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Qualifying analysis - red-hot Hamilton masters mixed conditions 24 Aug 2013

Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9 locks up.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8 locks up.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013

If there’s one thing guaranteed to spice up qualifying, it’s inclement weather. In Belgium on Saturday the rain lashed down ahead of Q1, then cleared before Q2, before returning for Q3. All of this combined to produce a thrilling session during which Force India’s Paul di Resta nearly stole pole position, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel thought he had pole position, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton surprised everyone - including himself - by actually claiming pole position! The Briton has returned from the summer break in excellent form - this was his fourth consecutive pole - but can he claim win a second race victory in a row on Sunday? We take a team-by-team look at the qualifying formbook…

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, 2m 01.012s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 2m 02.251s, P4

Hamilton and his engineers worked hard to hone his F1 W04, and while he admitted it might not have been quick enough for pole had it been dry, he and the car were more than good enough to see off he Red Bulls as all three got a crucial extra lap before the chequered flag fell to end Q3. He said it was a surprise, as his dash read-out had been telling him he was three to five seconds off the pace (possibly because it was comparing it with Q2 which was dry), and that his 31st career pole was as satisfying as the first. Rosberg did a fantastic job to get within half a second of Di Resta’s initial pole run in Q3, which was done in slightly better conditions, but though he was fastest when he took the flag, his three rivals all made excellent use of their extra lap to push him down to fourth.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 2m 01.200s P2
Mark Webber, 2m 01.325s, P3

Neither Vettel nor Webber had any complaints, and both look quietly confident of a very strong performance in the race when the weather, as in Q3, is expected to be mixed. However, if the weather does somehow stay dry for the majority of the race, Red Bull could be unbeatable.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 2m 02.332s, P5
Adrian Sutil, 1m 49.103s, P12

Di Resta made the decision to start Q3 on intermediates, whereas his nine rivals had to tiptoe around for a lap on mediums. It was a great strategy call, but unluckily for him whilst track conditions initially got worse, they did eventually improve enough for four of them to leapfrog him. Nevertheless, fifth on the grid equalled Di Resta’s best qualifying position to date, in Bahrain. Sutil was fastest for a while in Q2 when everyone switched to mediums, but he had gone slightly too soon and steadily slipped back down to 12th.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 2m 03.075s, P6
Sergio Perez, 1m 49.304s, P13

McLaren showed clear signs of improved performance this weekend, but ultimately Button put sixth place in Q3 down to an aero inefficiency that still dogs the MP4-28. He was nonetheless pleased with his best qualifying position of the year. Perez regretted going out too late in Q2 to get the lap he needed to make it into Q3.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 2m 03.081s, P7
Kimi Raikkonen, 2m 03.390s, P8

Grosjean maintained the upper hand over Raikkonen in qualifying, but Lotus were disappointed with the fourth row of the grid after the Finn had been fastest in Q2. They were later fined 5000 euros for unsafely releasing Gorsjean into Button’s path.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 2m 03.482s, P9
Felipe Massa, 2m 04.059s, P10

In conditions that should have helped Ferrari to overcome the F138’s shortcomings, they faltered. The car had looked very quick in the dry thanks to some updates, but the team just didn’t pull off good enough runs to do better than ninth and tenth, when timing was all-important. Alonso, predictably, still believes he can be strong in the race whatever the prevailing conditions.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 49.088s, P11
Esteban Gutierrez, 2m 04.324s, P21

Hulkenberg was philosophical about P11, especially as he missed bumping Hamilton out of Q3 by 0.21s. Nothing epitomised the importance of timing more than what befell Gutierrez in Q1. For a while he was an impressive second, but as others hit their stride in better conditions he plummeted to 21st.

Caterham
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 52.036s, P14
Charles Pic, 2m 07.384s, P22

Once again Van der Garde made a bold decision on tyres as he switched to slicks to jump up to an excellent third place in Q1. In Q2 he put his Caterham 14th on the grid, as team mate Pic got the timing and the tyres wrong when he was called to the weighbridge, and thus wound up 22nd.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 52.563s, P15
Max Chilton, 1m 52.762s, P16

Like Caterham, Marussia had a great run in Q1 and got both cars through to Q2, with Bianchi 11th and Chilton’s late multi-lap run to 16th bumping Maldonado out at the first hurdle. They too gambled on medium slicks in Q1 despite the conditions, and right at the end their bravery was rewarded.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 2m 03.072s, P17
Valtteri Bottas, 2m 04.432s, P20

At one stage in Q1 Williams were 1-2, but their timing was slightly out and as others improved in better conditions, Maldonado and Bottas slumped to 17th and 20th places. They go into the race hoping to capitalise on the FW35’s strong straightline speed to help them make up places.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne, 2m 03.300s, P18
Daniel Ricciardo, 2m 03.317s, P19

Q1 was a disaster for Toro Rosso, after the STR8 showed great pace in Vergne’s hands in practice. Like Williams, they too got their timing wrong, and as the Frenchman succinctly summarised, it was a team mistake.

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