What the teams said – Qualifying in Belgium
In truth, Mercedes have looked quick all weekend so it was no surprise to see them lock out the front row come qualifying. Hamilton had seemed to have the edge on his team mate, and interestingly was content to head out on both his runs in Q3 by himself, with no ‘tow’ on offer. It was clearly the right strategy as he charged to pole in style with one of his special laps, which he immediately dedicated to the late Chadwick Boseman. Bottas couldn’t extract the same pace from the W11 and was a distant second but remains positive that that could be an advantageous grid slot for the race…
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:41.252
"I feel incredibly blessed to be able to take pole on a day like this. I woke up this morning to the terrible news about Chadwick Boseman. What a humble man he was, portraying these iconic black figures. As a kid I wanted to be Superman, and it's so important today for young black people to have a superhero to look up to, who looks just like them. It's really not easy to perform at your best when you have something weighing on your heart, and to be truthful it was so difficult to shake off that negativity and channel it into something exceptional, but Chadwick showed that was possible. I've done a lot of laps in my F1 career, but those two laps in Q3 were almost perfect. You can't see my face under my helmet out there, but I was smiling, this track is just incredible and I was totally on the limit. We decided to go out early and run in the clean air as it's so easy to make a mess of the tow if you get blocked or there's a yellow flag and we definitely made the right call. We've got a big race still to come tomorrow and the Red Bulls looked good on the long-runs on Friday, but today it was an honour to be able to dedicate that pole to Chadwick because he inspired me. My prayers and thoughts are with his family."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:41.763
"I'm quite happy with qualifying, my lap felt good today, especially the second run in Q3. I don't think I made any mistakes in that run, so I'm not sure where the delta to Lewis came from, I'll have to look at the data. But I'm actually not too bothered about missing pole, as starting second or third can be an advantage in Spa. We've seen it before that with a tow on the first lap you can overtake the leader going into Turn 5. I hope there's plenty of opportunity tomorrow to try and fight for a good result and I'm looking forward to an exciting race."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"It's always good to qualify on the first row in Spa, which is a real drivers' circuit. We didn't really have a super smooth weekend so far; it was challenging to find the right set-up in Free Practice sessions, particularly in the low-speed corners. We still saw that pattern to a small degree in qualifying, but much less so than before. I'm really interested to see how the race is going to pan out tomorrow, especially the first laps should be exciting. Riccardo has shown tremendous straight-line speed today, so he will be strong in the run up to Turn 5 tomorrow. Verstappen was very strong in the long runs yesterday, so I'm sure he will be in the fight as well. I'm looking forward to an exciting race - new game, new chance."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It was a bit closer at the front than it's been at the previous races this year. We're clearly running a bit more downforce than the Red Bull and losing a couple of tenths to them on both the long straights but we're quite a bit faster in the corners and ended up nicely ahead. Lewis put together a very good lap; Valtteri was struggling a bit in some of the braking zones and lost a bit of time there, but it's great that he's on the front row as well. The midfield is also very close behind which should make the race quite open. We expect the run to Turn 5 to be pretty exciting; it's difficult enough to hold the lead here but given that Max is a bit quicker and Daniel looks to have about 8kph on us, so it could get end up getting quite crowded towards the end of the straight. It's normally a fun race though and there's also a risk of rain to factor in."
Verstappen made it through to Q3 comfortably on the yellow-marked medium tyre and thus starts on that compound while his team mate will line up tomorrow on the soft rubber. There was better to come from Albon in Q3 where he qualified fifth albeit with quite a margin to his team mate. As for Verstappen he pushed the Silver Arrows as far as he could and came close to pipping Bottas, but with a tow into the first corner, could well be the one to watch at the start tomorrow.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:41.778
“Overall, it’s been a really positive weekend so far, we came here and thought it was going to be really tricky for us and actually to be that close to Valtteri and in P3 is a good result. The lap was decent and of course I always look at the fastest car and we are half a second down but I think it is the closest we have been to Mercedes in qualifying this year. For us on this track, that is not normally our type of qualifying track, I think we can all be very happy with the result and now I’m looking forward to the race. I don’t think we prefer a wet or dry race but a change in weather during the race would spice things up. This track is amazing to drive in qualifying and already very exciting in the race, but if the weather comes into play a bit like last year at Hockenheim then it could be very special. I’m happy with the balance of the car and we have made a good step. Now we need to hope for a good start and then we can push Mercedes hard and maximise our result again.”
