NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Lewis Hamilton Blasts to Belgian Grand Prix Pole

Lewis Hamilton again earned pole position, this time for the Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. He bested his teammate Valtteri Bottas by just over a half-second, claiming the 93rd pole of his career, further distancing himself in the record books.

For Mercedes, it was their first front-row lockout since 2015.

Though Red Bull was thought to be the best challenger to Mercedes, Max Verstappen finished just behind Bottas and will start third for the GP.  Renault showed a pace that has been missing this season with Daniel Ricciardo slotting into the fourth position.

Behind Ricciardo is Verstappen’s teammate, Alex Albon, who with start fifth with the second Renault of Esteban Ocon coming in sixth. Carlos Sainz qualified in seventh followed by the Racing Point duo of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll in eighth and ninth, respectively. Lando Norris finished out the top 10.

Qualifying for Sunday’s GP managed to avoid rain that may have added to the usual drama of the process.  The sky looked threatening but never released itself though the GP looks to face more of a threat to precipitation.

For Hamilton, the pole is yet another indication of being behind the wheel of the best car on the grid and the best driver in the sport this season. After asserting his place with a blistering lap in Q3, Hamilton radioed, “That one was for Chadwick, Chadwick Boseman.  Rest in peace.”

Hamilton was referring to the American actor, from films like The Express, 42, and Black Panther, who died on Friday due to colon cancer.

The statistics might show that Spa is not his best track, as he has only three wins but the extra motivation may have pushed Hamilton to his sixth pole in Belgium.

The trio of Hamilton, Bottas, and Verstappen will all start on medium tyres, and Verstappen may be in a great position to use the draft heading up the hill on the first lap to steal his way into second – or even first.

While Hamilton may have been soaring, another team was flailing.

The performance by Ferrari might best be described as abysmal – at the very least it can be called baffling.

The Italian organization showed virtually no pace in qualifying; which may not have come as a surprise considering that Sebastian Vettel held the slowest time during FP3.

The team faced the prospect of not making it out of Q1 for the first time ever, and Charles Leclerc barely eked his way forward into Q2.

But the team could find no real pace and wound up with Leclerc in 13th and Vettel in 14th.  The result comes as a shock considering that Leclerc held the pole and then won last year with Vettel starting second and finishing fourth.

The precipitous drop in Ferrari’s performance continues to be linked to the offseason discussions that happened between the team and the FIA.  The meeting focused on how Ferrari may have been flouting the rules with oil being mixed into their petrol composition, giving the engine a boost in power.

Since the 2020 season began, Ferrari has failed to come close to last year’s pace.  Last year it vied for poles and race wins, this year the team is fortunate to make Q3 and must get lucky to earn the third step on the podium.

The more gains that Racing Point, McLaren, and Renault develop, the further that the Prancing Horse falls behind.  With two races set for Italy directly following the Belgian GP, the team looks like they will be giving an ignominious showing for its fans.

Odds & Sods

The series added four races to the calendar, extending the season to mid-December.  The events all take place in warmer climes, helping to ensure that cold weather will not be a factor.

The addition of races at Turkey, Bahrain, and two at Abu Dhabi also works as a preventative measure should any COVID flare-ups cancel and races before then.

What may be interesting is whether or not any of the 2020 additions have any chance of making the 2021 schedule.  Though the Dutch and Vietnamese are sure to make the calendar next year, this season has shown that the schedule may bring with it some surprises.

 

Qualifying Results – Belgian Grand Prix (Aug. 29, 2020)

Pos # DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:42.323 1:42.014 1:41.252 15
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:42.534 1:42.126 1:41.763 17
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:43.197 1:42.473 1:41.778 17
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RENAULT 1:43.309 1:42.487 1:42.061 11
5 23 Alexander Albon RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:43.418 1:42.193 1:42.264 15
6 31 Esteban Ocon RENAULT 1:43.505 1:42.534 1:42.396 15
7 55 Carlos Sainz MCLAREN RENAULT 1:43.322 1:42.478 1:42.438 15
8 11 Sergio Perez RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 1:43.349 1:42.670 1:42.532 15
9 18 Lance Stroll RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 1:43.265 1:42.491 1:42.603 15
10 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN RENAULT 1:43.514 1:42.722 1:42.657 17
11 26 Daniil Kvyat ALPHATAURI HONDA 1:43.267 1:42.730 12
12 10 Pierre Gasly ALPHATAURI HONDA 1:43.262 1:42.745 12
13 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 1:43.656 1:42.996 12
14 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:43.567 1:43.261 12
15 63 George Russell WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:43.630 1:43.468 11
16 7 Kimi Räikkönen ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:43.743 6
17 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:43.838 6
18 99 Antonio Giovinazzi ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:43.950 6
19 6 Nicholas Latifi WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:44.138 6
20 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:44.314 8

 

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