Hamilton, third, was followed by Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel; session was marked by big Lando Norris crash
By Yuri Coghe
‘Mr. Saturday’ took his qualifying performances to new heights in Belgium on Saturday.
George Russell claimed his first career front-row, a first for Williams since Lance Stroll also qualified second at the 2017 Italian Grand Prix, by setting an impressive 2:00.089s lap time with used intermediate tires.
Russell’s late attempt was enough to take P1 from championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who then improved his time but still came 0.013 short of the fellow Briton. Max Verstappen, on the other hand, was able to beat Russell, posting a 1:59.765 lap time to claim his sixth pole position of the season and ninth overall.
Hamilton, third, was followed by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, fourth, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, fifth, and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, sixth. Canadian Latifi made it to the Q2 for the fourth time in his career and will start the race in P11 – his best qualifying performance in F1.
The session’s start was delayed due to heavy rain and stopped in Q3 after a big crash by Lando Norris. The accident happened after some drivers were calling for another delay on team radio due to dangerous wet conditions. Rain is also predicted for the race.
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Less than 0.350s prevented Williams from celebrating a first pole position since Felipe Massa did it at the 2014 Austrian GP, but that didn’t stop Russell from enjoying the moment.
“I’m absolutely buzzing,” said the 23-year-old rising star. “Tomorrow’s the important one but it’s been mega today. “I’m delighted for everyone. If the weather is the same and it’s there for the taking tomorrow, we’ll go for it.”
Verstappen, who saw his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finish seventh, can regain the top of the drivers’ championship if he outscores rival Hamilton by 8 points on Sunday – something that will happen if they finish the race on their starting positions.
“Spa’s an amazing track to drive but very tricky in the wet,” said Verstappen. “Super happy to have a qualifying like this, to take pole, after the summer break.”
Hamilton will claim his 100th career win if he’s able to rise to the top on Sunday’s race.
“It was tough out there for everyone,” said Hamilton. “The conditions tested us to the limit. Congratulations to Max for getting on pole, and to George as well. Tomorrow is another day and we’ll wait and see how the conditions are.”
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Valtteri Bottas finished the session in eighth place but will start on 13th due to a five-place grid penalty for causing an accident at the first lap of the Hungarian GP. Canadian Lance Stroll was also involved in the crash and received the same penalty, and will start last (20th) despite qualifying 15th.
Hungarian GP race winner Esteban Ocon and Norris rounded out the session’s top ten but will start in 8th and 9th in the race due to Bottas’ penalty.
Vettel checks on crashed Norris
Vettel had already asked for the Q3 to be interrupted due to dangerous wet track conditions when Norris crashed at the Eau Rouge shortly after.
“What the **** did I say?!” What did I say?! Red Flag! It’s unnecessary. Is he ok?,” said the four-time world champion before parking when driving past Norris to check if the McLaren driver was OK. The Briton replied to Vettel’s thumbs up and was later on taken to the track medical centre for routine checks.
Both Ferraris were eliminated in the Q2. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. will start in 10th and 12th on Sunday, respectively, both benefiting from Bottas’ penalty and gaining one position from their qualifying positions (P11 and P13), just like Latifi jumped from 12th to 11th.
Fernando Alonso, 14h, Antonio Giovinazzi, 15h, and Yuki Tsunoda, 16th, followed – the last two benefiting from Stroll’s penalty.
Mick Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Nikita Mazepin also gained one position in detriment of the Canadian driver and will start Sunday’s race in 17th, 18th and 19th, respectively.
The Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit is set for Sunday at 9 AM EST, 6 AM Pacific Time.
See the full qualifying results below: