Hamilton surprises with brilliant pole
Lewis Hamilton surprised even himself with by taking a superb pole position in tricky conditions at Spa.
Hamilton, who only just scraped into Q3, was the last car across the line as the track began to dry. Belgium is his fourth pole in a row.
“It was obviously a good job by the team,” said Hamilton. “I was so surprised when I crossed the line. When I started the lap I saw on the screen that I was about seventh or eighth and I thought ‘Oh my God’, especially as it was raining more.
“I went wide in Turn One, and the dash display is usually telling you whether you’re up or down, and it said I was three seconds down and then five seconds and six seconds. So I didn’t understand what was happening in the lap, but I just kept pushing.”
Hamilton said he was happy with the form of the W04.
“I think generally I feel quite comfortable in changing conditions, and I feel I’m able to find the limits when the conditions are really on the edge. And in the middle I pushed quite a lot in the middle sector, particularly as I thought I was down three seconds, so I was really caning it. But, yeah, the car’s feeling good.”
Hamilton admitted that Mercedes would not have got pole in normal, dry conditions: “I would be guessing but my guess would be maybe not. The Red Bull was looking particularly quick and also the Ferrari was looking quite quick in the dry conditions, so I’m not necessarily sure that we had the pace to be as fast everyone today. But who knows, it’s just a guess.”
Nevertheless, he’s confident that he has a good package for race day.
“I feel that the long pace is not bad. Last night we made some decent changes, but going into qualifying we made some better ones. Qualifying was more about just being there at the right time, and you never know when you’re going to be in the right position. And I just happened to be one of the last ones coming across the line and that’s when the track would be at its best.
“But I think Nico proved that the long run was good, and I think I had a few good laps as well, but the Red Bulls are still pretty quick. I think it’s going to be close but I hear it’s going to rain pretty heavily tomorrow.”
Vettel poised for good race from second
Sebastian Vettel might have lost pole to Lewis Hamilton in Spa but from second on the grid the German is well poised to defend his championship lead.
For once the Red Bull driver wasn’t the last to cross the line, and instead had Hamilton in his mirrors as the times tumbled on the dry track at the end of the session.
“Obviously we all went out for the start with slick tires,” said Vettel. “It was quite entertaining, because it started to rain pretty heavily. Then on intermediates it wasn’t clear because in the beginning it looked like there was more and more rain coming, so we were all rushing to get a lap in. But then it stopped raining and the circuit came back very quickly, and the last lap turned out to be the fastest lap, with the circuit drying. It’s difficult to know how fast you can go.
“Obviously I saw Lewis catching up in the last lap, and I thought I could have gone a bit quicker here or quicker there. In the end it was quite close I think across the line. In these conditions anything can happen. A shame to miss pole, once again.”
Vettel admits that the Mercedes challenge is getting stronger.
“Obviously in qualifying they have been quite strong in the first part of the season and they keep doing it. I think today you have to look from a different point of view. In these conditions anything can happen. Lewis had quite an impressive middle sector. He was right behind me. Maybe it helped a little bit to know how fast he could go here and there.
“I checked in my mirrors and thought I could have gone quicker here, quicker there because he was closing up. But I’m very happy with the result. As I said, in these conditions anything is possible. It’s very easy to do the wrong calls and you’re out. So, overall, a good result and everything is possible tomorrow, condition-wise we expect the same as today.”
We got most things right, says Webber
Mark Webber will start the Belgian GP from third place having been on pole for a few seconds at the end of the session – before Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton bumped him down.
Webber said that he and the Red Bull team had judged things well.
“Difficult for all of us to make the right calls, but in the end I think we got most things right,” said Webber. “It’s very easy to look stupid in those conditions, from a team side, from a driver’s side, making the right calls.
“It’s a little bit bizarre with the DRS on or off in the session, actually in Q3. It’s available in the first part of qualy but not at the end, but it’s the same for everyone, so it’s a very, very difficult thing to know where you are, how the track’s moving around so much.
“It was quite a ballsy thing for me to go slow in the middle lap know if the track’s going to be better on the last lap, to save the tires, because they’re struggling quite a bit in those conditions, on the inters. In the end, it wasn’t too bad a lap and it was quite tight obviously.”
