Button wins pole for Belgian GP at Spa
It was Button's first pole for McLaren and his first pole since Monaco in 2009 when he drove for Brawn.
Michael Schumacher is not yet enjoying his landmark 300th grand prix.
The great German arrived at his favorite circuit Spa-Francorchamps to mark the special occasion with a brand new platinum helmet.
But he got in trouble in Friday's rain, incurring a EUR 2500 fine for an illegal run into the pitlane.
Schumacher then qualified an unlucky 13th, although it was at least better than Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg's dire run to 18th, which becomes even worse due to a grid penalty for a gearbox change.
Also moving fives places back is Mark Webber, the highest-ranked points runner behind championship leader Fernando Alonso.
In the sister Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel failed even to make it out of Q2, while Australian Webber's seventh place becomes 12th due to a gearbox change.
"I'd have like to have been further up to take the sting out of the penalty, but we weren't fast enough," said the Australian.
Neither Mark Webber nor Sebastian Vettel were particularly unhappy with their personal performances at Spa on Saturday. Instead, both Red Bull drivers admitted that the RB8 is simply not quick enough in its current configuration.
“I was pretty happy with my lap, to be honest,” Vettel said after being eliminated from Q2. “It was just not quick enough. This morning it felt alright but this afternoon I just couldn’t put it together. My lap was okay but it just wasn’t quick enough.”
With Webber taking a five-place penalty for a gearbox change, his second in three races, he will line up 12th on the Spa grid with Vettel just two places ahead.
“Yeah…disappointed,” the Australian commented. “I think that we would have liked to have been further up the grid, no question about it. It was not quick enough to day to challenge for the front row, so I couldn’t take the sting out of the penalty. I was pretty happy with my lap. The maximum, absolute maximum, was P5.”
This means that Fernando Alonso, despite managing no more than sixth position for Ferrari, only has Kimi Raikkonen ahead of him as a title contender.
More than fast enough, meanwhile, was McLaren's Jenson Button, whose Belgian pole was his first qualifying triumph in 50 attempts with the British team.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton, eighth, was unhappy.
"Jenson has the new rear wing on, I have the old," he Tweeted. "I lose 4 tenths just on the straight."
Kimi Raikkonen was called to the stewards but escaped any punishment after an off-track moment on his quickest qualifying lap for the Belgian Grand Prix. The Finn now starts third, as Pastor Maldonado has been penalized for blocking Nico Hülkenberg.
No word came from the stewards, including ex F1 driver Eliseo Salazar, until almost two and a half hours after qualifying. Although Raikkonen placed all wheels off-track at Eau Rouge, the FIA adjudicators did not feel that the Lotus driver had gained an advantage.
The Finnish World Champion of 2007 has won four of his last five Belgian Grand Prix, with the last having also been his most recent Formula 1 victory – for Ferrari in 2009.
Mark Webber (7th, 1:48.392):"I'm disappointed. We would like to have been higher up the grid to take the sting out of the penalty (5 places), but we'll have to see what we can do tomorrow. We weren't quick enough and couldn't challenge for the front row today; I was pretty happy with my lap but I think P5 would have been our maximum today. We have a long race tomorrow and there should be some good opportunities to come through the field. Clearly we're out of position a little and we have work to do, but the Team is a quality operation and we know what hard work is all about. We just need to keep pushing."
Sebastian Vettel (11th, 1:48.792):"I felt pretty good this morning, the laps didn't come together but the car felt good. There was nothing obvious that was wrong this afternoon, I was pretty happy with my lap, it was clean, but it just wasn't quick enough. It's a shame to miss Q3 by such a small margin, but that's racing. We've seen in the last races that our car is pretty good in the race so we will see what we can do."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director:"A different looking grid for tomorrow. Unfortunately with Mark we have to take a 5-place grid penalty, which we knew of in Hungary, but it was right to finish the race there. We felt it would be better to strategically take the penalty here than sacrifice points in Budapest. With Sebastian he appeared to struggle quite a lot in the second sector and unfortunately just missed the cut. Congratulations to Jenson on his pole. We will be racing hard to make up positions tomorrow."
