Charles Leclerc clinched the third pole position of his Formula 1 career with a dazzling performance in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Leclerc outclassed his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel with a time of a 1:42.519, 0.748 seconds ahead of Vettel over the course of a lap at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The Mercedes AMG Motorsport drivers had to be content with the second row as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas qualified in third and fourth positions respectively.
Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen was joined on the third row by old team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who was ‘best of the rest’.
Nico Hülkenberg qualified in seventh position just ahead of Kimi Räikkönen by 0.015 seconds. Sérgio Perez and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10 positions.
The qualifying session started under clear skies with air temperatures at 29C and track temperatures at 49C, potentially adding to Ferrari’s gap over Mercedes.
The eighteen-minute long first session of qualifying got underway with Williams Racing pairing George Russell and Robert Kubica the first drivers on the track.
Kubica pulled off the track at Blanchimont with smoke pouring out from the back of his car, as the Pole’s latest spec Mercedes engine failure brought out the first red flag of the session.
Hamilton suffered a heavy crash in the third free practice session, but his Mercedes crew managed to get the reigning champion out in time for the first segment – slightly aided by the red flag.
Verstappen on his first flying lap experienced a loss of engine power and returned to the pits, while Leclerc topped the time charts with his first lap of 1:43.587 – well ahead of Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas.
Verstappen started his first timed lap with less than three minutes to go in the session. As he threaded his way through the traffic, the Dutchman managed to put in a good lap time to finish in third position, but a full second behind Leclerc.
The session ended as it started as it was red-flagged in the dying minutes when Antonio Giovinazzi hit trouble and his new Ferrari engine went up in smoke, having managed to finish Q1 in eighth place.
The delayed Q2 session was started by his Alfa Romeo Racing team-mate Räikkönen setting the early pace with a good lap time of 1:44.140s, as Ricciardo slotted behind him.
But soon Leclerc was back on top of the time charts with a lap time of 1:43.376s, ahead of Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas.
Hamilton closed the gap to the scorching pace of the Ferrari drivers and it appeared at this stage that the final qualification session would be close.
Red Bull elected to not send new face Alexander Albon out to improve on his fourteenth position as he faces grid penalties and will start at the back of the grid.
The final all important twelve-minute shootout started with Leclerc setting the pace once again as he took provisional pole with his first flying lap of 1:42.644s. Hamilton slotted behind Leclerc but 0.638 seconds behind him.
Vettel was behind Hamilton after the first runs because he made a mistake on his first flying lap at La Source.
Leclerc improved further on his second flying lap, but Vettel managed to join him on the front row with a last gasp effort.
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