Rosberg Beats Hamilton In Mixed Conditions Qualifying

Nico Rosberg beat Lewis Hamilton to pole at the Belgian Grand Prix this afternoon, marking his fourth consecutive pole position. This time around Hamilton had no mechanical failures to blame or excuses to make as to why he couldn’t beat his team-mate, giving Rosberg fodder in the series of mind-games that Hamilton started in May. Sebastian Vettel was the best of the rest behind the Mercedes front-row, with Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo flanking him.

The Marussia men were the first to brave the track this afternoon and were followed out by the Caterham and Toro Rosso drivers. Following a heavy hail storm fourty minutes before Qualifying the track was wet and the drivers fitted the Intermediate compound to their cars. The surface water proved too much for the lighter wet weather tyres and drivers struggled for the first few laps as Hamilton, Magnussen, Bottas and Vettel all went off track at the bus stop chicane, while Felipe Massa skipped over the kerbs following a lock up at turn 7. Impressively, Hamilton went off track at the last corner but still managed to set the fastest lap. Esteban Gutierrez had no issues in the wet but he was helpless as his car gave up and forced him to pull over at turn 15 halfway through Q1. The track was relatively dry by the time the first part of Qualifying drew to an end, but Maldonado was still caught out by the conditions and spun under breaking at the bus stop chicane, forcing Vettel to take evasive action. Maldonado recovered under yellow flags but his second attempt was not enough to clear him from the drop-out zone and he qualified seventeenth. Nico Hulkenberg was a surprising drop-out in eighteenth, ahead of Max Chilton and Esteban Gutierrez. Kobayashi stand-in Andre Lotterer outqualified full-time driver Marcus Ericsson by a full second on his F1 debut.

Jules Bianchi made it through to Q2 but was in no rush to get out on track, while Romain Grosjean lead Adrian Sutil out. Perez came out and was warned that, as rain was expected, his first lap could be his quickest. As such, all the opening laps were important, but both Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi spun at turn 1 on their first attempts. Nico Rosberg headed Fernando Alonso and FP3 leader Valtteri Bottas after their respective first laps, but when Hamilton came around on his second attempt, he was quicker by a full second. The Toro Rosso drivers gambled by delaying going out but this proved fruitless as both drivers failed to make it through to Q3, Kvyat qualifying eleventh ahead of Vergne in second. Jenson Button narrowly slipped into the top ten in the final seconds, and Perez’s quest to promote himself and knock Button out failed as the Mexican couldn’t better thirteenth. Adrian Sutil made it out of Q1 and qualified fourteenth while Romain Grosjean finished just ahead of Jules Bianchi who will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix in sixteenth.

Q3 begun and brought the fight for pole. Hamilton was the first driver to start a flying lap but immediately went wide at Saint Devote and caused a loss of 1.6s over team-mate Nico Rosberg who was behind him. Rosberg crossed the line three seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who took provisional second, while Hamilton backed off to save his tyres and recorded a lap six seconds slower than Rosberg. Alonso’s first lap brought him to third, Bottas’ gave him fourth and Massa went fifth after his first effort, although Ricciardo, Button and Magnussen all jumped him in the following minute. Raikkonen was the last man to record a lap and went fifth, behind Alonso. Hamilton came around for his second attempt at securing provisional pole but could only go second, 0.7s behind Rosberg.

Vettel was the first man to set a lap on a second set of tyres and improved slightly but stayed third. The track was now drying, suggesting that the last man across the line could have an advantage. Hamilton was one of the last to start his lap but lost temperature in his brakes in his efforts to give himself some free space and subsequently went slightly wide at turn 1. Hamilton improved his time by four tenths but couldn’t get near to Rosberg who also improved him time, qualifying three tenths ahead of his team-mate. Daniel Ricciardo had a very close call after going wide at turn 19 and saving himself from a huge accident while flying over the kerbs, but his commitment was only rewarded with fifth. His team-mate Vettel was the best-of-the-rest behind the Mercedes men while Fernando Alonso finished fourth. Valtteri Bottas was sixth, a disappointing result from the Finn who tends to shine in wet conditions, while Magnussen fended off Raikkonen for seventh. Felipe Massa qualified ninth while Jenson Button rounded out the top ten – another disappointing result for a driver who excels in mixed conditions.

Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Fernando Alonso
  5. Daniel Ricciardo
  6. Valtteri Bottas
  7. Kevin Magnussen
  8. Kimi Raikkonen
  9. Felipe Massa
  10. Jenson Button
  11. Daniil Kvyat
  12. Jean-Eric Vergne
  13. Sergio Perez
  14. Adrian Sutil
  15. Romain Grosjean
  16. Jules Bianchi
  17. Pastor Maldonado
  18. Nico Hulkenberg
  19. Max Chilton
  20. Esteban Gutierrez
  21. Andre Lotterer
  22. Marcus Ericsson

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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