Formula 1

F1 Belgium: Hamilton Equals Schumacher Record with 68th Pole

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Lewis Hamilton took pole position at Spa, the 68th pole of his career - Credit: Wolfgang Wilhelm

Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of pole positions in Formula 1 as he secured a dominant pole at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday.

The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver set a new track record of 1:42.553s to secure his sixty-eighth pole position at a circuit where Schumacher made his name in the sport.

Hamilton will be joined on the front row by championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who up until his final run in the session had not really been a factor, but he saved his best for last. The Scuderia Ferrari driver finished 0.242 seconds off the pace, but he was able to get ahead of the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who was not able to keep up with the pace of his pole-sitting team-mate.

Kimi Raikkonen should have been on the front row, but the second Ferrari driver made a mistake on his final lap and was forced to settle for fourth, while the two Red Bull Racing drivers will share row three, with Max Verstappen ahead of Daniel Ricciardo to the delight of his immense fan base.

Nico Hülkenberg will start seventh for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team after getting ahead of both Sahara Force India F1 Team drivers, with the battle between the two teams fierce this weekend in Belgium, with Sergio Perez getting the better of Esteban Ocon to finish eighth.

After outpacing his team-mate in both of the first two sections of qualifying, Jolyon Palmer had high hopes of a strong Q3, but the Renault driver ground to a halt with a smoking car heading towards the final sector, with a loss of gearbox oil pressure. It meant the Briton was again out-qualified by Hülkenberg, but the summer break has obviously been good to him.

The McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team attempted to use Stoffel Vandoorne to aid Fernando Alonso’s bid to advance into the top ten shootout, but after being given a tow down the Kemmel Straight and getting to within half a second of the best sector time, the Spaniard was forced to abort his lap, citing a loss of power, and ultimately a last gap quick lap from Hülkenberg saw Alonso fall to eleventh.

Vandoorne, who was tenth fastest in Q1, did not set a time himself in Q2, knowing that he has a sixty-five place grid penalty after multiple engine changes this weekend, and will fall to the rear of the field once those are applied for his home Grand Prix.

The two Haas F1 Team drivers were twelfth and thirteenth, Romain Grosjean getting the better of team-mate Kevin Magnussen, while Carlos Sainz Jr will start fourteenth in the leading Scuderia Toro Rosso.

It was a disappointing day for the Williams Martini Racing team, with both Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll eliminated at the first stage of session, with the Brazilian’s weekend going from bad to worse.

Massa, who crashed on Friday morning and missed second practice as a result, came into the session with a five-place grid penalty after failing to slowly sufficiently for double-waved yellow flags during final practice, and he found himself in the drop zone heading into his final run.

Despite improving his time, he still found himself shuffled back to sixteenth as other drivers completed their laps, with Massa sounding extremely disappointed when advised of his position over the radio.

Stroll failed to take to the track for a final attack due to damage on his car, leaving the Canadian eliminated from qualifying at the first hurdle, although he was still able to stay ahead of both of the Sauber F1 Team drivers, Marcus Ericsson ahead of Pascal Wehrlein.

The other driver to be eliminated is the under pressure Daniil Kvyat, with the second Toro Rosso driver ending up seventeenth on the grid, but his best Q1 lap was more than six-tenths of a second off his team-mate Sainz. The Russian will start nineteenth after a twenty-place grid penalty for an engine change, caused by his stoppage during final practice earlier in the day.

Spa-Francorchamps Qualifying Result

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