Hamilton blitzes lap record to win pole at Spa

Lewis Hamilton (above) beat his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.511s to win pole for the Belgian GP at Spa.

“I’d rather be out in the clean air, not worrying about the last corner. I didn’t want anything coming in my way,” says the reigning world champion. “That session just got better and better. I didn’t make any mistakes on all my laps.”

It was another 1-2 for Mercedes and a new track record at Spa for Hamilton.

It marked the six-times world champion’s sixth pole at the Belgian Grand Prix to make it pole number five for the season.

But Barely.

Bottas was so slow in the superior Mercedes that Max Verstappen almost beat him for the outside front row spot, coming up just 0.015s short in his Red Bull Honda.

“Turn 1 was a bit inconsistent, I think the tires were too cool,” said Bottas. “Second run felt pretty good overall, I’m not too bothered as second place is a good place to start here. The first lap is a great opportunity.”

With Verstappen third he is  likely to get a tow tomorrow into the first corner.

Daniel Ricciardo was an impressive fourth for Renault, ahead of the 2nd Red Bull of Alex Albon and the 2nd Renault of Esteban Ocon.

Daniel Ricciardo

Carlos Sainz Jr., Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Lando Norris rounded out the top 10 with the Racing Point cars not coming out for a second run in Q3.

Daniil Kvyat got the better of AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly to seal 11th on the grid, as both drivers outpaced the struggling Ferrari pair.

Ferrari’s woes continued in qualifying as it failed to get at least one car into Q3 for the first time this season.

Charles Leclerc said there was “not much more I can do” on his way to setting the 13th-quickest time, just ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel who took 14th.

“It’s very difficult to find an explanation,” said a dejected Leclerc. “It is a big step back, it’s not a good day, and we need to keep working. Everyone in the team needs to keep their heads up even though it’s hard in times like this.”

Leclerc cannot believe how slow the Ferrari is this year. Last year’s ‘cheater’ engine must have been cranking out a lot of HP. credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

By Mark C. AutoRacing1.com


Lewis Hamilton
I feel incredibly blessed to be able to take pole on a day like this. I woke up this morning to the terrible news about Chadwick Boseman. What a humble man he was, portraying these iconic black figures. As a kid I wanted to be Superman, and it’s so important today for young black people to have a superhero to look up to, who looks just like them. It’s really not easy to perform at your best when you have something weighing on your heart, and to be truthful it was so difficult to shake off that negativity and channel it into something exceptional, but Chadwick showed that was possible. I’ve done a lot of laps in my F1 career, but those two laps in Q3 were almost perfect. You can’t see my face under my helmet out there, but I was smiling, this track is just incredible, and I was totally on the limit. We decided to go out early and run in the clean air as it’s so easy to make a mess of the tow if you get blocked or there’s a yellow flag, and we definitely made the right call. We’ve got a big race still to come tomorrow and the Red Bulls looked good on the long-runs on Friday, but today it was an honor to be able to dedicate that pole to Chadwick because he inspired me. My prayers and thoughts are with his family.

Valtteri Bottas
I’m quite happy with qualifying, my lap felt good today, especially the second run in Q3. I don’t think I made any mistakes in that run, so I’m not sure where the delta to Lewis came from, I’ll have to look at the data. But I’m actually not too bothered about missing pole, as starting second or third can be an advantage in Spa. We’ve seen it before that with a tow on the first lap you can overtake the leader going into Turn 5. I hope there’s plenty of opportunity tomorrow to try and fight for a good result and I’m looking forward to an exciting race.

Bottas could not cut the mustard – LAT Images

Toto Wolff
It’s always good to qualify on the first row in Spa, which is a real drivers’ circuit. We didn’t really have a super smooth weekend so far; it was challenging to find the right set-up in Free Practice sessions, particularly in the low-speed corners. We still saw that pattern to a small degree in qualifying, but much less so than before. I’m really interested to see how the race is going to pan out tomorrow, especially the first laps should be exciting. Riccardo has shown tremendous straight-line speed today, so he will be strong in the run up to Turn 5 tomorrow. Verstappen was very strong in the long run yesterday, so I’m sure he will be in the fight as well. I’m looking forward to an exciting race – new game, new chance.

Andrew Shovlin
It was a bit closer at the front than it’s been at the previous races this year. We’re clearly running a bit more downforce than the Red Bull and losing a couple of tenths to them on both the long straights, but we’re quite a bit faster in the corners and ended up nicely ahead. Lewis put together a very good lap; Valtteri was struggling a bit in some braking zones and lost a bit of time there, but it’s great that he’s on the front row as well. The midfield is also very close behind which should make the race quite open. We expect the run to Turn 5 to be pretty exciting; it’s difficult enough to hold the lead here but given that Max is a bit quicker and Daniel looks to have about 8kph on us, so it could get end up getting quite crowded towards the end of the straight. It’s normally a fun race though and there’s also a risk of rain to factor in.

Max Verstappen
“Overall, it’s been a really positive weekend so far, we came here and thought it was going to be really tricky for us and actually to be that close to Valtteri and in P3 is a good result. The lap was decent and of course I always look at the fastest car, and we are half a second down but I think it is the closest we have been to Mercedes in qualifying this year. For us on this track, that is not normally our type of qualifying track, I think we can all be very happy with the result and now I’m looking forward to the race. I don’t think we prefer a wet or dry race but a change in weather during the race would spice things up. This track is amazing to drive in qualifying and already very exciting in the race, but if the weather comes into play a bit like last year at Hockenheim then it could be very special. I’m happy with the balance of the car, and we have made a good step. Now we need to hope for a good start, and then we can push Mercedes hard and maximize our result again.”

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Alex Albon
“I’m happy with P5 and it’s all to play for tomorrow. I think P4 was possible but I made a small mistake into Turn One on my final run which cost me some time otherwise I think we could have been there. My best lap was actually in Q2 so there are little bits for me to improve on but I’m happy. It’s been a much smoother weekend and the car felt good straightaway from the start of FP1 and it hasn’t changed much since. We’ve been chipping away, fine-tuning it, and it’s been a positive weekend. I think there’s been a step forward on my side too which hopefully we can take forwards. We’re on a different strategy to Max and start tomorrow’s race on the soft compound. The start is obviously important here with such a short run to Turn One, so we’ll be looking for a good and clean getaway. After that, we’ll see but with the possibility of rain it should be an exciting race.”

Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Boss
“There was some great teamwork by the drivers today, and they delivered a strong result for the Team. Third and fifth, so close to the front row, with Max just a hundredth off Valtteri gives us confidence at a track we know you can overtake at. Mercedes have got that advantage in qualifying but to be so close on a long track that has not been a favorite of ours marks a good Saturday. We have a slightly different strategy between the two cars with Max starting on the medium tire and Alex on the soft, but that gives us options and of course we don’t know what to expect from the Spa weather. There could be some mixed conditions, and we don’t know what the tire degradation will be like so there are always opportunities. It will be hard to attack the Mercedes but with Max we have a real fighter of a driver and it’s great to have Alex up there as well.”

Sergio Perez
“I was a bit surprised to only be P8, so we need to look over the data and figure out why we seemed to lose some pace today, because we weren’t as strong in FP3 or qualifying compared to yesterday. It was also really tight out there and the gaps between cars were very small. I don’t feel we were able to show our true pace and we struggled on the mediums in Q2. We know it’s going to be tight in the race tomorrow too, but I feel confident we will have good race pace. I think we can move forward and still score plenty of points. There’s going to be a bit of an unknown.

Sergio Perez

Lance Stroll
“We weren’t as competitive as we wanted to be today and we were expecting more. We tried to reach Q3 on the medium tire, but it just wasn’t possible. In Q3 I lost two tenths on my best lap by locking up at the last chicane, which is a crucial part of the lap. When the grid is as tight as it was today, that’s costly and it meant I wasn’t able to improve on P9. It was a frustrating day, but now it’s about bouncing back tomorrow. We need to go away tonight and review because there’s a lot for us to analyse and improve to try to get back to the sort of pace we were showing on Friday. All in all, I think we’ll have solid race pace tomorrow and anything can happen – and there’s always the possibility of rain. We’re right in the mix and it’s going to be a close battle, so we can still fight for good points.”

