Lewis Hamilton made it four pole positions in a row to curb Red Bull dominance in a dramatic qualifying session at the Belgian Grand Prix. Hamilton beat Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, who had looked as class apart in Friday afternoon’s practice, as well as his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in a thrilling finale on the drying tract at Spa-Francorchamps.
All that came after Paul di Resta had looked poised to claim a first-ever career pole. The Force India driver had locked in the fastest lap due to his gamble to go out at the start of a wet Qualifying Three on intermediate tires as the rest of drivers struggled on slicks. But the rain halted toward the end of the final 10 minute shootout and each of the top four went quicker as the track dried in the closing embers. Crucially, Hamilton was the last to cross the line and got the better of championship leader by close to two tenths of a second.
“The team did a great job to get the timing at the end of Q3 absolutely perfect and I was in exactly the right track position,” Hamilton said. “I was so surprised when I came across the line to hear I was P1.”
After claiming his first victory for Mercedes at the last race in Hungary four weeks ago, Hamilton lamented his car’s performance on Friday. He conceded that Red Bull remain superior, something that makes Saturday’s result all the sweeter.
“The Red Bulls are still ahead of us in terms of performance so results like this feel even more special because I know I've got the absolute maximum out of myself and out of the car,” he explained.
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Vettel, who holds a 37 point lead in his attempts for a fourth consecutive drivers’ title, described the difficulties of making the right judgments in the testing conditions.
“The last lap tuned out to be the fastest with the circuit drying,” he said. “It was difficult to know how fast you could go, I saw Lewis catching and thought I could have gone a bit quicker here and there, but in the end it was quite close across the line.”
There was disappointment for Vettel’s two closest title challengers, however. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will start eighth on the grid, one place ahead of Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen. The Finns’ teammate Romain Grosjean will begin from seventh, behind a best qualifying performance of the season by McLaren’s Jenson Button. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa rounds out the top 10.
Where to watch: The Formula One Belgian Grand Prix will get underway at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream provided by NBC Sports Live Extra.