Cyril Dumont, Renault:"A difficult session today – we will be P10 and P12 tomorrow with the penalty. It was hard to prepare with the weather, but it was the same for all teams. The cold weather today showed that it's still hard to judge the tires correctly and we have an unusual grid. Seb just missed Q3 by 100th of a second; it's a shame he didn't go through. I don't think we could have challenged for pole today, but we can still get some good points tomorrow"
Jenson Button (1st, 1:47.573):"It's been so long since my last pole position that it almost feels like a win for me! "In fact, it's my first pole since Monaco 2009 – which was a race that I won – and it demonstrates that I can qualify really well. "So I want to offer my congratulations to the whole team: it's my 50th grand prix for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes this weekend, so it's a great time to get a pole position for everyone at Woking [home of McLaren], at Brixworth [home of MercedesAMGHighPerformancePowertrains] and of course here at Spa. "I'm surprised that the new rear wing is working so well, but the engineers also did a great job with the balance. And it's even more encouraging that we had good consistency through all three qualifying sessions. Nonetheless, nobody has done any long runs yet, so we still need to wait and see how tomorrow pans out. "Can I still win the drivers' championship? Yes. We'll take it one day at a time, but hopefully we can get some good points tomorrow."
Lewis Hamilton (8th, 1:48.394):"Congratulations to Jenson! He did an excellent job and I hope he gets maximum points tomorrow. "For me, today was a bit of a disappointment; but, since I'm still in the top 10, tomorrow will be about trying to make the most of things. "The set-up wasn't perfect, but that was simply because we chose the wrong rear wing, preferring to stay with the version we used in Hungary. The wing we'd been using in FP3 this morning hadn't been working very well, so we opted to go back to the older wing which we thought would be the safer option. It was a collective choice: we thought the older wing would be quicker in qualifying, but in fact Jenson has shown the new wing to be very good indeed. "Our side of the garage was a bit unlucky, but we'll do what we can with what we have tomorrow."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal:"That was a truly brilliant pole lap by Jenson – his first for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – and he's now in extremely good shape for tomorrow's race. "This morning, though, in FP3, neither Jenson nor Lewis was entirely comfortable with the balance or feel of their cars, a situation that was perhaps compounded by a complete lack of dry running all day yesterday. For this afternoon, then, on a bone-dry track, following the issues we'd encountered in FP3 this morning, clearly we had to make some changes. We duly did so, in consultation with our drivers, and, as things panned out, the changes we made to Jenson's car paid off the better of the two. "So, as I say, having bagged pole position, he'll be gunning for victory tomorrow – but Lewis, too, despite starting from P7, will be equally hungry to score a hatful of points. As I've said before, and as I'll doubtless say again, in Jenson and Lewis we have the best driver line-up in Formula 1, and tomorrow both of them will be aiming to demonstrate that yet again."
Fernando Alonso (6th, 1:48.313):"This afternoon's sixth place matches our average for this year's qualifying sessions, which is 6.08 to be precise, therefore we shouldn't be too surprised at this result. Usually, on Sunday we go better than on Saturday, therefore we can be reasonably confident about the race, especially in light of the fact that a lot of my closest rivals start behind me, while another one, Kimi is not too far in front. If this result could be repeated tomorrow, honestly I'd sign for it now! Our aim is the podium, but I think a win is not within our grasp. It's true it is a very open race, partly because overtaking is relatively straightforward on this track. The fact we don't have data on tire life is not penalizing, as we are all in the same situation. Anyway, we know both compounds well so I don't expect any problems on this front. More significantly, clearly the fact we could not run much yesterday meant we could not optimize various aspects of the car, but in this case too, everyone is in the same boat. In fact, that could explain the difference in performance between drivers from the same team. The updates we introduced brought a benefit in terms of top speed, which is positive, also for Monza, where we race in a few days time. The championship is very close and if you don't do everything perfectly, you find yourself down the back. That's why the smallest things matter and we always try to be super concentrated on the very smallest detail."
