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Qualifying analysis - stage set for blistering Belgian battle 27 Aug 2011

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Bruno Senna (BRA) Lotus Renault GP R31. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Williams FW33. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C30. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Team Lotus T128.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) HRT Formula 1 Team F111. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Jaime Alguersuari (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Red Bull Racing RB7 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011

Spa more than lived up to its dramatic reputation on Saturday, with both changeable weather and driver exploits mixing up the on-track action. Although Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel eventually snatched pole position for the ninth time this season, there was plenty of competition for the top slot, not least from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. We take a team-by-team look at qualifying...

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 48.298s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 49.376s, P3

Vettel said that he had been ‘uncomfortable’ early on in qualifying, but that he took a step forward in Q2 with some new racing lines that led to a big improvement. He was delighted with his ninth pole of the season. Webber, who turned 35 this weekend, had been happy, until he was pushed from first to third, and suggested that he might have pushed his tyres too hard, too soon.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 48.730s, P2
Jenson Button, 2m 05.150s, P13

Hamilton survived the drama of a collision at the end of Q2 when Maldonado drove into him, and was able to fight for pole in Q3 though his McLaren’s suspension was slightly out of line. He held it for seconds, until he was deposed by Vettel, and says he will be strong in the race. Button was unlucky to miss his final chance to improve as times tumbled at the end of Q2, after a misunderstanding between him and the team saw him cool his tyres and run out of laps in which to improve. He will start only 13th.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 50.256s, P4
Fernando Alonso, 1m 51.251s, P8

Ferrari looked very strong in Q1 and Q2, with Alonso fastest in the latter. But when the time came to go to slicks in Q3, the Spaniard had trouble generating sufficient tyre temperature and also struggled with traffic. For a change, Massa got the best out of a tricky and disappointing situation to take fourth, with his team mate only eighth.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 50.552s, P5
Michael Schumacher, no time, P24

Mercedes had a bad start when the right-rear wheel fell of Schumacher’s car at Les Combes on his out lap, spinning him into a wall and leaving him in 24th place. Rosberg improved late on to fifth.

Toro Rosso
Jaime Alguersuari, 1m 50.773s, P6
Sebastien Buemi, 2m 04.692s, P11

Toro Rosso have been hooked up all weekend here, and Alguersuari did an excellent job to take his best-ever Formula One qualifying position. Team mate Buemi ran him close all through but lost out by not quite getting the right lap at the right time in the track condition lottery, but with 11th place as well the team are well set to score strongly in their midfield fight with Sauber and Force India.

Renault
Bruno Senna, 1m 51.121s, P7
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 52.303s, P10

Senna made a hugely impressive return to race duty, outqualifying Petrov fair and square even though he lost three-tenths on one of the straights as he was activating KERS and the DRS. The Russian was happy with 10th place, however, having survived a spin.

Sauber
Sergio Perez, 1m 51.374s, P9
Kamui Kobayashi, 2m 04.757s, P12

Perez was again the star in the Hinwil camp, getting through to Q3 to take ninth on the grid. The Mexican said he was very happy with his best-ever starting position. Kobayashi said he lost out on a final crack at Q3 when he took the chequered flag a fraction earlier than others who went on to improve. Peter Sauber said the overall result was better than expected, while technical director James Key said a set-up gamble had paid off.

Williams
Rubens Barrichello, 2m 07.349s, P14
Pastor Maldonado, 2m 08.106s, P16, will start P21

Both drivers said that their progress towards Q3 was compromised when the red flag came out for Sutil’s debris to be cleared up in Q2, and that they thereafter met traffic. Maldonado will start five places lower after clashing with Hamilton.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 2m 07.777s, P15
Paul di Resta, 2m 07.758s, P18, will start P17

Force India came to Spa expecting to repeat their 2009 level of competitiveness, but for various reasons failed to deliver. Sutil had just gone fifth fastest in Q2 when he lost it at the top of Eau Rouge and trashed his VJM-04, while Di Resta spun while trying to push through to Q2, and just when he looked safe was bumped by Kovalainen. The Scot blamed the team for keeping him in the pits when conditions were at their best, then calling him in just as he could have made one last effort to improve. Starting 15th and 18th, they’ll be charging on Sunday.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen, 2m 08.354s, P17, will start P16
Jarno Trulli, 2m 08.773s, P19, will start P18

Kovalainen was delighted to get through to Q2, and said that he didn’t think he could have got any more from the Lotus package, while Trulli complained off traffic on his best lap in Q1.

Virgin
Timo Glock, 2m 09.566s, P20, will start P19
Jerome D’Ambrosio, 2m 11.601s, P21, will start P20

Glock thought that changes made to his VR-02 affected it for Q1 when he struggled on his first set of tyres, but said he got the most from the car on his second run. D’Ambrosio was disappointed with his time and said that they didn’t get his strategy right.

HRT
Vitantonio Liuzzi, 2m 11.616s, P22
Daniel Ricciardo, 2m 13.077s, P23

Liuzzi said he could have been up with Glock but for traffic on his best lap which cost him five-tenths, while Ricciardo said he didn’t make the best of the one good lap of track conditions in Q1.

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