Belgian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
The Slippery Slip
The track was wet throughout qualifying from heavy rain before the sessions, and it was slippery out there. But Nico Rosberg managed to slip in a fast lap right at the end of Qualifying 3 to win the pole ahead of his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. It was Rosberg's 11th pole of his F1 career and his seventh of the year.
The ambient temperature at the start of the session was 48 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Centigrade.)
Heavy rain had drenched the track during the lunch break. It stopped before qualifying began, but the track was still wet.
Marussia's Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton led the first pack of cars out of pit lane as Q1 began. Most drivers had Pirelli's intermediate rain tires fitted but some, like Valtteri Bottas (Williams), had extreme wet tires on.
Everybody except Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) quickly headed out to get in some laps. Hulkenberg soon joined the action.
Bianchi set the first time - 2:16.474 - but Bottas soon lowered the mark to 2:10.750.
5 minutes into the session, Daniel Ricciardo turned a 2:10.642 in his Red Bull. The track was slowly drying (although there was still a lot spray out there) and Lewis Hamilton pushed in a 2:09.492 in his Mercedes.
8 minutes into the session, Hamilton clocked a 2:07.587 while his teammate Nico Rosberg moved into second with a 2:07.792. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) was a distant third with a time of 2:10.105.
Daniil Kvyat was 16th in his Toro Rosso and on the bubble of missing the cut to get into Q2.
With 3 minutes remaining in the session, Kvyat jumped up to eighth and that put Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) on the bubble. The bubble guy changed to Adrian Sutil (Sauber) while Maldonado had a quick spin. Next it was Hulkenberg on the bubble.
In the final seconds, Rosberg went fastest with a 2:07.130. Hulkenberg was 16th and still in the show. Sutil was 17th and out of the Q2 show. Then Sutil moved up to 15th while Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) ended up 16th and Maldonado.
The top six at the end of Q1 were: Rosberg, Hamilton, Felipe Massa (Williams), Bottas, Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari.)
The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Chilton, Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) and Caterham teammates Andre Lotterer and Marcus Ericsson.
The track was still wet, and therefore the drivers where still using the inter tires. Everybody except Vergne was soon on track.
First out for the 15 minute session was Lotus driver Romain Grosjean. He set the first time at 2:13.974, but that did not last long as Fernando Alonso clocked a 2:08.470 in his Ferrari.
With 8 minutes remaining in the session, Rosberg set a 2:08.108. Sutil was 10th and on the bubble to get into Q3.
With 7 minutes remaining in the session, Hamilton went from being out of the top 10 to first with a lap in 2:07.089.
With 2 minutes remaining in the session, all 16 drivers were on track. Now Magnussen was on the bubble in 10th. Kvyat was 11th but jumped to eighth. Now Button was 10th.
In the final moments Button dropped to 11th while Vettel was now 10th. Then Button jumped to ninth and Vettel to seventh which pushed Button back to 10th.
The top 10 at the end of Q2 were: Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso, Bottas, Raikkonen, Massa, Vettel, Magnussen, Ricciardo and Button.
The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Kvyat, Vergne, Sergio Perez (Force India), Sutil, Grosjean and Bianchi.
The drivers would have the usual 12 minutes to sort out the top 10 grid spots, but Spa is such a long lap that they would not be able to get in too many laps in Q3.
Vettel was anxious to get out there and waited at pit exit for the green light. Hamilton and Rosberg followed him out.
The sun was out too, but the track was still wet.
Vettel went quickest but Rosberg beat him by over two seconds. Alonso was third, Massa fourth and Hamilton fifth. Then Bottas moved into fourth. Next Ricciardo claimed fifth.
The order was now Rosberg, Vettel, Alonso, Bottas, Ricciardo and Button.
With 5 minutes remaining in the session, Hamilton took second.
With 3 minutes remaining in the session, the order was Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Button, Magnussen and Massa.
With 2 minutes remaining in the session, everybody was out on track for one final run. Vettel could not improve on third. Hamilton started his lap with 21 seconds to go. But he could not improve enough to take the pole as Rosberg went even faster.
The top 10 qualifiers at the end of Q3 were: Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo, Bottas, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Massa and Button.