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Qualifying analysis: McLaren flounder as Force India and Lotus spring a surprise

22 Aug 2015

Sergio Perez will start Sunday's race from a career-best-equalling fourth in Belgium, allowing Force India to dream of returning to the Spa-Francorchamps podium six years after their breakthrough rostrum at the circuit. The Mexican's grid slot owed something to a penalty for Romain Grosjean, who nevertheless starts from the top 10 after his own impressive showing. McLaren's day was a marked contrast, as power unit upgrades failed to lift the team up the grid...

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 47.197s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 47.655s, P2

Hamilton's 48th career pole was his 10th of the season and marked the first time since Schumacher in 2000/2001 that a driver has taken six consecutive poles – indeed it is the first time since Mika Hakkinen in 1999 that a driver has achieved the feat in a single season. The world champion got his F1 W06 Hybrid perfectly balanced and crucially had the edge on Rosberg in sector two. The German struggled there, and that made the difference between pole and second place on the grid.

Both say that Mercedes have analysed the reasons for their poor starts in Britain and Hungary and that they are confident here, but they have slight concerns about their tyres after the failure to determine the exact reason for Rosberg's problem on Friday.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 48.537s, P3
Felipe Massa, 1m 48.685s, P7, will start P6

After keeping their powder dry all through practice, Williams cut loose in qualifying and Bottas did a great job to take third on the grid. Massa was only a tenth of a second slower, but the times were so tight behind the Mercedes that this meant only a seventh place slot for the Brazilian. However, he moves to sixth with Grosjean's penalty.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 48.561s, P4, will start P9
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 48.754s, P8, will start P7

After their dramas on Friday Lotus bounced back with strong performances from both drivers when it mattered. Grosjean was an excellent fourth, although sadly for the Frenchman that will convert into ninth as he drops five grid places because of a gearbox change after a power outage at the end of FP2. Maldonado couldn't match his team mate, but still qualified in the top eight for only the third time this year.

Force India
Sergio Perez, 1m 48.599s, P5, will start P4
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 49.121s, P11

Perez was in great form at Spa, and it showed with the fifth fastest time. Even better for Force India, Grosjean's penalty elevates the Mexican to fourth, giving them the chance to dream of a podium on Sunday, at a circuit where they scored their breakthrough rostrum in 2009. Hulkenberg fared less well, and narrowly missed out on making Q3, which consigns him to 11th on the grid.

Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 48.639s, P6, will start P5
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 49.228s, P12

Ricciardo said he didn't leave anything on the table after his second qualifying lap in Q3, which pleased him a lot, and was happy to point out that he triumphed after starting fifth here last year. Kvyat was right with him for most of Q1 and Q2, but lost out right at the end and failed to make Q3. Nevertheless, on a low-downforce power circuit Red Bull underlined how much progress they have made recently with the RB11 chassis.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 48.825s, P9, will start P8
Kimi Raikkonen, No time, P14

Ferrari had a disastrous session. The SF15-T had performance enough to take third on the grid, but a rare mistake by Vettel in the final corner on his last run in Q3 cost him a couple of tenths and left him ninth. Grosjean's penalty puts him up to eighth, but it'll be a struggle tomorrow with so many Mercedes-powered cars ahead. There was more bad luck for Raikkonen meanwhile: his car rolled to a halt with lack of drive right at the start of Q2, condemning him to a 14th place start.

Toro Rosso
Carlos Sainz, 1m 49.771s, P10
Max Verstappen, No time, will start P18

Sainz was very happy to make it through to Q3 and start 10th on a circuit on which he was revelling, but thought he could have gone a little quicker with a smoother lap. Verstappen did well to make it through to Q2 after encountering a power loss problem early in Q1, but with a 10-place grid penalty looming for an engine change, he and the team elected to not head out and thereby save a set of tyres for the race.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson, 1m 49.586s, P13
Felipe Nasr, 1m 49.952s, P16, will start P15

Thirteenth and 15th places were inevitably disappointing after Sauber's speed on Friday. Ericsson made up for his FP2 error at Pouhon with a decent performance, but Nasr said the grip had gone away by the time he did his second run in Q1. Nevertheless, they believe they can fight for points in the race.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 50.978s, P17, will start P19
Fernando Alonso, 1m 51.420s, P18, will start P20

Just when you thought things couldn't get worse for McLaren... Engine changes brought an almost comical 105-place combined grid penalty, but there was no mirth in camp as Honda's upgraded power units failed to lift the team forward. Alonso and Button will start from the back row of the grid - without having to serve any leftover places in future races thanks to a change in the rules - but after a thoroughly disappointing couple of days both are expecting a lonely race.

Marussia
Will Stevens, 1m 52.948s, P19, will start P16
Roberto Merhi, 1m 53.009s, P20, will start P17

Once again the two Marussia boys were evenly matched, and apart from some minor hydraulic issues for Merhi in FP3 they have enjoyed a reliable weekend so far. Like the McLaren drivers, they anticipate a lonely intra-team battle tomorrow.