Rosberg beats Verstappen for pole at Spa

Rosberg speeds to pole
Rosberg speeds to pole

The late-summer heat that was present on Friday during the two practice sessions for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps continued into Saturday for final practice and qualifying. While the weather was uncharacteristically warm, it was incredibly consistent, allowing teams to further develop their strategies and car setup.

Much to the disappointment of the partisan crowd, Nico Rosberg put the Aldo Costa designed Mercedes on pole ahead of the Adrian Newey designed Red Bull for Sunday's Belgium GP.

It was the 28th career pole for Rosberg by a very slim margin. Verstappen and Raikkonen both came within 0.2s of snatching pole – and will be determined to get the jump when the lights go out tomorrow. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) and Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) rounded out the top-5.

Verstappen punched the air and waved to the crowd as he made his way down the Kemmel Straight. With second place he is set to become the youngest front row starter in F1 history.

"Front row for what looks like your home race," say Red Bull to Verstappen in reference to the Dutchman's massive support. "I think those people gave me some extra motivation to do well," he replied.

Haas' Esteban Gutierrez was handed a five-place grid penalty following an incident with Manor rival Pascal Wehrlein during final practice.

Wehrlein encountered a slow-moving Gutierrez on the approach to the Kemmel straight, and had to take to the grass on the inside of the kink in avoidance.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Wehrlein labeled Gutierrez as a "f***ing idiot" over the radio after the incident, and Gutierrez has now been sanctioned by the stewards as a result.

"Due to the large speed differential between the cars and the position of Car 21 [Gutierrez] on track, the stewards regard this as dangerous," read a statement.

Gutierrez was also slapped with three penalty points on his license, bringing his 12-month total up to seven.

He was handed two penalty points apiece in Russia and Hungary, the first for causing contact at the start and the latter for failing to adhere to blue flags.

Gutierrez now joins Marcus Ericsson (10 places), Fernando Alonso (35 places) and Lewis Hamilton (55 places) in receiving grid drops this weekend.

Gutierrez, yet to score a point this season, was 12th quickest during final practice.

Renault's Kevin Magnussen was also investigated for allegedly impeding Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel but no further action was deemed necessary.

QUOTES

Mercedes GP

Rosberg, on pole, tested the ugly Halo on Friday
Rosberg, on pole, tested the ugly Halo on Friday

Nico Rosberg (1st, 1:46.744): "We had a difficult weekend until Qualifying. Especially, this morning we were thinking that we were off the pace a bit. So I was really happy to grab pole today. The Red Bulls were quickest on the long runs on Friday, so we need to be at our best to beat them. The tires are a big challenge in the heat here this weekend. The degradation is very high. My disadvantage at the start is that I have a harder tire with lower grip, so Max should get off the line quicker on the Supersoft. I reckon that, with some luck and a maybe a Safety Car, Lewis can climb up to the top very quickly, so he can't be ruled out either. In any case, I'm pleased with my qualifying and looking forward to tomorrow. It will be an exciting and intense race."

Lewis Hamilton (21st, 1:50.033): "Firstly, the team have done an incredible job – the guys and girls back at Brixworth building the engines and then everyone here who've been kitting and fitting them – so a huge thank you to them. To bring a new engine here, take it out after FP1, put another new one in for FP2, then do the same again before FP3 was just an unbelievable job. I have a massive 55 place grid penalty today – but I also now have three new engines in the pool for the season, which is positive. In terms of today, it was definitely a weird qualifying session for me. There was no point in showing my pace. It was all about race preparation. The key for me is making sure I come out of tomorrow having lost the fewest points possible – and that meant having as many fresh sets of tires available as possible and making sure the car was set up well. I can't say right now what the plan is – the team will know already what's best and we'll discuss that later. We're not easily the quickest here. We're all going to have massive degradation and looking after the tires will be a struggle for everyone. It's going to be far from an easy, breezy day but where I can just pick people off. There will be lots of pit stops and who knows what else. I'm going to have to battle my way through the traffic – but I'll give it my best as always and see where I end up."

