Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix with pole position and a new track record.
Hamilton was peerless in Q3, where both his laps were quick enough to beat teammate Valtteri Bottas to pole. His second effort, a 1m 41.252s, was not only quick enough to put half a second between him and Bottas, but it also bettered the previous Spa-Francorchamps track record by 0.249s.
“Very, very clean session,” he said. “Every lap was just getting better and better.”
That previous record had been held by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel since 2018, and it was poignant for that benchmark to be broken on a day Ferrari endured one of its worst qualifying performances in recent memory. Vettel and Charles Leclerc qualified 14th and 13th and the six Ferrari-powered cars qualified in the bottom eight, the power unit clearly not up to the task at the horsepower-sensitive Belgian circuit.
In any case Hamilton was untouchable at the business end of qualifying, so much so that teammate Bottas was left mystified by the half-second gap to pole. However, the Finn didn’t think his chances of taking a much-needed victory to boost his title hopes would be too diminished by starting from the first row.
“The second run felt actually pretty good overall, so I don’t really know about the gap to Lewis,” he said. “But I’m not too bothered, because I know second place is quite a good place to start here. I’m definitely going to go for it, and I think the first lap is a good opportunity.”
Max Verstappen was a standout performer on his way to third on the grid and just 0.015s behind Bottas, and the Dutchman was enthusiastic for his chances in the race from the second row.
“We came here and thought it was going to be really tricky for us, but to be P3 and that closer to Valtteri — OK, it was still half a second to Lewis — I think we can be very pleased with that,” he said. “Very pleased, good day, and a lot of opportunities for tomorrow.”
Daniel Ricciardo was superb to qualify fourth for Renault. The Australian was quicker than Hamilton in both the first and last sectors — he was fastest of all at the final split — underlining the amount of downforce stripped from his car in search of performance.
It was enough to beat Alex Albon to the second row of the grid. The Thai driver qualified fifth and a second off the pace, half a second behind teammate Verstappen.
Esteban Ocon will start sixth in the second Renault, having beaten McLaren’s Carlos Sainz by 0.042s, leaving the Spaniard to qualify seventh. Racing Point teammates Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll qualified eighth and ninth ahead of Lando Norris in the second McLaren. AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat missed out on the top-10 shootout by 0.008s but edged teammate Pierre Gasly to 11th and 12th respectively.
The woes of the Ferrari-powered cars continued as both works Ferrari cars were knocked out in Q2. Charles Leclerc was more than 0.9s off the pace in Q2 to qualifying 13th, and the Monegasque was almost 0.3s ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel in 14th. Only George Russell was slower than the Ferrari duo in Q2, qualifying 15th and a further 0.2s off the pace.
Kimi Raikkonen qualified 16th, leading four Ferrari-engined cars knocked out in the bottom five during Q1. The Finn was only 0.087s adrift of the Q2 cut-off time — ironically set by Leclerc — and was a tenth up on Haas driver Romain Grosjean.
Antonio Giovinazzi qualified 18th in the second Alfa Romeo ahead of Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi, the only non-Ferrari-powered car eliminated in Q1, with Kevin Magnussen qualifying last for Haas.