Webber made some interesting observations about the way the session unfolded.
“In our industry and in Formula One we like to control as much as we can, obviously, and the plan into a normal dry qualifying session is obviously very regimented, very organized, and the fine tuning is incredibly precise.
“When it’s like that, obviously you have to make decisions on the bounce, the driver’s got to be very interactive with the pit wall, the pit wall has got to make the decisions with the boys so yeah, there is just, by circumstance, more emotion and the timing is a bit more – well, a lot more critical and that’s what makes people a bit more squeakier, let’s say, in terms of pressure. As I say, it’s easy to get it wrong.”
Di Resta stars in Spa qualifying
Force India’s Paul Di Resta was one of the stars of qualifying at Spa today, the Scot briefly holding pole before dropping back to fifth.
Di Resta went out on intermediates at the start of Q3 while his rivals opted for slicks, only for rain to force them back into the pits. Di Resta thus got a banker lap in before anyone else. It stayed as the fastest time for several minutes before the track began to dry and both Mercedes and Red Bull drivers went quicker.
Nevertheless fifth was a pretty good reward for the Scot.
“It was a ballsy decision, and basically it was me who made it,” he said. “The team said we’ve got to go out on slicks like everybody else, and I was like let’s go for it, look at the screens, people were putting umbrellas up. When I got out there in the first sector I thought this might be risky, but by the time we got down to sector three I knew the best chance of doing it was then.
“And to be fair we had the best conditions, and ended up P5. If we were out at the end there’s no way that we would have been there. We struggled a lot in the wet during that session. Fingers crossed tomorrow that it will be dry, because the balance was quite strong in Q2 to get us into Q3.”
Di Resta said he wasn’t too disappointed to be bumped down.
“It would have been nice, but we fell to P2 and fell down the order, but there’s no regret about where we were or what it is. Starting P5 is the best result we’ve had all year.
“We’ve got a strong car in sector one and sector three, not so strong in sector two. The passing gets done in the other ones, so if we’ve got wide elbows tomorrow, if it’s dry, we can maybe get some good points.
“I think it’s more about staying in position, or losing as little ground as possible, if you’re being realistic about it. Maybe four or five races ago I would have said yes, we would have thought about that, but where we’ve been recently I think you’ve just got to take it lap by lap and try and run it as best as you can, making the decisions.”
Button encouraged by McLaren’s dry pace
Jenson Button will start the Belgian GP from sixth place after a solid performance by McLaren in a rain affected qualifying session.
Button, who anticipated that the MP4-28 would be good at Spa, was actually happier with his dry weather pace in Q2.
“I think we basically got what we deserved,” said the 2012 Belgian GP winner. “We weren’t lucky in qualifying, we didn’t make any outstanding judgement calls. We did a good job in terms of the car was working well, and we didn’t make any mistakes under pressure.
“It was such a difficult qualifying session, it wasn’t just which tire to be on, it was how much fuel to put in the car in Q3. We weren’t sure whether we should put a lot of fuel in the car when we went out on the slick tire in case we did have to go inters. But we thought we’d go one lap, because we want to get the most out of the slick tire. That obviously hurt us, because when we put the inters on we had to refuel, and that took time. But I think everything went reasonably smoothly.”
Button was pleased with the car’s overall performance
“The wet pace was good, not far off any car out there, but the pace I was very happy with was the dry pace in Q2, three and a half tenths off the quickest. The car felt like it was working very well. I think we’ve definitely made some positive steps forward. There are still areas where we’re not strong enough, and we’ve realize that this weekend, but we’ve realized that this weekend. But to be P5 in Q2, that’s really the lap that I’m most happy with.”
Asked to elaborate on the improvement in the car, he said: “I can’t be too specific. I think generally we have a better car, we have more downforce that’s working in the correct areas. The car feels good. In Q2 I really enjoyed the lap around here, high speed, mid speed, feels good, even if you compare it to last year’s lap. There are definite areas where we’ve made a good step, other areas we still need to improve for the next few races. Nice to make the step forward, hopefully we can show a little bit more tomorrow.”