Alex Albon, 5th, 1:42.264
“I’m happy with P5 and it’s all to play for tomorrow. I think P4 was possible but I made a small mistake into Turn One on my final run which cost me some time otherwise I think we could have been there. My best lap was actually in Q2 so there are little bits for me to improve on but I’m happy. It’s been a much smoother weekend and the car felt good straightaway from the start of FP1 and it hasn’t changed much since. We’ve been chipping away, fine tuning it, and it’s been a positive weekend. I think there’s been a step forward on my side too which hopefully we can take forwards. We’re on a different strategy to Max and start tomorrow’s race on the soft compound. The start is obviously important here with such a short run to Turn One so we’ll be looking for a good and clean getaway. After that, we’ll see but with the possibility of rain it should be an exciting race.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“There was some great teamwork by the drivers today and they delivered a strong result for the Team. Third and fifth, so close to the front row, with Max just a hundredth off Valtteri gives us confidence at a track we know you can overtake at. Mercedes have got that advantage in qualifying but to be so close on a long track that has not been a favourite of ours marks a good Saturday. We have a slightly different strategy between the two cars with Max starting on the medium tyre and Alex on the soft, but that gives us options and of course we don’t know what to expect from the Spa weather. There could be some mixed conditions and we don’t know what the tyre degradation will be like so there are always opportunities. It will be hard to attack the Mercedes but with Max we have a real fighter of a driver and it’s great to have Alex up there as well.”
With Ricciardo second in practice yesterday and Ocon winding up P2 in FP3 this morning, much was expected from the team who were looking to bounce back from a disappointing weekend last time out. Ricciardo delivered for them in style, winding up fourth on the grid despite a brake-by-wire issue midway through the session. Had he not made a mistake on his last flying lap, it could have been even better. Ocon didn’t get a tow from his team mate but still managed a credible sixth for the team’s best qualifying of the year to date.
Daniel Ricciardo, 4th, 1:42.061
“I’m very happy with today’s qualifying. It was so close to the top three, but Max got me by a couple of tenths at the end. My lap was clean and probably as good as it was going to get. I left it all out there and the second row is a big reward. The car works well in lower downforce and that was the same last year. Tomorrow looks interesting. We have good pace in the dry, but if it’s wet, we’ve shown in the past we’re not bad either. If it rains, it creates more opportunities, so whatever the conditions, we’ll take it and aim to do the best possible job.”
Esteban Ocon, 6th, 1:42.396
“It’s been pretty good all weekend and we’ve certainly looked strong with the car handling a lot better than the past couple of races. All the changes we made coming into this race has given us confidence and we’ve seen it’s working well on track. It feels good, so I’m happy. We have a great chance to fight tomorrow. There is a chance of rain, so that could be interesting, and we’ll give our best for a good team result.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It was a very good qualifying session for us today, with Daniel finishing fourth and Esteban sixth. Both cars are working well and have been nicely balanced since the first runs of Friday. Looking ahead to the race tomorrow, there is more of a threat of rain than the past couple of days, but we feel confident in all conditions. We can have a very strong race and bring a good points haul home for the team.”
The first order of the day was to get both cars into Q3 which they managed, but with Norris running used tyres, he struggled to make an impression in Q3. For their second runs the youngster bolted on some fresh rubber but still couldn’t match his team mate’s lap and will start P10. As for Sainz, he was happy with seventh on the grid, but will have his work cut out to keep the Racing Point cars behind at the start tomorrow.
Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:42.438
“A good quali for us today. We got off to a solid start with a good first lap in Q1, which allowed me to stay in the garage for the second run and carry two new sets of soft compound tyres into Q3. There, I put together another two good laps to extract the maximum of our car today. P7 gives us a good chance to fight the Renaults tomorrow, who unfortunately were a bit out of reach for us today. We’ll also keep an eye on the weather radar because in Spa the conditions can change very quickly. Today was a good day, but the job isn’t done yet!”
Lando Norris, 10th, 1:42.657
“I’m disappointed with P10 because it could’ve been more. My lap was good – I just didn’t have a slipstream from anyone so I was in no man’s land. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. I was behind the Renaults on the out-lap and they were going extremely and erratically slowly. Therefore, I passed them but then I didn't have any slipstream in the lap. I was a long way off in Sector One, by half a second – four-tenths or something like that. I had a good Sector Two and not a bad Sector Three but, again, without slipstream it's difficult for overall lap-time. So, I’m happy I did what I could, but the bit that was out of my hands lost me a few more positions today. But we’re still not in a bad position for tomorrow.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“It’s very positive that we have both cars in Q3 again, and we have strong starting positions tomorrow considering the tightly-packed midfield.
