Grand Prix of Belgium – Qualifying

It’s almost a month since the last race, which ended with VET taking the victory in Hungary followed by teammate RAI, and then HAM allowing his teammate to reclaim third place. This means we start the second half of the season with VET 14 points ahead of HAM, who in turn is 19 points ahead of BOT; Mercedes are 39 points clear of Ferrari, with Red Bull a distant 134 points behind.

The summer break is meant to be a quiet time, and indeed not much has happened before they arrived in Spa-Francorchamps:

  • Honda confirm ALO has no confidence in them producing a competitive engine (no surprise there) [BBC]
  • Renault are open to supplying McLaren with engines for next season, after Mercedes and Ferrari said no [BBC]
  • Ferrari announced RAI will be with them next season… [FIA]
  • …and that VET has signed a 3-year contract with them [FIA]

Practice sessions:

  1. FP1: RAI (1:45.502), HAM, VET, VER, RIC
    MAS ran off into the tyre wall at Les Combes, damaging his Williams but he’s OK
    BOT also had a trip across the gravel but only inflicted minor damage on his Mercedes
  2. FP2: HAM (1:44.753), RAI, BOT, VER, VET
    MAS didn’t take part in FP2 as his mechanics were busy rebuilding his Williams
    It wouldn’t be Spa without rain, which arrived with about 30 mins left of FP2
  3. FP3: RAI (1:43.916), VET, HAM, VER, BOT
    PAL put in some quick laps, ending up P7 for this session – 4 places ahead of teammate HUL

Penalties:

  • VAN’s McLaren has another heap of engine changes, so he faces a 35 grid place drop [FIA]
    More changes mean it’s now 65 places!
  • ERI and WEH have both had gearbox changes and so will each drop 5 grip spots [FIA]
  • MAS has given a 5-place grid penalty for not slowing for yellow flags in FP3 [FIA]
  • Williams has been fined €10,000 for a breach of tyre rules in Friday practice; “The Stewards have taken due note of repeated offences concerning tyres by the team and a similar infringement for which a suspended fine was imposed.” [autosport]

Just a couple of minutes before the start of Quali
Air temperature 23°C; track 33°C; slight risk of showers

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
HAM is first to head onto the track for this 18 minute session – he’s on super-soft tyres
Radio from RAI complaining of “massive vibration” on his out lap; he’s told it’s “odd” because it’s lateral vibration but tyres would usually cause vertical vibration
HAM 1:44.316
VET 1:44.275
Red Bull (VER and RIC) are on ultra-softs whereas Mercedes (HAM+BOT) and Ferrari (VET+RAI) are on super-softs
HAM 1:44.184
Looks like most runners (other than Mercedes & Ferrari) are on ultras
Replay of HAM crossing the line shows a lot of vibration at the rear of his car
2 minutes left of Q1; bottom 5 are MAS, KVY, STR, ERI, WEH
Odd that STR is in the pits… except VAN, MAS, ERI and WEH all have penalties
Chequered flag
MAS goes P15, bumping SAI
SAI P8, dropping MAS back to P16
VAN jumps from P14 up to P10
Back of the grid: MAS*, KVY, STR, ERI*, WEH*
*penalties to be applied
Apparently STR had a damaged rear wing end plate

Qualifying session 2
HAM first out of the pit lane again
Radio from RAI complaining about vibrations again
Deja vu!
HAM 1:43.539 – that’s a new track record, despite running a bit wide in Stavelot
RAI quicker than VET; they’re split by BOT
Radio for HAM reminding him to stay in the pit lane’s “fast lane” as long as possible to avoid some new red paint on the stripe that separates that “fast lane” from the pit boxes
VER goes P4 but teammate RIC can only manage P6
PAL is P7 – another quick lap from the Renault
When PAL pits he’s selected to stop on the weigh bridge, but he can’t get the car going again; his mechanics have to push him down the pit lane
2mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are HUL, MAG, GRO, SAI and no time yet from VAN
VAN is on track now, but it looks like he’s only there to give ALO a tow up Eau Rouge
HAM 1:42.927
Chequered flag
ALO abandons his lap, even though he’s only P10 – he’s on the radio complaining “No power, no power”
SAI P13
GRO P12
HUL P9, which bumps ALO to P11
PAL improves his time but stays P7
Middle of the grid: ALO, GRO, MAG, SAI, VAN*
*penalties to be applied

Penalty for KVY for an engine change

Qualifying session 3
PAL on his out lap but pulls off track with smoke from the Renault – he’s parked well off track so it shouldn’t affect anyone else
RAI 1:43.270
HAM 1:42.907
VET P3
BOT P3
VER P5
RIC P6
Radio from VER pointing out oil on the track, presumably from PAL
5mins left of Q3; order is HAM, RAI, BOT, VET, VER, RIC, and no time from PAL, PER, OCO, HUL
Time for a final run
Radio for HAM telling him the tyre temp info is wrong
Chequered flag
HAM 1:42.553
BOT P2
OCO P7
HUL P7
VER P4
VET P2
RAI P4
RIC P6
Front of the grid: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VER, RIC, HUL, PER, OCO, PAL

HAM has equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 pole positions, and this is HAM’s 200th Grand Prix weekend

Provisional grid: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VER, RIC, HUL, PER, OCO, PAL, ALO, GRO, MAG, SAI, VAN*, MAS*, KVY*, STR, ERI*, WEH*
*penalties to be applied

Ross Brawn passes on congratulations from the Schumacher family
“Schumacher always said records are there to be beaten and they want to say a special thanks.”
Hamilton seems touched by that (but not as much as when he got Senna’s helmet!)
“To hear that message Ross just gave, a big thank you. I pray for Michael and his family all the time. I have always admired him and still do today. I am honoured to be there with him now on the pole positions but he will still be one of the greatest of all time.”

2 Replies to “Grand Prix of Belgium – Qualifying”

  1. Now for some complicated arithmetic – lots of penalties to apply!

    Provisional grid: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VER, RIC, HUL, PER, OCO, PAL, ALO, GRO, MAG, SAI, VAN*, MAS*, KVY*, STR, ERI*, WEH*

    VAN: P15 + 65 = well, let’s just call it dead last
    MAS: P16 + 5
    KVY: P17 + 5
    ERI: P19 + 5
    WEH: P20 + 5

    So, I think the revised grid is: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VER, RIC, HUL, PER, OCO, PAL, ALO, GRO, MAG, SAI, STR, MAS, KVY, ERI, WEH, VAN

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