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Qualifying - Rosberg beats Hamilton to wet-weather Belgian pole

23 Aug 2014

Nico Rosberg made the fewest mistakes in a wet qualifying session in Belgium on Saturday afternoon to take pole position by just under three-tenths of a second from Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.

The Briton ran slightly wide at La Source on his first run in Q3 and was thereafter on the back foot. It was Rosberg’s seventh pole of the year, his fourth on the trot, and his first at Spa-Francorchamps.

On a wet but drying track Hamilton improved to 2m 05.819s on his second run, but that wasn’t good enough to better Rosberg who subsequently lowered the bar to 2m 05.591s on his final lap.

The Silver Arrows were way ahead of their opposition, led this time by the Red Bull of a rejuvenated Sebastian Vettel who made up for his problems yesterday with a great lap of 2m 07.717s which withstood Fernando Alonso’s assault as the Ferrari driver recorded 2m 07.786s. Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull took fifth on 2m 07.911s, although all three of them had off-track moments during their efforts.

Williams, who fancied their chances at Spa, will be disappointed that Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa could only manage sixth and ninth, on 2m 08.049s and 2m 09.178s respectively. Between them were McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen on 2m 08.679s and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on 2m 08.780s, while Jenson Button was 10th in his McLaren on 2m 09.776s.

Forty minutes before qualifying was due to start the heavens opened and flooded the track and thus the Williams, Sauber and Ferrari duos all started on wet-weather tyres. But though more rain was predicted it was soon clear that intermediates were the answer. As one would expect, the times changed rapidly as the track conditions began to improve, but the two Mercedes were still dominant as Rosberg pipped Hamilton, 2m 07.130s to 2m 07.280s and Massa was the closest to them on 2m 08.403s.

Further back Pastor Maldonado continued his penchant for spinning, this time in the final chicane, but then just squeaked into 16th place before late improvement by Adrian Sutil finally pushed him into 17th place on 2m 11.261s. Nico Hulkenberg also failed to get through for Force India, complaining that he’d lost all brake temperature and confidence as he was stranded on 2m 11.267s. Max Chilton was next for Marussia on 2m 12.566s, with the luckless Esteban Gutierrez 20th after his wet-shod Sauber stopped at Stavelot not long after he’d recorded a best of 2m 13.414s.

Meanwhile, Andre Lotterer’s maiden F1 qualifying session saw him out-qualify Caterham team mate Marcus Ericsson, 2m 13.469s to 2m 14.438s.

Q2 was also run under the threat of rain, thus engineers were urging their drivers to get out early and get a banker lap in before it arrived.

Again the Mercedes were fastest, this time with Hamilton ahead on 2m 06.609s and Rosberg on 2m 06.723s after a poor third sector negated fastest times in the first two. Alonso, in third, was way behind on 2m 08.450s.

Vettel rescued himself right at the end to push Daniil Kvyat to 11th ahead of Toro Rosso partner Jean-Eric Vergne, 2m 09.377s to 2m 09.805s, then came Force India’s Sergio Perez on 1m 10.084s and Sutil on 2m 10.238s. Romain Grosjean complained about the stability of his Lotus’s rear end early on, and had a spin at La Source to prove his point. He was 15th on 2m 11.087s, as Jules Bianchi’s excellent Q1 form enabled him to take 16th for Marussia on 2m 12.470s.

Thus the grid will line up: Rosberg, Hamilton; Vettel, Alonso; Ricciardo, Bottas; Magnussen, Raikkonen; Massa, Button; Kvyat, Vergne; Perez, Sutil; Grosjean, Bianchi; Maldonado, Hulkenberg; Chilton, Gutierrez; Lotterer, Ericsson.