“We’re slightly disappointed today because we could’ve finished higher up the timesheet with Lando. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to get a good slipstream on his last run in Q3, so there was little more he could do to improve. However, Carlos and his team put in a very good effort, saving two soft tyres for Q3 and putting two strong laps together to finish in P7.
“The weather forecast for the race isn’t clear at this point, so I’m sure we’ll be in for an exciting and interesting grand prix.”
Racing Point tried to get both cars into Q3 using the medium tyre but wound up outside the top 10 and needing to run again. They did just that on the soft compound and made Q3 but from there things unravelled. Neither driver made much of an impression on their first runs in Q3 with Perez just about nipping ahead of his team mate, and then neither came out for a second run after running out of fresh tyres.
Sergio Perez, 8th, 1:42.532
“I was a bit surprised to only be P8, so we need to look over the data and figure out why we seemed to lose some pace today, because we weren’t as strong in FP3 or qualifying compared to yesterday. It was also really tight out there and the gaps between cars were very small. I don’t feel we were able to show our true pace and we struggled on the mediums in Q2. We know it’s going to be tight in the race tomorrow too, but I feel confident we will have good race pace. I think we can move forward and still score plenty of points. There’s going to be a bit of an unknown with the weather too, so we might need to react quickly if rain arrives for the race.”
Lance Stroll, 9th, 1:42.603
“We weren’t as competitive as we wanted to be today and we were expecting more. We tried to reach Q3 on the medium tyre, but it just wasn’t possible. In Q3 I lost two tenths on my best lap by locking up at the last chicane, which is a crucial part of the lap. When the grid is as tight as it was today, that’s costly and it meant I wasn't able to improve on P9. It was a frustrating day, but now it’s about bouncing back tomorrow. We need to go away tonight and review because there’s a lot for us to analyse and improve to try to get back to the sort of pace we were showing on Friday. All in all, I think we’ll have solid race pace tomorrow and anything can happen – and there’s always the possibility of rain. We’re right in the mix and it’s going to be a close battle, so we can still fight for good points.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“We had hoped to reach Q3 on the medium tyres, but with all the teams so closely-matched, we had to switch to the softs to progress. This left both drivers with just one set of the softs for Q3 and we chose to run early in the session. Our qualifying pace didn’t quite match our expectations from practice, so that’s something we need to understand going forward. It’s tomorrow that counts, though, and we’re certainly well placed to compete for good points. I’m optimistic that the race pace will be strong, but there’s a chance rain showers could influence the race too.”
AlphaTauri looked to be flirting with the top 10 but as others improved, they found themselves just bumped out into 11th and 12th, with Kvyat getting the better of his team mate for the first time this season. Both have free tyre choice for the race which could be advantageous, especially if they can pick up a tow and make inroads right from the start of the race.
Pierre Gasly, 12th, 1:42.745
“I would have liked to make it to Q3 as there were only four one-hundredths of a second to Norris in P10. I didn’t nail the last chicane and had a poor exit, I tried to give it a bit more and lost traction which cost me a tenth. Still, we have a free tyre choice and we will fight from there. I would like it to rain tomorrow - I come from Normandy so we have rain pretty much every single day! We have a decent starting position in P12 and anything is possible from there, it's super tight in the midfield as always, so I’ll push as hard as I can and hopefully we can get a few points. Actually, it’s ideal to start P11 and P12 because of the free tyre choice, but I wanted to be P11! However, Dany did a very good lap and I just had to do better today - I can only blame myself.”
Daniil Kvyat, 11th, 1:42.730
“I had strong laps all through qualifying and I’ve been feeling better and better with the car since yesterday. We made steps in the right direction with my engineering crew, so I’m happy with the progress we’ve made, especially from Friday to Saturday. I think we have a good chance to have a strong race tomorrow, so we’ll do our best to make it happen. It will be a long one and, as it often happens in Spa, the weather can play a part. If it rains it could definitely spice up the race, so we need to stay on top of our game in these conditions, as many things can happen and we need to be there to take advantage.”
