LEWIS Hamilton brilliantly mastered wet conditions again to beat title rival Sebastian Vettel to pole position for the Belgian GP.
Vettel and Ferrari had once more appeared to have an edge in the dry, but a rain shower at the start of Q3 was perfectly timed for Mercedes and, as the track dried in the closing minutes, Hamilton came to the fore to beat Vettel to pole by seven tenths of a second.
And, in the shock story of the day, Force India kicked off the new era at the rescued team with a fairy-tale second-row lockout as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez surged to third and fourth places respectively.
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Romain Grosjean also starred late on to take fifth for Haas, leaving Kimi Raikkonen only sixth as the Finn’s hugely-promising weekend went awry in Q3 with the second Ferrari strangely not on track for the closing minutes as the track dried.
On a power circuit, Red Bull were already adrift of usual rivals Mercedes and Ferrari but slipped further back in the wet to leave Max Verstappen seventh and Daniel Ricciardo eighth.
Valtteri Bottas already knew he would start Sunday’s race from the back row after engine change penalties, but the second Mercedes made it through to Q3 – although did not ultimately set a final time after spinning as the rain started to fall in Q3.
But, long before the rain came, there was fresh consternation for two of the sport’s once all-dominant teams – McLaren and Williams – who each lost both their cars in Q1.
McLaren’s second double Q1 elimination of the year was particularly painful for Stoffel Vandoorne, who qualified slowest of all with his home race weekend doing little to alleviate the pressure on his shoulders to secure his F1 future beyond this season.
A combined of car problems and a spin had compromised his build-up and left him last in all three practice sessions, yet a problem-free qualifying failed to offer any improvement despite the McLaren team-mates helping each other with a tow down Spa’s long straights.
Belgian GP Qualifying Timesheet
Driver — Team — Time
1) Lewis Hamilton — Mercedes — 1:58.179
2) Sebastian Vettel — Ferrari — +0.726
3) Esteban Ocon — Force India — +3.672
4) Sergio Perez — Force India — +3.715
5) Romain Grosjean — Haas — +3.943
6) Kimi Raikkonen — Ferrari — +4.492
7) Max Verstappen — Red Bull — +4.590
8) Daniel Ricciardo — Red Bull — +4.760
9) Kevin Magnussen — Haas — +6.754
10) Valtteri Bottas* — Mercedes — No time set
Knocked out in Q2
11) Pierre Gasly — Toro Rosso — 1:43.844
12) Brendon Hartley — Toro Rosso — 1:43.865
13) Charles Leclerc — Sauber — 1:44.062
14) Marcus Ericsson — Sauber — 1:44.301
15) Nico Hulkenberg* — Renault — No time set
Knocked out in Q1
16) Carlos Sainz — Renault — 1:44.489
17) Fernando Alonso — McLaren — 1:44.917
18) Sergey Sirotkin — Williams — 1:44.998
19) Lance Stroll — Williams — 1:45.134
20) Stoffel Vandoorne — McLaren — 1:45.307
This article originally appeared on Sky Sports
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