the classification, it's difficult to make the right calls at a track where the lap is so long that the conditions are so different from corner to corner. When we switched to the dry tire for the final run I was worried we may have made the wrong call and might have to switch back to the Intermediate but I also knew the track was drying quickly and we could easily make another wrong call by changing back. The engineers put the decision in my hands and I was undecided until the final corner, when I just made a judgment call in an instant and opted to stay out. I'm happy to say it was the right call and we went on to enjoy a strong Q2, when my time was pretty pleasing given that on my final run I was fuelled for two timed laps. I can't wait for tomorrow's race now, rain or shine."
John Booth, Team Principal: "A fantastic result for the Team and it's great to know that we have come so far operationally that we can now handle the scenario we saw today with such confidence. Although it is not the first time the Team has been in Q2, it is the first time that we achieved this with 'both' cars and in such challenging conditions. These were probably the most challenging wet conditions we have endured in Q1 in terms of the variation of water level through the lap and it really took mature heads on both of our drivers to take the necessary decisions guided by information provided from the garage. In general it has been a good day overall; we've seen a good balance on the car this morning, particularly for Jules, but during qualifying both drivers were the happiest they had been with the car all weekend, which should stand us in good stead for the race. We do however have both feet firmly on the ground and in what could be another wet scenario, remaining in our grid position will be tough. Nonetheless, it is a target every single member of the Team will be pushing for and we will make the most of every opportunity. Today's result is a great reward for all the hard work the Team and Cosworth have carried out to come back from a challenging set of races recently to enable us to fare better at circuits which now play to the strength of our package."
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