Claudio Balestri, Chief Engineer - Vehicle Performance
“Based on what we learnt on Friday, we modified our set-ups overnight to improve the car balance, which is always tricky on this track where we run with less downforce. The changes we made brought some improvement and this was evident in FP3, where we showed quite a good performance, especially on the prime tyre. In preparation for qualifying, we made further changes to improve the balance on softer tyres. This afternoon, both drivers were able to easily make it to Q2, but we have missed Q3 by only a few hundredths of a second, which is a shame. Our focus now switches to preparations for the race and, with the qualifying positions providing us with some useful strategy options, we will be looking to take advantage of any opportunity which might present itself. We expect it to be an interesting race, especially if the rain comes.”
Off the pace in practice, in truth it must have been a relief that both cars managed to make Q2. But once there they didn’t look likely to come close to the top 10, with Leclerc shading his team mate by two and a half tenths. Starting well back, can the Scuderia recover anything tomorrow at a track where they have exceled in the past two seasons?
Sebastian Vettel, 14th, 1:43.261
"We need to stay strong and keep doing what we are doing as we knew this would be a tough weekend for us. We lose quite a bit on the straights and this circuit has a lot of straights. We are also struggling to get the tyres working properly. However the race is long so you never know what might happen.
"In the end I think today’s result reflects our real level on a track like this. We are ready to do battle tomorrow, I don’t think the rain can change a lot but for sure we will be trying anything, also on strategy, to bring home some points."
Charles Leclerc, 13th, 1:43.656
“I think my final was ok and that P13 and P14 was the best we could do today. We managed to improve the car balance since yesterday, but unfortunately we didn’t find the performance we were hoping for there.
“The race will be tough but I’m always optimistic. Hopefully, with a strong start, the right strategy, and good tyre management, we will be able to fight for some points.
“These are tough times for all of us, including everyone who is supporting us watching from home, and I will give my all to bring home the best possible result tomorrow for them. It’s important for everyone in our team to keep their heads up and stay motivated. Together we will work hard to find the cause of the issue we are having and address it.”
Laurent Mekies, Sporting Director
"A very difficult qualifying with neither driver making it to Q3. This follows on from an even more difficult Friday, when we never managed to get the tyres to work properly. With very little grip, Charles, Sebastian and the team did what they could, turning the setup on its head to try and at least to get back to the performance level we had seen in previous races.
"Thanks to a lot of hard work from everyone, today was better than yesterday, but it was not enough to fight with our usual competitors. We also went for an aero setup aimed at tomorrow’s race, when the rain could be a factor.
"Tomorrow we will do all we can and then work on finding out why we never managed to get our package working properly, right from the first free practice session."
Latifi looked in decent form in FP3, winding up a very impressive P13. He looked to have a great opportunity to finally get the better of his team mate in qualifying but Russell pulled a blinding lap out of the bag to not just beat Latifi, but to also make Q2. In the dry, he was a couple of tenths off the Ferrari in front but nonetheless it was another impressive Saturday for the Brit.
George Russell, 15th, 1:43.468
"I am thrilled, and it was probably the best qualifying of the year for us. On paper, our car does not suit this circuit because of the long straights, so we were not expecting to be close to Q2. We put a really good lap together and the car was feeling great. It was exhilarating driving around here with the car on the limit like that, so I am really pleased. We hope for rain tomorrow, as if it is wet it might mix things up a bit, so fingers crossed the heavens open."
Nicholas Latifi, 19th, 1:44.138
"I am quite frustrated as the potential was there to get into Q2. We got very unlucky getting caught out by the yellow flag with the Haas so I had to lift for that on my last attempt. My lap considering this issue would have been good enough. However, the car was feeling great and we made some good changes overnight and everything was there to get into Q2. For sure in the race we will be looking to fight and challenge the other cars."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"It was nice to be back in Q2 again this weekend and it is testament to all the hard work throughout the team that we were. The new parts that we brought here are working well, which bodes well for the future.
"Nicholas was unfortunate with the brief yellow flag that cost him some time in his final lap of Q1, but otherwise it was a good session and both drivers enjoyed reasonably clear laps, which is never easy at this circuit.
"It was a little surprising to be fighting with the two Ferraris, but it was nice to see us resume a proper battle with Haas and Alfa Romeo. Tomorrow is of course where it really counts but we have put ourselves in a good position with both cars to fight with Haas and Alfa Romeo. If we can also put some pressure on the Ferraris then we are set for a good race."
After a very disrupted Friday, the team did at least manage to get a decent number of laps under their belt in FP3, although Magnussen’s session ended a touch early when he complained of something loose in his cockpit. Roll on qualifying though and both drivers struggled to make an impression, with Grosjean slightly irked to be called to the weighbridge midway through Q1. To make matters worse, Magnussen overcooked his last lap and wound up taking a messy detour through the gravel. He starts last tomorrow, with Grosjean 17th.
