EletiofeHamilton takes pole for Belgian Grand Prix while Ferrari...

Hamilton takes pole for Belgian Grand Prix while Ferrari misery continues

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Lewis Hamilton took pole for the Belgian Grand Prix with a commanding performance at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. He beat his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas into second place with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen in third.

Ferrari however endured a shocking afternoon in the Ardennes forests, with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the top 10 shootout and finishing in 13th and 14th respectively. Daniel Ricciardo was in fourth for Renault with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon in fifth.

Calm and in control throughout qualifying Hamilton looked nailed on for the top spot from the moment he took to the track. Improving throughout, he saved the best for last. His first hot run in Q3 saw him confident enough to lead the field out, unconcerned by trying to find a slipstream so well were he and the Mercedes performing.

Exploiting every inch of the track and the clear pace advantage he was enjoying, a blistering lap ensued with a time of 1min 41.451sec. It was over a half a second clear of Bottas. Leading the way again on his second run, the British driver found even more from what had looked to be an already exemplary run. He went two-tenths quicker with a time of 1.41.252 and Bottas remained a full half a second adrift, an age for a driver in identical machinery.

Hamilton delivered with another pole in a season in which he is now looking almost untouchable over the single lap. It is his fifth from seven races, only Bottas has denied him the top spot twice, ensuring Mercedes remain unbeaten in qualifying. Hamilton has also extended his record of poles at Spa to six and edged closer to breaking the ton with the 93rd of his career.

For the past two years Ferrari have enjoyed an advantage at Spa and the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has spoken of his team having unfinished business in Belgium. They appear to be in position to bring closure with an overwhelming superiority over their rivals.

Hamilton’s advantage in the championship is already looking daunting. He leads Verstappen by 37 points and Bottas by 43. Neither of his opponents can afford to let him extend the gap further.

For Ferrari what was expected to be a trying weekend deteriorated into only narrowly avoiding humiliation. Their car has been down on power all season since the FIA issued a clarification on the engine regulations to the team, in what was a controversially “closed” private settlement. They knew it would cost them at the power-dependent Spa but no one anticipated a descent almost to the back of the grid.

The car also has aero problems creating too much drag, exacerbating the lack of power. While in Belgium they struggled to switch on the tyres because they were experimenting with a low-downforce set-up to combat the speed deficit. It left them with a lack of grip compounding their woes.

Last year they were utterly dominant at Spa. They led every session before the race with a one-two and Leclerc took pole with a seven-tenths advantage. He went on to win untroubled from the front. This time round makes for more painful reading at Maranello. They went backwards through practice, 14th and 15th and 15th and 17th on Friday before the ignominy of the final session on Saturday morning when Leclerc was 17th and Vettel last in 20th.

Then in qualifying they were close to being beaten by Ferrari-engined customer teams Haas and Alfa Romeo, not to mention the rest of the midfield. Indeed a yellow flag late in Q1 that slowed some final hot laps may have spared them going out in first session.

They are fifth in the constructors’ championship, helped by Leclerc scoring two unlikely podiums and face a very real threat of recording their worst season since finishing 10th in the championship in 1980. Their car, the SF1000 was named to celebrate the marque’s illustrious history and they will compete in their 1,000th F1 GP in two races time at Mugello but on this form will have little to celebrate on track. With the car designs frozen for cost-saving purposes in 2021, a long and painful season and a half stretches ahead of the Scuderia.

Esteban Ocon was sixth for Renault, with Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll in eighth and ninth. Carlos Sainz was seventh for McLaren with his teammate Lando Norris in 10th.

Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly were 11th and 12th for AlphaTauri and the Williams of George Russell was in 15th.

Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were in 16th and 18th for Alfa Romeo. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were in 17th and 20th for Haas with the Williams of Nicholas Latifi in 19th.

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