F1 – Belgian GP – Qualifying
Salut, MiniFans! Spa has always been a clear fan favourite, as it is home to one of the best-known corners in the championship, albeit being often mislabelled by fans, drivers and media alike. Yet another thing that spectators enjoy is a wet race, as well as midfield teams taking a stab at the top guns and creating a good underdog story. Renault has been positioning themselves in podium positions with both cars during free practices, while Ferrari seems to have lost every little bit of speed they had left. However, we do know that free practices don’t always translate into the same positions in qualifying and the race.
Haas was the first team on the track as clouds loomed around the circuit, without no real rain threat, but they wouldn’t be alone for long. Halfway through, Mercedes swooped in and swept everyone away from the first two slots by almost a whole second to Daniel Ricciardo. Verstappen would eventually regain third place, by barely over a tenth. Both Leclerc and Vettel’s lap times were worrying: One was out and the other was too close to the cut off time. Traffic had been expected to be a problem, despite the circuit being over 7km long, and it was only saved due to drivers organizing themselves. Miraculously, both Ferraris made it through, but barely so. Russell went back to his old ways and made it to Q2. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Raikkonen (P16), Grosjean (P17), Giovinazzi (P18), Latifi (P19) and Magnussen (P20).
An estimation of nine tenths between soft and medium made teams think about their choice of tyre for Q2 properly. A few of them, without Ferrari in the mix, did a first try with the yellow rims, but at first it didn’t look like it would work, as cars fitted with softs were easily stealing some purple sectors. Despite this, Mercedes and Verstappen topped the sheets again, while Racing Point struggled with their pace in them and would eventually need softs. Ferrari was nowhere to be seen, placing themselves dead last of those who had scored a lap. Everyone with the lone exception of Ricciardo, who had complained about an issue in his car, went out for a second lap. Luckily for the Australian, his previous time was enough for him to make it through. Ferrari didn’t have such luck, improving their times but keeping their places, as another historic team, McLaren, went back to having both cars in Q3. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Kvyat (P11), Gasly (P12), Leclerc (P13), Vettel (P14) and Russell (P15).
Fresh tyres were the norm in the first Q3 run, except for Norris, who only had one new set of softs. While Hamilton was collecting yet another track record, Ricciardo slotted himself in front of Verstappen, losing only a few hundredths to Bottas in the whole lap. It would be the second and last run that would either solidify this result or strip him of it. Verstappen did snatch the best place of the second row from him but couldn’t get to Bottas. Hamilton broke the track record yet again this weekend and both Racing Point showed a weakness that hadn’t been too apparent, as they couldn’t grab a spot higher than eight between the two of them.
Merdeces did it once again, securing a front row that’s basically their own property and other cars are merely guests in those spots. Unsurprisingly, Ferrari didn’t manage to magically sort out their car problems and could barely get out of Q1, but it isn’t cause for celebration as it is for Russell, who is back to getting his Williams past the first qualy session. Ricciardo proved that maybe his second place in FP2 wasn’t just a one-off thing with his fourth place. However, tomorrow’s rain forecast could shake up the standings and provide a bit of a different race. We just have to hope that it does indeed make an appearance.