Romain Grosjean, 17th, 1:43.838
“We knew we’d part of the six to eight last cars in qualifying. It’s no secret though that here, Monza, Mugello – they’re all likely to be difficult weekends. The best we can do is to get the maximum from the car, and I think I did. My fast lap was a fun lap, Spa is absolutely mega – I wish we could race more often here. Even if you’re 17th if feels fast. If conditions are changeable tomorrow, then we can try different things and hopefully play to our strengths.”
Kevin Magnussen, 20th, 1:44.314
“It was very tight after the second run, in terms of time trying to do three runs here in Q1. After my second run though, the gap wasn’t too big to the midfield guys in P13 and P14. That would have been a very good position for us. I knew I really had to come up with an extremely good lap to do it. I gave it everything I had but I just overdid it. I made a mistake at Turn 14 and went off. We didn’t have any tows in the first two runs and that costs you about three tenths or so. It just didn’t really come together for us. We obviously don’t really know much about our race pace, hopefully – as it often is, we’re quicker in the race than compared to qualifying. I’m hoping that’s the same tomorrow. There’s a pretty good chance of rain on Sunday which could make things exciting.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was a difficult qualifying, but then the whole weekend up until now has been difficult. We didn’t have a lot of time to make up for the time we lost on Friday. We tried our best, we made progress, but it didn’t work out. We had planned to have both cars do three runs in Q1 – to make sure they could get as much driving time in before going for their fast lap. Romain (Grosjean) was called into the weighbridge, so we lost one of his attempts, we had to cancel it as there wasn’t the time. Kevin (Magnussen), on his fast qualifying run, he just tried to get the maximum out and he just tried too much. They both did a good job, it’s just difficult if you don’t run on Friday to get the confidence to attack like this as it’s a fast track. Kevin just tried hard because we haven’t got a lot to lose at the moment. We need to try hard and not be worried about taking calculated risks, we obviously don’t want to do anything stupid. If it rains tomorrow, we’re not going to do anything stupid, but we’ll take calculated risks.”
The Alfa pair looked a touch off the pace throughout practice so it was no surprise to see both drivers tumble out in Q1 again. Raikkonen just pipped his team mate by two-tenths but starting 16th and 18th, it could be a long afternoon for the team.
Kimi Raikkonen, 16th, 1:43.743
“We tried our best and today we really had a chance to go through, but we fell a bit short in the end. There was quite a bit of traffic on the outlap and the tyres were a bit too cold when I started the lap: I struggled with oversteer in turn one and lost some time compared to my previous lap. After that the car felt good, I went quicker than before but that wasn’t enough to make it to the top 15. It’s disappointing but that’s how it is. We’ll just see how it goes tomorrow and do our race: the rain would definitely make it a hectic day but we are not going to rely on that.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 18th, 1:43.950
“It was close and maybe there would have been a possibility to be in Q2, but I made a small mistake in turn eight and that was enough to lose the time we needed to make the cut. It’s disappointing but it is what it is. Tomorrow’s going to be another race full of battles, we will need to give our best and try to score some points. It may be wet and that would mean a chaotic race: whatever the conditions, however, we will need to do a good job and see where we end up.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Being edged out of Q2 by such a small margin, less than a tenth, is always a disappointment, but we can still be positive about our pace. On some clean laps, we would have had the pace to make it through with both cars, and that would have been a very good result. As things are, we line up just behind the Ferraris and we take the fight on from here. We still have a chance to make up some ground tomorrow: the grid is tight and the race is going to be long. The conditions are a big question mark and they could provide some good opportunities to move up the standings towards the points.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"There were only a few drops of rain seen earlier today, and on the P Zero Red soft tyres – one step softer than the softest compound we brought to Spa last year – Lewis Hamilton broke the all-time Spa lap record four times during qualifying, including once on the medium tyre. The fact that the top seven on the grid are all faster than last year's pole underlines the impressive evolution of the cars since last year. We've seen some divergence in strategies already, with the top three cars on the grid starting the race on the medium tyre tomorrow. This will make for a particularly interesting first stint: those on the medium should be able to go longer, but the drivers on soft will have a speed advantage that could be considerable in the early stages. While the teams will always be planning their strategies carefully, Spa is a race where tactics often have to react to changing circumstances, which could well be the case with uncertain weather predicted tomorrow."