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2018 F1

Hamilton on pole as rain shakes up Belgian GP grid

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Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix at the Franchorchamps circuit in Spa. The Briton claimed his 5th pole position at this circuit in a session where the weather added a last-minute twist. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel qualified second and was followed by Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon in third spot.

While the Ferraris dominated most of the weekend and sessions till Q2, the rain in Q3 mixed the pecking order. While Vettel managed putting his Ferrari in front row despite the odds, he had battery issues towards the end of the session, not allowing him to beat Hamilton. Raikkonen on the other hand was in contention for pole this weekend, however an end minute pitstop to change tyres and refuel, was long enough to not get him out in time to improvise his time in the session. Unfortunately, the Finn who had the second fastest lap and had been exceptionally quick all weekend, had to settle for a sixth-place start on the grid for the race.

Mercedes have Hamilton starting from pole position however Valtteri Bottas will start at the back of the grid, due to grid penalties for a changed engine, turbo charger and other components. The Finn managed making it to the Q3 session but did not set the time. Hamilton on the other hand who was close to the Ferraris in terms of pace but had the weather play into his favor to pull out an end minute lap, almost two seconds quicker than Vettel’s fastest.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez lucked into the drying track towards the end of the chaotic Q3 session, they managed putting their cars on the second row of the grid in third and fourth place respectively. After a difficult summer-break and a name change for the team, the pink squad managed capitalising on maximum performance, with a new power engine to aid them with it.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean qualified fifth and was followed by Raikkonen who dropped to sixth while his team-mate qualified ninth. Red Bull Racing drivers who changed from intermediate tyres to slicks towards the end of the session were unable to make the best out of the drying track conditions and improvise their time and had to settle for the fourth row with Max Verstappen qualifying seventh and Daniel Ricciardo qualifying eighth. Since Bottas did not set the time in Q3 he classified tenth in the final qualifying session.

Since many teams brought upgrades this weekend, the two drivers who will start at the back of the grid are Bottas and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. The shocking elimination in Q1 itself was Renault driver Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard was eliminated along with the two McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne and the two Williams’ drivers Sergie Sirotkin and Lance Stroll. The session was dominated by the Ferraris, with Raikkonen posting the quickest lap time, which was three tenths of a second quicker than Bottas, four tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton and more than half a second quicker than his team-mate Vettel. The Finn’s fastest best was on the yellow soft tyre compound.

In the second session the drivers eliminated were the two Toro Rosso drivers Brendon Hartley, Pierre Gasly, the two Sauber drivers Charles Leclerc, Marcus Ericsson and Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg who did not set a time since he was taking grid penalties.

The final session of qualifying had a light showers of rain in the first half of the session where most of the grid set their time on the Intermediate tyres and it was only in the final half of the session that the track started drying up when a few driver like Ricciardo, Magnussen, and Verstappen switched to the super soft tyres. the third qualifying session had cars going out late so there was a total of 8 minutes where they could fight out for pole. Although the skies cleared, the damp track meant intermediate tyres, and since there was a narrow window to get the tyres changed, save batteries or maybe even refuel, many lost out to the chaos.

The race could see an exciting start since the Belgian Grand Prix has been popular for first lap incidents or even the famous first corner pile-up in 2012, which eliminated four cars and added a twist to the championship. Although weather forecast for the race is dry, this race will be one of the coldest of the year with the ambient temperature forecast to be approximately 15 degrees, that could spice up tyre conditions and tyre strategies. In cooler weather it normally takes longer to get the tyres within the optimum temperature window, and the medium compound would be the ideal tyre for the longer stint in the race. A qualifying like this normally throws most predictions out of the window, and since the circuit has its own unpredictable micro climate, it will only take a some unpredictable rain to spice up the game.

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