Hamilton beats Vettel to pole as Force India shines in wet

Image by Andy Hone/LAT

Hamilton beats Vettel to pole as Force India shines in wet

Formula 1

Hamilton beats Vettel to pole as Force India shines in wet

Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix from title rival Sebastian Vettel as Force India locked out the second row in a wet qualifying session.

Rain hit at the start of Q3 and forced the majority of the field to pit at the end of their out laps to fit intermediate tires. The two Force Indias stayed out on slicks and Sergio Perez slid sideways at Raidillon but just managed to keep his car out of the wall before returning to the pits.

The Red Bulls were first out on track on intermediates along with Kimi Raikkonen, but the likes of Hamilton, Vettel and the Force Indias were able to refuel and join the track later with the rain starting to ease. Last across the line became a more important factor and the Red Bulls and Raikkonen were forced to pit before the end of the session, leaving the Ferrari in sixth ahead of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

Hamilton, however, pulled out an excellent final lap to take pole position with a 1m58.179s, gaining a huge amount of time in the final sector. Vettel could only respond with a 1m58.905s, while Ocon had set the fastest first sector but ended up 3.6 seconds adrift of pole as he took third.

Sergio Perez, Racing Point Force India. (Image by Andy Hone/LAT)

Perez will start from fourth after ending up less than 0.1s off his teammate with the Haas of Romain Grosjean also getting the better of Raikkonen to take fifth. The second Haas of Kevin Magnussen will start from ninth, while Valtteri Bottas — who spun after going out on slicks to give Hamilton a tow initially — didn’t set a time in Q3 as he will start from the back of the grid.

After a competitive start to the second part of qualifying, the final runs saw a clear split between the top 10 and the rest as Pierre Gasly was half a second off a spot in Q3 in 11th place. The Frenchman also had to deal with teammate Brendon Hartley spinning in front of him at La Source at the start of his final run, with the two Toro Rossos ending up separated by just 0.021s.

The Saubers were surprisingly uncompetitive in Q2, with Charles Leclerc ending up in 13th place after being unable to match his lap time from the opening part of qualifying. Leclerc was 0.4s slower in the second session, with Marcus Ericsson similarly slower before he was unable to complete a final run.

With a power unit penalty meaning he will also start from the back of the grid — behind Bottas — Nico Hulkenberg was the other driver to drop out as he opted not to run in Q2.

Carlos Sainz was the surprise elimination in the first part of qualifying, with the future McLaren driver complaining that he had no grip on his final run. The Spaniard was knocked into the bottom five by Ericsson right at the end of the session, meaning both Renaults will start a long way down the grid after Hulkenberg’s penalty.

Q1 continued a dismal weekend for both McLaren and Williams, with both teams losing both cars by a significant margin. Fernando Alonso was 17th but 0.7s off Pierre Gasly — the final car to advance — and less than 01s ahead of Sergey Sirotkin. Lance Stroll was a similar margin behind his teammate, with Stoffel Vandoorne ending up slowest after a high-speed spin during FP3 that meant his car needed some light repairs before qualifying.

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