RACE DEBRIEF

    Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was full of praise for Williams racer George Russell after the 23-year-old clinched P2 on the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix – ahead of the championship leader – who conceded that Lando Norris could also have beaten him to the top three at Spa on Saturday.

    Qualifying in Belgium was paused after a high-speed crash for McLaren racer Norris, which counted him out of Q3, before Russell qualified a sensational second on Saturday and Max Verstappen took pole position. It left Hamilton third on the grid for Sunday’s race with the Briton lamenting a “very difficult day” in wet conditions.

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    “It’s been a very difficult day, I think for everyone, and [I] just tried to stay positive and stay focused and calm but well done to Max, he did a great job right at the end. My first lap was really good; second lap, just struggled a little bit. But also, great job by George, fantastic.

    “Difficult for everyone. These guys [Verstappen and Russell] did a great job in the final stages,” he continued. “Really happy to see Lando’s OK. He was looking incredibly quick. I think he would probably be up here with us, or maybe even squeeze me out potentially; he had great pace today,” conceded Hamilton. “Hope he gets back on the road tomorrow.”

    Lewis Hamilton: 'If this is a bad day I will take it'

    Norris was taken to hospital for a precautionary X-Ray of his elbow, and qualified a provisional 9th for the race on Sunday having topped Q2 and Q1 before his Q3-ending crash in the rain at Eau Rouge-Raidillon.

    As for Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas, he starts a provisional 13th with a five-place grid penalty from Hungary. The Finn will therefore not be in the lead battle at the very start of the race – something Hamilton pointed out as a potential handicap to his challenge for the lead.

    QUALIFYING: Verstappen denies Russell shock pole in dramatic wet qualifying session at Spa

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    Nobody has won from P3 at Spa since Michael Schumacher in 2001

    “Yes, I don’t really know what happened with Valtteri, but unfortunate because I think they have two Red Bulls not too far away [Perez starts 7th] – so that’s going to make it a little bit harder in terms of strategy because I think Valtteri has a penalty also,” said Hamilton. “Nonetheless we’ll do everything we can… I hope it’s not crazy rain like this but interchangeable [conditions] could be fine.

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    “Otherwise, I’m really grateful to the team for just keeping their cool during this session and tomorrow is another day. Hopefully we have better weather. Hopefully for the fans particularly because they’re probably drenched out there today,” he concluded.

    Eight points ahead of pole-sitter Verstappen, will Hamilton emerge as championship leader after Sunday’s race at Spa-Francorchamps?