Paddy Lowe: "Not quite the normal qualifying routine with Lewis' grid penalties to consider. We decided to do a single short run with him during Q1 to get him safely within the 107% limit and then park the car to save the maximum number of tire sets for tomorrow, giving him plenty of strategic options for the race. That left our bid for pole down to Nico. We could see from practice that it was going to be very tight between ourselves, Red Bull, Ferrari and Force India. We also had the challenge of getting through Q2 on the soft tire, as we don't consider the SuperSoft to be a good race tire here this weekend. Nico produced a fantastic lap in Q2 to go fastest on the Soft and, although Q3 was tighter than we had hoped after the Q2 times with Nico only finding a tenth and a half between the compounds, he delivered a strong lap to take pole. Tomorrow is going to be a very tough race – particularly managing the endurance of the tires – so we can expect an exciting afternoon once again at this spectacular circuit."

Toto Wolff, Technical Director: "We had completely opposite outcomes from today's session with Nico taking a great pole but Lewis doing the minimum he needed to do in order to be able to start the race from last place after his engine penalty. For Nico, it wasn't an easy job. We have struggled with the balance of the car this weekend but he managed to secure the strategic advantage of making it through Q2 on the soft tire In Q3, we were overheating the super soft compound a lot but Nico managed to do enough to squeeze out the performance ahead of Verstappen. So a perfect job from his side. Lewis did the perfect job as well in totally different circumstances. He has taken a very positive approach to the challenge this weekend and has been very clear about focusing all his practice work on the race. He did the minimum today but this leaves him fresh tires and the most strategic options for the race, which was the right choice. Finally, I must pay tribute to the fantastic work from the team in Brixworth and the team in the garage to implement our strategy of stockpiling the power units. So far, they have delivered an enormous workload without mistakes and in a perfect way. They are working under a lot of pressure but it shows the quality of our team that we have been able to deliver a smooth weekend so far. But the most important bit is now ahead of us. The tires will be difficult to manage in the high temperatures tomorrow and I think we can expect a lot of action on the track and in the pits. It's now up to us to make the most of our opportunities to score the best possible result."

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen (3rd, 1:46.910): "So far it has been a decent weekend, the car was behaving well today and we had the speed. My first run in Q3 was very good, but I went sideways and off track. The second attempt was even better, but in the last chicane I had some slight understeer and lost a few tenths compared to my Q2 sector. Today I felt we had the chance to get pole position, so I'm a bit disappointed, my laptime was not good enough. On a positive side, we are very close compared to the last couple of races. We decided to start the race with Soft tires, if you can make them work it will make a massive difference, we'll see how the race will pan out but I think our plan will be fine. We'll do our best, of course the hot conditions won't be easy for the tires, but it's the same for everybody. Hopefully we'll be up there fighting also tomorrow."

Sebastian Vettel (4th, 1:47.108): "I'm sure we made a step forward from yesterday! If you look at the gaps between the cars, they are very close, so tomorrow it should be a good race. Obviously you always want a little bit more, the exit of the last corner in particular wasn't very strong, so I can't be happy with that. The rest of the lap was ok, we had a much better balance than on Friday, but it's important to be fast in all three sectors to be up there. We decided to start the race on the Soft tires, we believe that this is the best strategy, we'll see tomorrow. Anything can happen, there could even be some rain, in Spa you never know…"

Williams-Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas (8th, 1:47.612): "Obviously it was a bit of a problematic qualifying session for us. Considering the software issues we had, I think we performed like we should have. It's a shame that we had the issues because it meant we couldn't get a top six position. At the end of the day, the race is tomorrow and that's what counts. The car felt better today than yesterday so we've already made progress. Our long runs in practice looked good in terms of the race pace, so I think we can have a strong race tomorrow, even though we didn't get the perfect result out of today."

Felipe Massa (10th, 1:48.263): "I had a software issue in Q1 which caused a misfire so I couldn't put a lap together. That really didn't help my qualifying, because I only had one set of supersofts left for Q3. I gave it everything on my final lap, but I locked the front into turn one and lost a lot of time, so I'm not happy with that. If I had two sets of tires in Q3 it would have helped me a lot, but that didn't happen so we lost a few places. We will see what we can do tomorrow though. I was happy with the car, the balance and the laptimes in qualifying."