Lance Stroll

Otmar Szafnauer, CEO & Team Principal
“We had hoped to reach Q3 on the medium tires, but with all the teams so closely-matched, we had to switch to the softs to progress. This left both drivers with just one set of the softs for Q3 and we chose to run early in the session. Our qualifying pace didn’t quite match our expectations from practice, so that’s something we need to understand going forward. It’s tomorrow that counts, though, and we’re certainly well placed to compete for good points. I’m optimistic that the race pace will be strong, but there’s a chance rain showers could influence the race too.”

Daniil Kvyat
“I had strong laps all through Qualifying and I’ve been feeling better and better with the car since yesterday. We made steps in the right direction with my engineering crew, so I’m happy with the progress we’ve made, especially from Friday to Saturday. I think we have a good chance to have a strong race tomorrow, so we’ll do our best to make it happen. It will be a long one and, as it often happens in Spa, the weather can play a part. If it rains it could definitely spice up the race, so we need to stay on top of our game in these conditions, as many things can happen and we need to be there to take advantage.”

Pierre Gasly
“I would have liked to make it to Q3 as there were only four one-hundredths of a second to Norris in P10. I didn’t nail the last chicane and had a poor exit, I tried to give it a bit more and lost traction which cost me a tenth. Still, we have a free tire choice and we will fight from there. I would like it to rain tomorrow – I come from Normandy so we have rain pretty much every single day! We have a decent starting position in P12 and anything is possible from there, it’s super tight in the midfield as always, so I’ll push as hard as I can and hopefully we can get a few points. Actually, it’s ideal to start P11 and P12 because of the free tire choice, but I wanted to be P11! However, Dany did a very good lap and I just had to do better today – I can only blame myself.”

Claudio Balestri (Chief Engineer)
“Based on what we learnt on Friday, we modified our set-ups overnight to improve the car balance, which is always tricky on this track where we run with less downforce. The changes we made brought some improvement and this was evident in FP3, where we showed quite a good performance, especially on the Prime tire. In preparation for qualifying, we made further changes to improve the balance on softer tires. This afternoon, both drivers were able to easily make it to Q2, but we have missed Q3 by only a few hundredths of a second, which is a shame. Our focus now switches to preparations for the race and, with the qualifying positions providing us with some useful strategy options, we will be looking to take advantage of any opportunity which might present itself. We expect it to be an interesting race, especially if the rain comes.”

Qualifying Results

1 Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas 1m 42.323 1m 42.014 1m 41.252
2 Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas 1m 42.534 1m 42.126 1m 41.763
3 Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 1m 43.197 1m 42.473 1m 41.778
4 Daniel Ricciardo AUS Renault F1 Team 1m 43.309 1m 42.487 1m 42.061
5 Alexander Albon THA Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 1m 43.418 1m 42.193 1m 42.264
6 Esteban Ocon FRA Renault F1 Team 1m 43.505 1m 42.534 1m 42.396
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. ESP McLaren F1 Team 1m 43.322 1m 42.478 1m 42.438
8 Sergio Perez MEX BWT Racing Point F1 Team 1m 43.349 1m 42.670 1m 42.532
9 Lance Stroll CAN BWT Racing Point F1 Team 1m 43.265 1m 42.491 1m 42.603
10 Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team 1m 43.514 1m 42.722 1m 42.657
11 Daniil Kvyat RUS AlphaTauri Honda 1m 43.267 1m 42.730
12 Pierre Gasly FRA AlphaTauri Honda 1m 43.262 1m 42.745
13 Charles Leclerc MON Scuderia Ferrari 1m 43.656 1m 42.996
14 Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari 1m 43.567 1m 43.261
15 George Russell GBR Williams Racing 1m 43.630 1m 43.468
16 Kimi Raikkonen FIN Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen 1m 43.743
17 Romain Grosjean FRA Haas F1 Team 1m 43.838
18 Antonio Giovinazzi ITA Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen 1m 43.950
19 Nicholas Latifi CAN Williams Racing 1m 44.138
20 Kevin Magnussen DEN Haas F1 Team 1m 44.314