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)
|3||33||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:43.197||1:42.473||1:41.778||17|
|5||23||Alexander Albon||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:43.418||1:42.193||1:42.264||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|
|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|