The first run of the top-runners with supersofts showed Vettel making the quickest lap slightly quicker than Lewis Hamilton with a gap of 0.041 seconds. Raikkonen was third on the first run, but complained about some balance issues and returned to the pits. The other teams went straight to ultrasofts for their first runs, with Verstappen grabbing P3. Hamilton went out for another run, putting himself back just ahead of his German championship competitor Sebastian Vettel.
The end of Q1 saw both Williams failing to make it into the next session, along with both Saubers and Daniil Kvyat. Nico Hulkenberg and Stoffel Vandoorne threatened to push themselves into the top ten with some great lap times. McLaren-Honda showed some interesting tactics, with Fernando Alonso and Vandoorne giving each other slipstreams at the Kemmel straight and ahead of the last chicane.
16. Felipe Massa – Williams – 1:45.823
17. Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso – 1:46.028
18. Lance Stroll – Williams – 1:46.915
19. Marcus Ericsson – Sauber – 1:47.214
20. Pascal Wehrlein – Sauber – 1:47.679
For the second session, the Ferraris and Mercedes went directly onto ultrasoft tyres, resulting in them setting their first times in the 1:43s with Hamilton setting a new lap record despite a small mistake at the exit of Stavelot heading to Blanchimont. Max Verstappen was even slightly quicker than the Ferrari of Vettel on the same tyres, finishing in P4.
With a few minutes to go until the end of the session, Jolyon Palmer faced some issues with the clutch while entering the pit lane and had to be pushed back to the garage by his mechanics. Fortunately, he was able to make it out again to an impressive seventh position ahead of teammate Nico Hulkenberg. Alonso was on the way to Q3 as well, but a loss of power at the end of the session stopped the Spaniard from achieving that.
11. Fernando Alonso – McLaren – 1:45.090
12. Romain Grosjean – Haas – 1:45.133
13. Kevin Magnussen – Haas – 1:45.400
14. Carlos Sainz – Toro Rosso – 1:45.439
15. Stoffel Vandoorne – McLaren – no time
Palmer had to stop his car right at the beginning of Q3 with a smoking Renault, most likely due to a gearbox issue. At the front the track, records were being broken: Hamilton set a new time with 1:42:907 ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas, Vettel, and Verstappen.
The final runs came and Hamilton could even improve his lap time once more securing his 68th career pole – matching Michael Schumacher’s total. Sebastian Vettel could also go further at the end to clinch P2 in the front row ahead of Bottas and Raikkonen, who helped Vettel with some tow to get some extra tenths.
At the post qualifying interviews on the main straight, Ross Brawn also delivered special congratulations from the Schumacher family, mentioning a famous quote from the seven times world champion – ‘records are there to be broken’ – which Hamilton was visibly touched by.
For tomorrow we can expect an interesting battle between Horse and Arrow, with Red Bull waiting for an opportunity just behind – and you never know about the weather in the Belgian Ardennes…
01. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:42.553
02. Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1:42.795
03. Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes – 1:43.094
04. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:43.270
05. Max Verstappen – Red Bull – 1:43.380
06. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:43.863
07. Nico Hulkenberg – Renault – 1:44.982
08. Sergio Perez – Force India – 1:45.244
09. Esteban Ocon – Force India – 1:45.369
10. Jolyon Palmer – Renault – no time
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