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Hamilton on wet-weather pole as Force India F1 take dream result in Spa

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Hamilton on wet-weather pole as Force India F1 take dream result in Spa
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Aug 25, 2018, 3:59 PM

Lewis Hamilton completed another fine demonstration of his wet-weather prowess by taking his 78th pole position in changeable conditions at the Cir...

Lewis Hamilton completed another fine demonstration of his wet-weather prowess by taking his 78th pole position in changeable conditions at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

The Mercedes man took full advantage of an opportunity to stop a Ferrari resurgence and take pole by over seven tenths of a second ahead of championship rival Sebastian Vettel.

With no rain forecast for the Belgian Grand Prix, Mercedes now face a tough task to repeat their Hungarian Grand Prix success and fend off what is expected to be a race-long Ferrari challenge.

Following a turbulent summer, and just days after they were confirmed as a new entry onto the Formula One grid, Racing Point Force India took advantage of a drying track to take a sensational third and fourth place result, with Esteban Ocon - who is yet to secure a drive for 2019 - finishing ahead of Sergio Perez.

The Force India team have once again flourished at a circuit which has been kind to them in the past. They secured their one-and-only pole position and their first podium at the venue back in 2009, and have continued to score points at every Belgian Grand Prix since, often completing double-points finishes.

"It's fantastic. It's great to get P3 at such a difficult time with the team we had and starting afresh and I'm definitely happy with that result, I wasn't expecting it," said Ocon.

"The guys have done a fantastic job, we changed the tyres really quickly and managed to go out, so that was fantastic, and I put a clean lap in and managed to get third. Let bring it on tomorrow!

Romain Grosjean gave Haas the perfect platform to capitalise on a poor Renault qualifying session by finishing the day in fifth, ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who was in the pits when the track improvements occurred.

The Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo initially looked to profit from the wet conditions, but they were also in the pits when the midfielders were completing their better laps and finished in seventh and eighth.

Qualifying Session One

The two Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen, as well as the Mercedes of Hamilton elected to progress to Q2 with the soft-compound tyre and save the supersoft tyres for later in the qualifying hour.

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas only completed one flying lap on the supersoft tyre but, given his back-of-the-grid penalty for power unit component changes, this was merely a data-gathering exercise.

Also starting from the back will be Renault's Nico Hulkenberg but, with the German setting the thirteenth-fastest time in Q1, the team may regret their decision to send him out. Team-mate Carlos Sainz finished the opening session down in sixteenth, needlessly eliminating him from qualifying.

The two McLaren's of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were also eliminated from Q1, with the latter continuing a bad day in front of his home crowd.

The Belgian had already had an incident in FP3; looking to pass a slow-moving Bottas on the Kemmel straight, he was edged onto the grass and sent into a spin. His car glanced the barrier, but damage appeared to be minimal.

He was beaten in qualifying by the two Williams of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll.

Qualifying Session Two

Having participated in the opening qualifying session, Hulkenberg decided not to run in Q2, leaving fourteen drivers battling for a place in the top ten.

With the risk of rain at 90% for qualifying, Vettel, Raikkonen and Hamilton decided to set times on the supersoft tyres, meaning no drivers have chosen an adverse tyre strategy for the start of the race.

Vettel set the pace in Q2 with Raikkonen and Hamilton all less than one tenth behind. Bottas, meanwhile, did use the soft tyres to set the fourth-fastest time, but his back-of-the-grid start will make his Q2 tyre choice redundant.

Both Red Bull, Force India and Haas drivers progressed into Q3, with the two Toro Rossos falling half-a-second off the pace, but finishing the session with Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley in eleventh and twelfth, with the latter spinning at turn one on his final flying lap.

Charles Leclerc ended Q2 as thirteenth fastest ahead of Marcus Ericsson who, after setting a time only good enough for fourteenth, was not sent out for a second flying lap, suggesting his Sauber had encountered a problem.

Qualifying Session Three

With rain drops starting to fall at the beginning of Q3, all drivers were sent out on supersoft tyres in a bid to register a lap before any meaningful rain fell.

However, with rain intensifying in the final sector, the majority of the drivers pitted straight away for intermediates without setting a lap, with the exception of the Force India drivers, who valiantly attempted flying laps before abandoning their efforts for intermediate tyres.

Bizarrely, neither Ferrari or Mercedes seemed prepared for a change of tyres, and Red Bull completed the quickest turnaround to bring their drivers back out on intermediate tyres.

Raikkonen led the opening laps but, with the rain easing off, the session became a battle of whoever could master the drying conditions.

Vettel dipped under the two-minute mark to take provisional pole position, but another storming wet-weather qualifying lap from Hamilton meant the Briton set the benchmark with a 1:58.179.

With Raikkonen, Bottas and the two Red Bulls all pitting, Vettel was the only man who could challenge his rival, but the Ferrari driver fell seventh tenths short.

Force India and Haas capitalised on the missing front-runners to battle it out for the second row of the grid, and Esteban Ocon led an all-Racing Point Force India second row, with Perez taking fourth place.

Grosjean took a very strong fifth place ahead of Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Magnussen and Bottas.

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX, Qualifying

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m58.179s

2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m58.905s 0.726s

3 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 2m01.851s 3.672s

4 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 2m01.894s 3.715s

5 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 2m02.122s 3.943s

6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 2m02.671s 4.492s

7 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 2m02.769s 4.590s

8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 2m02.939s 4.760s

9 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 2m04.933s 6.754s

10 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes No time

11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m43.844s

12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m43.865s

13 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m44.062s

14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m44.301s

15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault No time

16 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m44.489s

17 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m44.917s

18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m44.998s

19 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m45.134s

20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m45.307s

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

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Author Luke Murphy
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