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: "Qualifying was disappointing for us. We had a software issue with the power unit which meant that we weren't able to run qualifying mode, so we lost lap time there. Without that we would have been around fifth position. It unfortunately put us on the back foot in Q1, after we discovered it on our first run and had to react accordingly. Most of our efforts were then focused on trying to resolve the issue rather than making our car go quicker, so it's somewhat ruined our qualifying. Apart from that, the cars were reasonably well balanced. Going into the session we knew it was going to be tight with Force India, but we had a little bit of a margin on them so it's a shame not to be ahead. We've all got to pick ourselves up now, accept that these things are part of motor racing, and look forward to tomorrow. The long runs we were doing both yesterday and this morning were very encouraging. We just need to make sure we get everything right tomorrow and outscore those around us in the championship."

Red Bull-Tag Heuer

Max Verstappen (2nd, 1:46.893): "It's a great feeling. As soon as I crossed the line in Q3 on my fastest lap, I could see the fans going really wild so I knew it was a good lap. It's been already an amazing weekend. To see so many fans around the track and feel their support is incredible and I've been enjoying the whole week a lot, so to be second on the grid is fantastic. It would have been very difficult to get pole position. The chance is always there if you are that close and in sector two we were very strong, but we were missing some top speed. Tomorrow will be very interesting with the different strategies between us, Mercedes and Ferrari so I think it'll be a good fight. Hopefully the supersofts will give me a bit more grip in the first few laps and then for sure I will drop off a bit but that's my strategy. I will probably have to pit a bit earlier but we have to wait and see how the race goes. Big thanks to the team for such a quick turnaround and working so hard on getting me out on time in Qualifying."

Daniel Ricciardo (5th, 1:47.216): "In Q3 I would have loved to have got a bit more out of it, but I'm not too disappointed looking at the race tomorrow. I'm really pleased I got through on the softs in Q2, that was our objective, whether it works tomorrow or not let's see, but that's what I wanted to get out of it. I'd be less happy with P5 on some tracks, but I'm not disappointed for two reasons: you can overtake here and with the tires we've got this weekend, you can do a lot during the race tomorrow. If you can have a faster car or if you can be a bit more intelligent, then it can pay off. In Q2 my objective was to start on the softs. It was a nervous few minutes but we did it. I'm happy; it's close enough to the front and I'm on the softs, sure a few cars in front have them too, but it's going to be a good race. Two years ago I started in P5 and won! Max did really well to get on the front row – but we have a split strategy for tomorrow, we talked about it before qualifying and he wanted to start the race on supersofts and I wanted to start on softs, so we'll see what happens tomorrow."

Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A fantastic performance by Max, in what is theoretically his home race, to qualify on the front row here within 15 hundredths of Mercedes, and with Daniel in fifth place on the grid at a track where you can overtake, it's going to be a fascinating race. That together with the different strategies the two cars will be running tomorrow, starting on different tires, it should prove to be an exciting grand prix. It's all going to be about tire degradation and managing the tires particularly in these unusually hot conditions at Spa."

Force India-Mercedes

Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez (6th, 1:47.407): "I think we are in a really strong position for the race and I am really looking forward to tomorrow. We got as much as we could out of the session: I made a small mistake at the end of my lap and I could have been about a tenth faster, but that's all we lost. Some of the cars ahead of me are starting on the soft tire compound, which should be a big advantage for them, but we are still in good shape to get a strong result. There will be a variety of strategies at play and I hope we can move forward, enjoy the battles and bring home some points. The hot weather is making it really difficult for everyone – you reach a point where you can't go any further with the tires. Strategy and making the right calls at the right time will be very important: you don't want to be on the wrong tires at the start of such a long lap because it's going to cost you."

Nico Hulkenberg (7th, 1:47.543): "I'm reasonably satisfied with our performance today. Q1 and Q2 went to plan, but I had an issue with the power unit during Q3 and that cost me some time down the straights and proved quite costly. We've got to start the race on the supersoft tires, but I think we made the right decision to use them in Q2 because it would have been difficult to make Q3 on the softs. It's certainly going to be a challenging race if the weather stays this warm because Spa is already a demanding track on tires in cool conditions. We need to explore our options tonight and make the right decisions tomorrow."

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "It was satisfying to see our strong form in free practice carried into qualifying with both Sergio and Nico delivering some excellent laps. Nico had a sensor issue, which cost him a few tenths on his runs in Q3, but overall we can't be disappointed with sixth and seventh on the grid. Tomorrow's race will be dictated by tire strategy so we need to wait and see if the high temperatures continue for the race. We've shown that we are competitive and we are well placed to pick up some good points tomorrow."