Felipe Massa (14th, 1:49.147):"Already this morning, I was struggling a lot in the second sector and, after the third free practice session, we made some changes to the configuration of the car, which unfortunately, did not change the situation much. I can't manage to drive properly in that part of the track. I can feel the car sliding in the corners because of a lack of aerodynamic downforce. Fernando also seemed to be suffering in some parts of the track, but clearly less so than me. In the first and third sectors however, I was competitive, both in absolute terms and when compared to my team-mate. Furthermore, precisely because of the difficulty I had in T2, I was a bit bothered about tire degradation, especially as we had not managed to acquire date on their behavior over a long run because of yesterday's bad weather. I definitely can't be happy with today, but now the important thing is to concentrate on the race. Everything could still happen, especially on a track where overtaking is possible. On top of that, there are so many unknowns relating to the behavior of the car so we cannot rule out any surprises."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal:"More than ever this afternoon, one has to be very careful when assessing the result of qualifying. The three sessions threw up a lot of surprises and a decidedly unusual grid. Sixth place for Fernando is a good basis on which to build an equally good race tomorrow afternoon. Sunday will be tougher for Felipe, who starts from the seventh row, but definitely not all is lost for him and a place within the top ten is within his reach and they would be important points in terms of the Constructors' championship. There is no better track than this one to turn the hierarchy established on Saturday on its head, therefore it's really impossible to make any predictions. We must tackle this race with the same approach we have adopted so far, which means trying to make the most of the package we have and of any opportunities that come our way. Clearly no one can be too sure about race pace because yesterday, it wasn't possible to run the usual comparisons on tire behavior over a long run: a further unknown in race that's very hard to predict."
Pat Fry:"It's never easy to tackle qualifying having had practically no running over the three hours on Friday. It's true that this morning, the good weather had returned, but one hour is much too short a time, especially with so many new elements to test. We made a virtue of necessity and took certain decisions based on the data we managed to gather and on what our simulation was telling us, but clearly we were not able to optimize the whole package. This track – like the one in Monza where we race next week – requires a rather unique level of aerodynamic downforce, which moves away from what is needed at the majority of circuits on the calendar. Therefore, it is relatively easy to see changes in the pecking order, especially in qualifying, and I think that was confirmed again today. Last year here there were problems with blistering, but I think that Pirelli's choice for this year has perfectly met our expectations and shows that the Milan company has done a really good job. I think tomorrow we will witness a very uncertain and interesting race, the outcome"
Michael Schumacher (13th, 1:49.081):"Well, what a pity today. I am really sorry for my fans but I am afraid I have to say that I got pretty much everything that we could from today. The car was not quick enough, and especially in the mid-sector we were too slow. We now have to take it as it is and try to do the best we can in the race tomorrow. We will have further steps coming soon, so we will go on fighting."
Nico Rosberg (18th, 1:50.181):"This weekend isn't really running to plan so far. Starting from the back of the grid tomorrow is really disappointing, although I had no chance to prepare my car due to the gearbox problem this morning. So it took a bit of a time to find the right set-up in qualifying and it didn't work out well at the end. I hope I can gain some positions in the race but I'm not overly optimistic as our car is not one of the quickest on this track. I will definitely push hard."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal:"It's been a disappointing day all round for us. Qualifying was tough, and it proved pretty tricky to get the tires in the right operating window. In fairness to Nico, he didn't have much of a chance as he missed most of P3 this morning, the only opportunity to have had some time on a dry track. Michael had a reasonable run and that was about the best we could have achieved with the car that we have at the moment. Clearly it's not good enough and we will continue working very hard to make improvements."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director:"Michael got everything out of the car that was possible today. It did not help us that the rain yesterday meant that no preparation for today was possible but of course that applies to everybody. On top of that, Nico did not get any running in this morning's only dry session due to a gearbox problem which will give him with a five place grid penalty. This is of course not the start that we have wished for after the summer break. Our target is to do a better job tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen (4th, 1:48.205):"It wasn't the easiest of qualifying sessions. The car is okay but it doesn't look like we have the speed that some others have and we were certainly not quick enough for pole today. The race is a different story. On the grid we're in front of the guys who are ahead of us in the championship so we'll try to score more points than them."
