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Qualifying - Hamilton denies Vettel to grab thrilling Spa pole 24 Aug 2013

(L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrate in parc ferme.
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 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Caterham's Giedo van der Garde will start the race in 14th place as he is knocked out along with Hulkenberg, Sutil, Perez, Bianchi and Chilton at the end of Q2 The rain starts to fall again at the start of Q3, which brings the cars out early A delighted Lewis Hamilton is all smiles as he and Sebastian Vettel occupy the front row for Mercedes and Red Bull respectively in Belgium

The weather created one of the best qualifying sessions of the season as Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes narrowly beat the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber to pole position for Sunday's 2013 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix.

Rain 15 minutes before Q1 left much of the track wet, obliging everyone to start the session on Pirelli’s intermediate tyres. But when the rain stopped after 10 minutes, the surface began to dry and the times started plunging. That led to one of the most extraordinary running orders at the end of a 2013 session, with Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham third fastest (he was one of the few to risk running mediums), and both Marussias through to Q2 with Jules Bianchi 11th and Max Chilton 16th as Ferrari's Fernando Alonso just beat Hamilton for fastest time.

It was a disaster for Williams and Toro Rosso. Pastor Maldonado was 17th on 2m 03.072s, ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo. Neither of them timed their runs well, leaving them 18th and 19th on 2m 03.300s and 2m 03.317s respectively, while Williams' Valtteri Bottas was 20th on 2m 03.432s. Minutes before, both Williams cars had been 1-2… Underlining how important timing was, Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez fell from a momentary second place to 21st in the blink of an eye, on 2m 04.324s, with Charles Pic’s Caterham at the back on 2m 07.384s.

Q2 was equally electrifying, with the times changing faster than they could be written down as mediums and hards were the tyre choices following Q1’s intermediate runs.

In the end Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen headed Alonso and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, who bounced back from a couple of slow runs to save himself from the drop-out zone. McLaren's Jenson Button and Ferrari's Felipe Massa did likewise, leaving Hamilton perilously close in 10th on 1m 49.067s as Nico Hulkenberg became the first to be excluded with 1m 49.088s in his Sauber. Behind him Force India's Adrian Sutil’s 1m 49.103s left him 12th from Sergio Perez’s McLaren on 1m 49.304s. Then there was a big gap as the valiant Van der Garde helmed his Caterham to 14th place with 1m 52.036s. Behind him, team rivals Bianchi and Chilton likewise recorded their team’s best grid placings in 15th and 16th on 1m 53.563s and 1m 53.762s respectively.

The rain came back with a vengeance in the final sector as Q3 began, spicing things up as all bar Force India's Paul di Resta left the pits on mediums. At the end of a tiptoe lap they all came in for intermediates again even though the final sector was still wet and it had started to rain in the first sector, too. With the long lap, a fast turnaround was essential.

For a long time it seemed that Force India's Paul di Resta was about to enjoy his first pole after the team got him out before conditions deteriorated further, the Scot lapping in 2m 02.332s. But then as others lapped two seconds slower Rosberg somehow found a great lap of 2m 02.873s to go second. Things were improving out on the track, however, and a rash of improvements saw the positions behind these two changing by the second. Crucially, however, Webber, Vettel and Hamilton just beat the flag by seconds. Just after Button had moved to third, Webber completed his final lap on 2m 01.325s. Pole! But then Vettel completed his: 2m 01.200s. Pole! And then Hamilton completed his: 2m 01.012s. Pole! Phew!

Behind them, Rosberg improved to 2m 02.251s for fourth ahead of Di Resta, with Button sixth on 2m 03.75s. Then came Lotus's Romain Grosjean on 2m 03.081s, Raikkonen on 2m 03.390s, Alonso on 2m 04.482s and Massa on 2m 04.059s.

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