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Qualifying - Webber and Hamilton on Spa front row 28 Aug 2010

Qualifying parc ferme (L to R): Robert Kubica (POL) Renault, third; Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing, pole position; Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, second.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Bruno Senna (BRA) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) HRTF1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F10.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) BMW Sauber C29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010

The weather was expected to disrupt qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, and it certainly did that.

With more rain threatening as the cars streamed out for their final runs in Q3, the order from their first set of laps in the session was Mark Webber for Red Bull, Robert Kubica for Renault, Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton for McLaren. But even at that point it was so dark that it was inevitable these last attempts would be frustrated by rain. As the track became damp again in places, driver after driver failed to improve, until an heroic lap from Hamilton jumped him alongside Webber on the front row.

The Australian’s 1m 45.778s stood up for pole position - Red Bull's 12th of the season - but Hamilton somehow cut down from 1m 46.203s to 1m 45.863s to shove Kubica down to third with his 1m 46.100s and Vettel to fourth on his 1m 46.127s.

Jenson Button and Felipe Massa share the third row for McLaren and Ferrari on 1m 46.206s and 1m 46.314s, with Williams' Rubens Barrichello and Force India's Adrian Sutil on row four on 1m 46.602s and 1m 46.659s.

Nico Hulkenberg made it a good session for Williams by joining Barrichello in the top 10, with 1m 47.053s, but Fernando Alonso was not a happy man after a troubled first run yielded only 1m 47.441s in his Ferrari and the rain spoiled his second.

There were still damp patches to catch the unwary when Q2 began, and further showers were expected so everyone bar Lotus's Heikki Kovalainen got out as soon as the track opened again.

The track stayed dry as the sun came through, and as Hamilton and Button set the two fastest times, third place was squabbled over in rapid fire succession by the Red Bulls, Kubica and the Ferraris.

The two Mercedes were the first to miss going through to Q1. Michael Schumacher managed 1m 47.874s for 11th ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg on 1m 47.885s. Then came Jaime Alguersuari in the first of the Toro Rossos on 1m 48.267s, Tonio Liuzzi in the second Force India on 1m 48.680s, Sebastien Buemi on 1m 49.209s for Toro Rosso, Kovalainen on 1m 50.980s and Timo Glock in the Virgin on 1m 52.049s.

Yes, you read that correctly. Both Lotus and Virgin got cars through to Q2. This is how it happened. Q1 started with a bang when Vitaly Petrov dropped his Renault on his out-lap after putting the right-rear wheel on the still-wet kerb on the exit to the left-hander after Rivage. The session was briefly red-flagged as the damaged R30 was taken away.

After that, rain out the back of the circuit turned the whole thing into a crapshoot as cars slipped and slithered around. With seven minutes left the order was Hamilton, Button, Massa, Barrichello, Barrichello, Rosberg, Webber, Liuzzi, Schumacher, Alonso, Glock. Vettel was 17th… Then 18th, as he momentarily got bumped by Trulli. But by then it was drying slightly again, enough for the German to jump temporarily to third before another rash of improvements thanks to enhanced conditions pushed him back down to 11th as Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Barrichello, Kubica, and Schumacher jumped up.

In the end, a double set of offs for BMW Sauber, courtesy of Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa, saw neither of the Hinwil cars making it through to Q2. Trulli was the fastest faller in 18th on 2m 01.491s, then came Kobayashi on 2m 02.284s, Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto in the HRTs on 2m 03.612s and 2m 03.941s, De la Rosa on 2m 05.294s, Lucas di Grassi, who had spun his Virgin at unnamed Turn 14 (between Fagnes and Stavelot) on 2m 18.754s and Petrov, who didn’t set a time.

After qualifying, Glock was penalised five grid places for impeding Yamamoto during Q1, whilst Buemi was penalised three grid places for impeding Rosberg. So with Schumacher getting his 10-place penalty for his move on Barrichello in Hungary, and Rosberg getting five for changing his gearbox after this morning’s free practice, the grid from P11 backwards reads: Alguersuari, Liuzzi; Kovalainen, Rosberg; Trulli, Buemi; Kobayashi, Senna; Yamamoto, Glock; Schumacher, De la Rosa; Di Grassi, Petrov.

Thus, while it was a bad day ultimately for Mercedes, all three of the new teams had something to crow about. The forecast for tomorrow, however, is heavy rain, so this is truly going to be one of those races in which anything could happen.