Romain Grosjean (9th, 1:48.538):"That wasn't my best qualifying ever and I struggled a little bit. I had traffic in Q1 and I didn't feel as confident with the car as I would like. You can see how close it was in the top ten so I suffered from not having everything exactly as I wanted, especially on the softer compound. Missing yesterday's practice because of the weather didn't help either as any time in the car is always beneficial, especially for a long lap like Spa. I'm sure the car will be good in the race and we should have a good strategy."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer:We can still do things from where we start." How do you assess today's qualifying performance ? "A little disappointing to be honest as we hoped for a bit more than that today. Kimi didn't quite get a perfect lap and Romain wasn't happy with the setup of his car. The car looks to have been unusually difficult today, with some inconsistency making it difficult to extract the best lap time. This is unexpected, as previously this season we've been able to find a good setup very rapidly when there has been limited running." "We're looking forward to a strong race and there looks to be no weakness in the car or our race strategy. The race will be about tire management as the loads on the tires are very high here. If there are no strategic dramas we hope to bring home another good points haul." "We ran much less than normal, but it's the same situation for everyone. We still have a good idea of what we are going to do in the race. This is our twelfth race of the season so we understand the tires a lot more and we're far better off than in the earlier races." "We're happy, with no dramas and no warm-up issues. We had a little graining with the soft tire this morning and we preferred the harder tire with high fuel loads. We'll start with the medium compound and take it from there."
Paul di Resta (10th, 1:48.890):"I'm quite pleased with our performance today. The car had pace this morning during practice and was working well on this track where you need lots of downforce as well as efficiency. My lap in Q2 felt very good and was about the maximum that was possible. In fact, I couldn't repeat the time in Q3 and I went a tenth slower, so that was the speed we had in the car today. With the grid penalty for Mark [Webber] I will probably start from ninth, which puts us in a great position to come away with some points tomorrow."
Nico Hulkenberg (12th, 1:48.855):"I'm a little bit disappointed with the result today because I felt it was possible to make the top ten. There wasn't as much preparation time in the dry as I would have liked, but we were in reasonable shape this morning and made some good progress with the set-up. On my final lap in Q2 I didn't get the middle sector quite right, lost some time, and missed out on Q3. For such a long lap the times were very close today and just a tenth or two would have been enough to move up the grid."
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer:"With limited dry track time available this morning we did a good job to dial the cars into the circuit and found a good set-up going into qualifying. Paul was very competitive in Q2 and managed to make it through to Q3, but unfortunately Nico just missed out on making the top ten with a small error in the second sector of his Q2 lap. We expect dry conditions for the race tomorrow and will be targeting points for both cars."
Kamui Kobayashi (2nd, 1:47.871):"I am very happy for the team and myself. We had felt quite positive before we came here, but I think it is fair to say we didn't expect to be second and fifth in qualifying. We have had strong races this year, but qualifying has been a weakness and the guys have done a great job to improve this. I want to thank them very much. After not having time to learn much in either practice session on Friday because of the rain, like everyone else our first dry running was this morning and after free practice three we knew we were quite good. I will be on the front row tomorrow and this is certainly nice, but we don't score points for that. The podium must be the target and to reach it we still have a long way to go. We have to get the tire management and strategy right and cannot allow ourselves the smallest mistake."
Sergio Perez (5th, 1:48.219):"Second and fifth are really good qualifying positions for our team and I am pleased for the crew. Personally I'm not too happy because my last lap in Q3 wasn't perfect. I had the feeling the car was performing differently to this morning. In any case, the most important part comes tomorrow. It will be a very challenging race on a demanding circuit. I need a good start and I want to fight the people in front of me because I know the car will allow me to do that. I am definitely targeting another podium."
Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO:"It is a fantastic result for the team and our best so far. I think it is very important after the break that we have come back so strong. We have seen the potential and always said if we could just be further up the grid we could show so much more. We are in that position and it is now up to us to continue that trend tomorrow. Hats off to the team at home that has done such a good job getting a good car here, and also to the team in Spa which has done a great job so far."
Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering:
"Perhaps we should have a wet Friday at every race! Free practice three this morning was quite tough after we had all lost so much time yesterday. We had to put together a lot of work in an hour, which went very well. We found some performance and then in qualifying everything went according to plan. Now let's keep concentrated for the race."
Jean-Eric Vergne (15th, 1:49.354):"I think that was a solid performance for me and the team today. We know where we are compared to the others, therefore even after a long break, we didn't expect to suddenly find ourselves in Q3. I think, personally, I did a good job. I have struggled a bit with qualifying since the start of the year, but race by race I have made progress and today, to finish ahead of my team-mate, shows that I am getting better at it. However, I made a couple of mistakes on my fast lap, so maybe I could have been a bit quicker. We plan to be aggressive tomorrow and grab any opportunity that comes our way on track. I would really like to bring home some points, but that might be rather difficult."
Daniel Ricciardo (16th, 1:49.543):"I don't think I got the best lap I could in Q2, because I'd done the same time in Q1. Normally you go quicker in Q2 and I was hoping to find more time but I did not manage it. Therefore I had hopes to be higher than sixteenth. But I am still in a positive frame of mind for the race. I have a feeling we can do better tomorrow afternoon as at times today, our pace showed signs of promise."
Laurent Mekies, Chief Engineer: "It is encouraging that we have got both cars into Q2 reasonably comfortably. This was because our two drivers worked well in this morning's free practice and therefore they were immediately on the pace in Q1. Fifteenth place is realistically about the best we could have expected and a fair reflection of our current performance level, even if we could maybe have found a few more fractions of a second. It seems that the gap to our direct competitors might have closed a little bit, but this remains to be confirmed in the race. We got through a lot of work this morning, but like everyone we have had little running in the dry so far this weekend. That means we can expect a very interesting race, as always in fact at Spa, with maybe a few surprises to come from the relative lack of knowledge relating to the tire compounds."
Pastor Maldonado (3rd, 1:47.893):
Bruno Senna (17th, 1:50.088):
Heikki Kovalainen (19th, 1:51.739):"It's been a bit of a tricky day. In FP3 the car had quite a lot of understeer early on but we managed to dial that out towards the end of the session. By the time FP3 finished the car felt ok but I was having issues with DRS and that was obviously costing me laptime. In qualifying I had traffic on the first run and couldn't lap as fast as I wanted to on the outlap. The tires weren't quite up to temperature and that left me with one lap on that run to put in a time but with the tires not where we wanted I wasn't able to get in a quick time. On the second run my outlap was much better but the only problem was with the DRS again. The guys had worked hard to fix it but it was still struggling to open and I could feel that in the car. Whenever I hit the button it felt like it wasn't fully activated and around a track like Spa that's going to cost you time. In the end the last lap put me into our usual position and for where we are right now that's about as good a performance as we could hope for."
Vitaly Petrov (20th, 1:51.967):"I had a pretty decent qualifying session and I'm pleased I could get that last clear lap in as the session ended. On my first run in quali there was quite a lot of traffic and that may have cost a bit of time, but I think I got as much out of the car as I could today, so for me that's ok. The race tomorrow looks like it will be dry but even with a clear track there are always surprises in Spa so I want to make sure I have a good clean race and can take advantage of anything that happens ahead."
Riad Asmat, Chief Executive Officer:"It is fair to say we are not happy with where we are this weekend in terms of outright pace. Everybody in the team is working extremely hard to keep making progress but it is clear that we have a lot more work to do to put us back in the position we should be which is challenging the teams in front, not looking over our shoulders. I know both drivers and the whole team will give maximum effort tomorrow to make sure we have a positive race but we will not be happy until we have clawed back the gap to the cars in front."
