Grand Prix of Belgium – Qualifying

It’s only been 4 weeks since the GP of Hungary but a lot has happened behind the scenes during the summer break:

  • Three-time Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda is in hospital following a lung transplant [formula1] [autosport] [grandprix]
  • Daniel Ricciardo leaving Red Bull for Renault at end of 2018 season [formula1] [BBC] [grandprix]
    Red Bull replace Daniel Ricciardo with Pierre Gasly for 2019 season [BBC]

  • Alonso retires from F1, will race in Indy in 2019 [BBC]
    Sainz replaces him at McLaren [BBC]
    Red Bull deny Spanish driver’s claim they tried to sign him twice [BBC]

  • Force India was brought out of administration by a consortium led by Lance Stroll’s dad [BBC] [autosport]
    They’re now called “Racing Point Force India F1 Team” [autosport]
    FIA clarify Force India engine allocation situation [formula1]

    In what the FIA describes as a “highly unusual” situation, they have ruled that while the team have had to forfeit the points scored so far this season (as a result of the team being a completely new entity), the fact that the drivers have kept theirs means it is “logical and fair” that their engine and gearbox allocations “should carry forward to the new team”.

Free Practice:

  1. FP1: VET (1:44.358), VER, HAM, RAI, BOT
    Mercedes and Ferrari both unveiled new-spec power units for Spa; Ferrari appeared faster but the Mercedes pair were running on slower tyres
    BOT and HUL both incur grid penalties for their engine changes; SAI and VAN has changes within the limits so they aren’t penalised [formula1]
  2. FP2: RAI (1:43.355), HAM, BOT, VER, VET
  3. FP3: VET (1:42.661), RAI, HAM, BOT, VER
    VAN tried to pass BOT as they came out of Eau Rouge, onto the Kemmel Straight, but BOT (says he) didn’t see VAN, moved left a bit; VAN had to run onto the grass, spinning across the track and tagging the Armco barrier; this brought out the red flags (session suspended) briefly while the McLaren was moved from a dangerous position; BOT was given a reprimand but no penalty
    GAS (who will join VER at Red Bull next season) managed to spin his Toro Rosso as he left the pit lane on cold tyres

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Air temperature 15°C; track 28°C; humidity 51% but apparently 90% probability of rain
Looks like just the Ferrari pair and Mercedes (HAM) on soft tyres with everyone else on the quicker supersofts
GRO 1:44.768
HAM 1:43.543
RAI 1:42.585
(VET P2)
(VER P3)
(HAM P2)
5mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are ALO, VAN, STR, SIR; BOT yet to set a time but he’s on track now
BOT goes P2; ERI to P16
2mins left; bottom 5 are ERI, ALO, VAN, STR, SIR; 13 cars on track
SIR P18
STR P19
ERI P10, SAI P16
Back of the grid: SAI, ALO, SIR, STR, VAN
But remember BOT and HUL incurred grid penalties for their engine changes and they’ll be right at the back

Qualifying session 2
It’s looking more overcast – some forecasts say rain before the end of Q2
Radio from HAM complaining about vibrations from the tyres
RAI 1:41.627
(HAM P2)
(VET P3)
Unlikely to see BOT in Q2 – if he sets a good time, he’ll have to start at the back on the grid on the tyres he uses in Q2, which makes no sense (ditto for HUL)
Radio from LEC reporting “it’s a little dark in sector 2”
A few umbrellas going up but no rain on the cameras as yet
5mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are HAR, LEC, ERI, with no time from BOT or HUL
Why is ERI getting out of the Sauber?
BOT leaving the pit lane – that’s unexpected
2mins left; HAR, LEC, ERI, BOT, HUL
Yellow flags briefly – HAR spun but recovered
BOT P4; GAS P11
Chequered flag; there’s rain in the pit lane
Middle of the grid: GAS, HAR, LEC, ERI, HUL* (HUL will be P20)
I still don’t understand why BOT set a quick time

Qualifying session 3
Top 10 shootout is between VET, RAI, HAM, BOT*, VER, PER, GRO, RIC, OCO & MAG
Is BOT in Q3 just to give HAM a tow?
Rain is getting heavier
BOT slides off but recovers
Well if the plan was for BOT to help HAM then that’s not happening now
Everyone except OCO and PER dives into the pits for intermediate tyres
Force India box their pair – fortunately they both survived a very slippery lap
RIC 2:04.986
VER 2:02.849
RAI 2:02.671
MAG P3
HAM P3
GRO P6
RIC P3
VER P2
3mins left of Q3; order is RAI, VER, RIC, HAM, MAG, GRO
VET 2:02.446
HAM runs very wide
RAI is in the pits, so he won’t run again
1min left; order is VET, RAI, VER, RIC, HAM, OCO, MAG, GRO, PER, BOT
VET 2:01.188
Chequered flag
PER P2
HAM 1:58.179
GRO P4
OCO P3
VET P2
Front of the grid: HAM, VET, OCO, PER, GRO, RAI, VER, RIC, MAG, BOT*
Wow, the new Force India team have P3 and P4!

Provisional grid: HAM, VET, OCO, PER, GRO, RAI, VER, RIC, MAG, BOT*, GAS, HAR, LEC, ERI, HUL*, SAI, ALO, SIR, STR, VAN
*BOT will drop to P21 and HUL to P22 for engine changes

PER just pointed out in an interview, Racing Point Force India F1 Team are in a great position to score points in their first race 🙂

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