Belgian Grand Prix: Qualifying Thoughts

Round 11 of the championship resumes at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps, home of Eau Rouge, one of the favourite and most famous corners of any track. This is a high-speed circuit, where the team must make the most of the 7.004km track. The weather couldn’t make up it’s mind during all three qualifying sessions on Saturday, which made for some very interesting lap times. DRS was deactivated numerous times during the sessions as the track was too wet and slippy. The changing weather meant that every car was eager to get out and post a time before track conditions potentially got worse. Despite a wet track, qualifying went largely without incident and the drivers mostly managed to stay on track. The drivers of the day were Force India’s Paul di Resta and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Neither of the Lotus cars were fans of the wet in Q1, but not as much as Toro Rosso and the Willams teams. Both teams got their tyre strategy wrong choosing to stay out on old inters. Van der Garde was the first to go out on slicks in the final minutes of Q1 which proved to be the right decision, easily securing himself to Q2. Out after Q1 were Maldonado, Vergne, Ricciardo, Bottas, Gutierrez, and Pic. It was unfortunate for Ricciardo and Gutierrez especially, as both drivers posted fast laps too early in the session and just didn’t have the grip in the tyres when the track began to dry.

With the track continuing to dry at the, most of the drivers went out on slicks at the beginning of Q2.  Alonso’s Ferrari was surprisingly quick during the second qualifying session Hamilton made it through to Q3 by the skin of his posting a 1:49.067s. Van der Garde, who got it so right in Q1, failed to make it through to the final qualifying session. Out after Q2 were Hulkenburg, Sutil, Perez, van der Garde, Bianchi, and Chilton.

The rain returned for Q3, and every driver was eager to get back out on track with the notable exception of Paul di Resta. The Force India sat in his garage for the first few minutes of the wet session. His strategy was pure genius, the remaining nine cars in the session went out on slicks to try and post a dry time. The sneaky Scot had the rest of the pack to make a little dry line for him while he waited for everyone to come back in to pit, and then went out on inters with absolutely no traffic. For most of the session it looked as though di Resta had managed to secure provisional pole. That is, until the final minute of qualifying when the Mercedes’ and Red Bull’s knocked him down to provisional P5. Di Resta could not have been unluckier, having come back into the pits with half a minute left of the session, immediately Rosberg knocked him off P1, then Webber and Vettel. Having only just made it through to Q3, Hamilton posted the fastest time of the session as the last driver over the line.

In the end the top ten on the provisional grid shaped up as Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, di Resta, Button, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Alonso, Massa.

The wet-dry qualifying demonstrated just how quickly track conditions can change, and with that, the drivers who can dominate. The race is forecast to be wet making for a very slippy track. Hamilton feels confident driving in changing conditions, but who else will?

– Alex

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