Mark Smith, Technical Director:"FP3 was a busy session for us and we ran through as much of the program carried over from yesterday as we could. Heikki's car had a DRS issue so we tried to resolve that before qualifying but it was not 100% successful and he went into Q1 without the full benefit of DRS. In qualifying we opted for two runs on the medium tires and ended the session in positions that are probably an honest reflection where we are in performance terms this weekend. Despite that we can have a positive race tomorrow and we will redouble our efforts to find more pace, for Monza, Singapore and the rest of the season."
Pedro de la Rosa (22nd, 1:53.030):"I'm very happy with today's qualifying because we completed an impeccable lap. We went out with just enough time and did the three best sectors on the same lap; we risked it and it paid off. After the issues we had with the car this morning in P3, we made the appropriate changes and they worked well. We also qualified ahead of other cars and did so at such a complicated circuit, so that's even more satisfying. For us the times aren't important, it's seeing the improvement and not qualifying last that matters. There are some cars with upgrades finishing behind and that's positive."
Narain Karthikeyan (24th, 1:54.989):"I made the most of the morning session but I didn't have a good qualifying session as I constantly ran into traffic. I was on my flying lap right at the end of the session but on turn 15 another car hindered me and I was unable to finish it. But that's in the past now. We have to forget about today and think about tomorrow's race where we will fight, as always, to achieve the best result possible."
Toni Cuquerella, Technical Director:"We were basically starting from scratch today after yesterday's rain so we had to focus all of our testing, for the race and qualifying, in the morning. The track improved lap by lap and it was important to continue running. And that's what we did. Pedro completed a fantastic lap and achieved the third best qualifying percentage this season (103.7%), which proves that the F112 adapts better to medium downforce circuits. It's a shame that Narain wasn't able to complete a clean lap as his time doesn't reflect his true speed. The forecast for tomorrow is dry and with slightly higher temperatures so it might be hard to predict how much the tires will degrade. It could be a two-stop race but we'll have to adapt our strategy on the spot since Spa is a circuit where overtaking is possible and our car has a good maximum speed."
Timo Glock (21st, 1:52.336):"After a difficult Friday for everyone, which meant we didn't get any dry running, it was quite a jam-packed Saturday. FP3 this morning was my first opportunity to get a feeling for the updates and, as important, for the little change we made to correct the rear end instability problem I've had in the last couple of races. The team put a lot of work into that, so I want to thank them as I think we have improved the situation, although we have to see what transpires during the race. Qualy was okay; the first run was not great, but I could feel that I could maybe gain a bit more time because I made some mistakes in the first lap. In the second lap I lost quite a bit of time down the straight, due to the wind I guess. Things picked up from there and I was able to keep pushing from corner to corner, but then towards the end of the lap for some reason I lost the rear end again on turn in and lost some time, so we'll have to look into that. It's a real shame as we were looking good versus the next team today, but let's hope we can get it back in the race tomorrow."
Charles Pic (23rd, 1:53.493):"I think we have made a very good step forward with our latest updates, but I am disappointed with how things went for me in qualifying. The first run was okay, but we had some room for improvement, then on the second run we had only one flying lap to play with and we hit traffic in sector 2, so I lost a lot of time there. Versus the competition, we had been looking very strong, so it is a little frustrating. Now we have to focus on the race and what we can do then to show what we have gained with the new developments."
John Booth, Team Principal:"Despite a challenging start to the weekend due to Friday's weather, we have plenty to feel positive about this weekend. Due to the lack of running, it was obvious from FP3 onwards that we hadn't quite struck the correct balance between qualifying and race set-up and there were some obvious deficiencies that would hurt our pace in qualifying. That said, the flip side of this is that these areas will actually be a positive for the race, on top of the normal pace improvement that we typically see on Sunday. Both drivers did a good job, but traffic cost Charles, and we have not made life easy for ourselves for tomorrow. I have no doubt that when it comes to the race we'll be stronger again, as we have shown that we have made another step in terms of our overall pace. The updates are clearly an improvement, so although we've had a challenging start to the weekend, we need to extract the maximum from them tomorrow."
* Will take five-place penalty
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