A rain disruption in the final part of qualifying changed course of the session as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took 2018 Formula 1 Belgian GP pole from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Racing Point Force India pair.
The pace of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen & Vettel along with Mercedes’ Hamilton was big enough for the teams to opt for a different strategy in the first part of qualifying itself as they used the soft compound to the supersoft for others. Only Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas used the supersoft compound.
It was a late lap from the Finn to slot in second as Raikkonen led the way with Hamilton in third. At the back though it was disaster for Renault’s Carlos Sainz (1m44.489s) after he was knocked out in Q1 itself when Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.
The Spaniard complained of no grip on his final run where he failed to improve. Together with Sainz, both the McLarens and Williams were out as well with Fernando Alonso (1m44.917s) leading Sergey Sirotkin (1m44.998s), Lance Stroll (1m45.134s) and Stoffel Vandoorne (1m45.307s).
The second part in qualifying had Vettel lead the way from Raikkonen and Hamilton – all on the same supersoft tyres to start the race with Bottas opting for the soft option in yet another late lap. The Finn will start from the back on the yellow-coloursed tyre.
While Bottas chose to set a time, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg – also with a penalty – decided not to venture out, what became a disaster qualifying for Renault with cars not making it to the final leg. The two Toro Rosso and Sauber drivers also failed to make it to Q3.
Toro Ross’s Pierre Gasly (1m43.844s) was 11th from teammate Brendon Hartley (1m43.865s) – the Kiwi had a late spin at La Source with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc (1m44.062s) in 13th leading teammate Marcus Ericsson (1m44.301s).
With the final session to go, it started to rain at Spa-Francorchamps disrupting the initial run for all the drivers. Everyone bar the Racing Point Force India drivers pitted immediately to change to inters.
The Red Bull drivers were first out when Force India were forced to abandon their gamble. The lap times started to come as Verstappen led the way initially before he was quickly cleared by Raikkonen with Vettel following suit.
But it changed soon at the top as Hamilton went ballistic with a 1m58.179s lap time to take pole in the Belgian GP which looked unlikely until after the practice sessions. Vettel (1m58.905s) came close but fell short by 0.726s to be second on the grid.
Behind them was a fairytale result as the new-look Force India locked out the second row with Esteban Ocon (2m01.851s) in third and Sergio Perez (2m01894s) fourth – the late change of tyres actually worked in their favour like Hamilton and Vettel.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean (2m02.122s) did well to be fifth as Raikkonen (2m02671s) dropped down to sixth from Verstappen (2m02.769s) and Ricciardo (2m02.939s). The second Haas of Kevin Magnussen (2m04.933s) was ninth as Bottas did not set a lap time.