Renault

Kevin Magnussen (12th, 1:48.485):

Jolyon Palmer (14th, 1:48.888):

Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer:

Nick Chester, Technical Director:

Toro Rosso-Ferrari

Carlos Sainz (15th, 1:49.038):

Daniil Kvyat (19th, 1:49.058):

Franz Tost, Team Principal:

Phil Charles, Chief Race Engineer:

James Key, Technical Director:

Cedrik Staudohar, Renault:

Ben Waterhouse, Deputy Technical Director:

Sauber-Ferrari

Felipe Nasr (17th, 1:48.949): "I was close to making it into Q2. I put in a decent lap at the end of Q1, but I just missed some lap time in sector three, as I struggled with the grip, especially on the rear, in the last corner. On the first try my lap time was deleted because I went on the inside curb exceeding the track limits in Turn 4. On my second and last try I was able to improve, but it was not enough for Q2. It will be a long race tomorrow; there is lot that can happen."

Marcus Ericsson (20th, 1:49.071): "It was a disappointing qualifying for me. We already had issues with the power unit in the morning. We managed to fix it for the end of FP3, so I was at least able to go out for a couple of laps. Then in qualifying I had a lack of power again, and, therefore, I lost lap time, especially on the straights. We need to investigate and sort these issues out for tomorrow."

McLaren-Honda

Jenson Button (9th, 1:48.114):

Fernando Alonso (22nd, No Time):

Eric Boullier, Racing Director:

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda:

Manor GP-Mercedes

Pascal Wehrlein (16th, 1:49.320):

Esteban Ocon (18th, 1:49.050):

Dave Ryan, Racing Director:

Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean

Haas-Ferrari

Romain Grosjean
The car was fine in qualifying. We made a good step before the summer break, so I’m more happy with the car. There are still a few things we can improve but, generally, it’s not a bad place to be after qualifying. For the race, I don’t think we’ll be as challenged as some of the other teams. Hopefully, we can have a good, aggressive strategy and try to make it work to get some points.

Esteban Gutierrez
“It was a really good effort from the team. We’ve been struggling with the car setup, but managed to find the best balance. In qualifying, it felt like a step forward considering the high track temperatures, which is making things a little complicated with the tires. In FP3 there was a miscommunication that cost us a five-place grid penalty, which is obviously very painful, but we will try to put that aside. I’ll start the race and give everything I’ve got to recover the lost positions and I’ll be fighting all the way to get into the top-10."

Guenter Steiner
“We had a good FP3 session, except for a communication issue with Esteban as he wasn’t made aware that Wehrlein was coming. He received a five-place grid penalty which is very unfair as there was no intention on his side. Overall in qualifying, we did the best we could. We finished 11th and 13th. Eleventh for the fifth time this year. I think we are getting very consistent. The team works very well together, so the day will come when we get into Q3."

Results

POS NO DRIVER CAR-Engine Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 1:48.019 1:46.999 1:46.744 12
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:48.407 1:47.163 1:46.893 12
3 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 1:47.912 1:47.664 1:46.910 13
4 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 1:47.802 1:47.944 1:47.108 14
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:48.407 1:48.027 1:47.216 12
6 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:48.106 1:47.485 1:47.407 12
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:48.080 1:47.317 1:47.543 12
8 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:48.655 1:47.918 1:47.612 12
9 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:48.700 1:48.051 1:48.114 15
10 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1:47.738 1:47.667 1:48.263 12
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:48.751 1:48.316 12
12 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault 1:48.800 1:48.485 12
13 21 Esteban Gutierrez Haas Ferrari 1:48.748 1:48.598 12
14 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 1:48.901 1:48.888 12
15 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:48.876 1:49.038 9
16 94 Pascal Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:48.554 1:49.320 11
17 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:48.949 6
18 31 Esteban Ocon MRT Mercedes 1:49.050 7
19 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:49.058 6
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:49.071 6
21 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1:50.033 4
NC 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda No Time 1

Q1 107% Time: 1:55.279 Note – Ericsson penalized 10 grid places, Alonso 35 places, Hamilton 55 places, all for unscheduled power unit element changes. Gutierrez penalized 5 places for impeding Wehrlein in FP3. Alonso failed to set a time within the Q1 107% requirement – races at stewards' discretion.

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