Charles Leclerc beat team-mate Sebastian Vettel by seven tenths of a second to claim pole position for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix as Ferrari locked out the front row ahead of Mercedes at Spa-Francorchamps.
Quickest across the first two qualifying segments, Leclerc stretched the gap back to his rivals in the final top-10 shoot-out to claim his third career pole with a lap of 1:42.519, a massive 0.748s ahead of Vettel who chiefly lost out to his young team-mate in the middle sector of the 7km circuit.
Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, recovered from a crash in FP3 to claim third place on the grid ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
Q1 was red-flagged after five minutes as Robert Kubica’s Williams suffered a smoke PU failure that left him stranded at the side of the track. The session was immediately halted.
After a 10-minute delay the action resumed and at the end of the opening session it was Leclerc who sat in top spot with a time of 1:43.587, half a second clear of Vettel.
Verstappen took third place in the segment but it was touch and go for the Dutchman, who prior to the final runs was outside the 107% margin after struggling with his car’s handling in the early stages of the session.
In the final run he was quick over the first sector, but then spent the rest of what was a crucial run threading his way through a stream of traffic. The trickle of slower cars became a river at the end of the lap, but Verstappen eventually crossed the line in 1:44.622 to take P3.
The session was then red-flagged for a second time when smoke jetted from the back of Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo and he pulled over on the run down to Eau Rouge.
With just 43 seconds left on the clock, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was eliminated in P16 ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat and the Williams cars of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
Leclerc again set the pace in Q2, taking P1 with a first run of 1:43.376 that left him a little over a tenth of a second clear of Vettel. Mercedes rose to third and fourth, with Valtteri Bottas ahead of Hamilton and that left fifth place for Max, who set an opening Q2 time of 1:44.132.
Leclerc then lowered the benchmark to1:42.938 to seal P1 with a tenth of a second in hand over Vettel. The German meanwhile was half a second clear of Hamilton with Bottas a further four tenths back.
Eliminated at the end of Q2 were 11thplaced Romain Grosjean of Haas followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, Red Bull’s Alex Albon and Giovinazzi.
There was no denying Leclerc in the final session either. The Ferrari driver went quickest in the first runs with a time of 1:42.644 as Max posted an opening time of 1:44.239 to slot into P5 behind Hamilton, Vettel and Bottas.
The Dutchman improved by a whopping half a second on the final run, but as they have been all weekend Ferrari were untouchable, and Leclerc claimed pole position with a small improvement to 1:42.519. Vettel completed the Ferrari front-row lock-out, seven tenths of a second further back while Mercedes annexed the second row ahead with Hamilton third ahead of Bottas.
That left Max as the session’s fifth fastest man and he’ll start from the front of row three tomorrow, ahead of the Renaults of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg, the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Räikkönen, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
2019 FIA Formula One Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:42.519
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:43.267 0.748
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:43.282 0.763
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:43.415 0.896
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:43.690 1.171
6 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:44.257 1.738
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:44.542 2.023
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:44.557 2.038
9 Sergio Perez Racing Point/Mercedes 1:44.706 2.187
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:45.086 2.567
11 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1:44.797 2.278
12 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1:44.847 2.328
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1:45.047 2.528
14 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1:45.799 3.280
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari –
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1:46.435 3.916
17 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 1:46.507 3.988
18 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Honda 1:46.518 3.999
19 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:47.548 5.029
20 Robert Kubica Williams/Mercedes –