August 24th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lewis Hamilton has taken his fifth pole position of the season and fourth in a row, triumphing in a qualifying session that was characterised by changing weather conditions. Sebastian Vettel will start the Belgian Grand Prix second on the grid, with Mark Webber third in the leading Red Bull.
The excitement began in the first part of the qualifying, which started on a wet, but drying, track. Intermediate tyres were the order of the day in the early stages, but towards the end of Q1 it looked like slick tyres could work on the drying surface. The "new teams - Caterham and Marussia - gambled on slick tyres before the other teams were prepared to take the risk, and it paid off magnificently. Giedo van der Garde set the third fastest time in Q1 to make it through to Q2 along with Jules Bianchi (11th fastest in Q1) and Max Chilton (16th fastest). Only Charles Pic could not take advantage of slick tyres in the conditions, and he will start the race last.
Q1 saw the elimination of both Williams drivers and both Toro Rossos, along with the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez and Caterham of Charles Pic.
They might have made it to Q2 as a result of inspired use of strategy, but van der Garde and the two Marussia drivers were confronted by the lack of performance of their cars in an almost completely dry session. They predictably took 14th (Van der Garde), 15th (Bianchi) and 16th (Chilton), well off the pace of the cars ahead. Nonetheless, they are well placed to fight with the midfield runners early in tomorrow's race, and could benefit from more changing conditions, partcularly as they will be prepared to take risks in order to attempt to achieve strong results.
The drivers eliminated in Q2 were Hulkenberg, Sutil, Perez, van der Garde, Bianchi and Chilton.
Q3 saw the return of the rain, which prompted all of the top ten drivers barring Paul Di Resta to stream out onto the track on slick tyres in an attempt to do a lap before the track became too wet. Di Resta made the inspired decision to wait until the other drivers were on track and then bolted on a set of intermediate tyres and went out in clear space.
The other nine drivers went straight back into the pits to put on intermediate tyres, as the track was simply too wet for slicks. But Di Resta found himself on track on the right tyres all by himself and set a lap time that looked set to remain unbeaten for pole position. Unfortunately for Di Resta, the rain diminished in the closing stages of the session, and the other drivers (now on the correct tyres) set about chasing after the top spot. Somewhat bizarrely, Di Resta was not on the track at the end of the session, and was therefore not able to defend his pole position as it was beaten by four drivers.
Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and finally Lewis Hamilton, all went quicker right at the end of the session, relegating Di Resta to fifth place. Hamilton just edged his way into pole position right at the last second, just under two tenths of a second faster than Vettel, with Webber third in the second Red Bull.
Hamilton has now won 31 pole positions in his career, which puts him seventh on the list of all-time polesitters, just one behind Nigel Mansell. He is second of the drivers currently racing, 8 behind Sebastian Vettel, who is third in the all-time list with 39 pole positions.
Full qualifying results:
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||2:01.863||1:48.646||2:01.200||19|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||2:01.597||1:48.641||2:01.325||20|
|5||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||2:02.338||1:48.925||2:02.332||22|
|12||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||2:02.749||1:49.103||17|
|14||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||2:00.564||1:52.036||15|
|Q1 107% Time||2:08.603|