That was the best qualifying session we’ve seen in ages. Please Bernie, never, ever drop Spa from the schedule.
Lewis Hamilton starts from pole for the fourth time in four races, re-igniting the prospect of a proper run at the world championship, a prospect we’ll have to admit had become a little less bright over the course of the last few days. But in the most tricky of conditions, and with absolute commitment, Hamilton grabbed his one and only chance in the closing minutes of Q3, beating the times set, just seconds before, by Nico Rosberg, by Mark Webber and by Sebastian Vettel, who line up beside and behind him in that order reversed.
Fifth is Paul di Resta who, for all but the last two minutes, looked to have pole position wrapped up thanks to an unbelievably cute piece of teamwork by Force India. Q1 started just as the rain came down but dried out, favouring the brave; in this case Caterham and Marussia who put all but one of their four drivers on inters and made the jump to Q2. The rain stayed away for the second session but came back right before Q3. But only on part of the circuit.
As a result, led by the two Red Bulls, nine cars were at the bottom of the pit lane queuing for the green light and a chance to get a lap in before the inevitable intermediate tyres were needed. The one car missing was Paul di Resta’s Force India, the team’s only car in Q3. Thinking very cutely, the team didn’t join the queue and instead waited a beat and put di Resta straight onto inters. As the first nine came straight back in having realised their error, di Resta had the track to himself, the right tyres and duly delivered.
As the rain got heavier it seemed like pole was there for Force India as one by one the other nine clocked in behind him until Nico Rosberg showed there was still a chance if you drove the wet and the dry right. Well either that, or the track was drying…
Remarkably, as the chequered flag came out, Webber, Vettel, Rosberg and Hamilton were all showing faster sector times that di Resta. Could his be happening? Oh yes, one by one they topped the list until finally Hamilton came home and the end of a mighty lap just over two-tenths faster than Vettel.
So at the front it’s HAM, VET, WEB, ROS, DIR, BUT (that three Brits in the top six if you’re of a British bent…) GRO, RAI, ALO and MAS. Remarkably, knowing his disposition, di Resta didn’t look too down about losing pole — it still equals his best quali. Like Hamilton, Button and Alonso, he’s talking up his chances, especially if it rains.
Back in the Q2 group Van der Garde traded up the Q1 success for 14th, Bianchi for 15th and Max Chilton for 16th, his best ever qualifying. The presence of three third division cars in the middle of the grid means two League Two cars at the back, and those are the two Toro Rossos which joined the Williams, Gutierrez’ Sauber and Pic’s Caterham at the back.
Wow. Rain and shine go together like moules and frites at Spa and are again on the menu for tomorrow. If you are planning to do anything other that watch the Belgium Grand Prix then you need to change that plan. If it’s only one fraction as exciting as today it will be one to remember.