Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013

Hamilton snatches pole in rain-hit qualifying thriller

2013 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying

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Fortune favoured the brave as rain played havoc with the qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The qualifying hour saw three unfancied cars reach Q2 after gambling on slicks, and nearly saw a shock maiden pole position for Paul di Resta.

But the Force India driver was denied the glory as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a late improvement in the weather to claim the front row.


The rain arrived at the track as qualifying was beginning leading all the teams to send their drivers out straight away, some of them queuing up at the pit lane exit. Pastor Maldonado was the first of the drivers to discover how slippery the conditions were, skating off at Les Combes.

But the rain came to a stop soon after it had started and the drivers soon found themselves nursing their intermediate tyres and deciding which compounds to use for their final runs. The drivers who committed to doing their final runs early soon found themselves in trouble.

In the dying moments of the session both Ferrari drivers found themselves in the drop zone. This left them vulnerable had a yellow flag been shown and when Di Resta spun his Force India at the chicane it looked as though a nightmare situation was about to unfold for them. Fortunately for him he was able to drag his car back onto the track.

While those who had pitted early found they weren’t able to take advantage of the ever-drying track, others were taking advantage, including a handful of drivers who had bravely gambled on slicks.

Giedo van der Garde led the trio, claiming third place in his Caterham after being one of the last drivers to start a time. The two Marussias, also on slicks, made it through as well. But the other Caterham of Charles Pic was held up at the weigh bridge, losing valuable time, and ended up last.

Among those to fall at the first hurdle were Jean-Eric Vergne and Esteban Gutierrez, both of which having impressed in the earlier wet part of the session.

The other Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo was also knocked out. “We went out too early,” he rued on the radio afterwards. “There was no point pushing straight away when the track was always going to dry. We should have waited.”

Drivers eliminated in Q1

17Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault2’03.072
18Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari2’03.300
19Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari2’03.317
20Valtteri BottasWilliams-Renault2’03.432
21Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari2’04.324
22Charles PicCaterham-Renault2’07.384


The track continued to dry in the second part of qualifying where there were few surprises. The contest for the top times suggested an exciting qualifying battle was on the way even if it hadn’t continued to rain.

Kimi Raikkonen headed the times, just a hundredth of a second faster than Fernando Alonso.

Among those to drop out in Q2 was Sergio Perez, who narrowly failed to start a time before the session came to an end. Not for the first time this year Nico Hulkenberg felt the bitter pang of missing out on the top ten by just a few hundredths of a second.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Nico HulkenbergSauber-Ferrari1’49.088
12Adrian SutilForce India-Mercedes1’49.103
13Sergio PerezMcLaren1’49.304
14Giedo van der GardeCaterham-Renault1’52.036
15Jules BianchiMarussia-Cosworth1’52.563
16Max ChiltonMarussia-Cosworth1’52.762
17Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault


The rain returned for a dramatic final ten minutes of qualifying. As the skies darkened almost all of the final ten runners took to the track, hoping to get a time in before the surface became too slippery.

But Paul di Resta held back in the pits. He’d spied the umbrellas going up and guessed the conditions were going to get too wet too quickly to set a time on slicks.

The other nine drivers quickly came to agree with him as they twitched around the increasingly treacherous track. To a man they all came in to put intermediate tyres on.

Meanwhile Di Resta delivered a neat, error-free lap to take a provisional pole position. His chances of holding on to it looked set when Felipe Massa – the first driver to get out of the pits with a set of intermediates on – set a time 1.7 seconds slower than him.

Few of the other drivers made any impression but Nico Rosberg produced an inspired lap in ever-worsening conditions to claim second place. Di Resta’s hopes of holding on to pole positions were bolstered as the track became so wet the FIA instructed teams to disable their DRS.

But the conditions stabilised and Rosberg harnessed the mid-sector performance of his Mercedes to snatch pole position off Di Resta. Force India thought their disappointment would end there.

“OK Paul that is P2. Rosberg pipped us by one-tenth,” race engineer Giampiero Lambiase told Di Resta. Then he noticed three other drivers were still pushing hard. “Nope, sorry Paul, Webber, Vettel and Hamilton still on a lap…”

The three had got across the finishing line early enough to get one more quick lap in on a circuit which was improving once again. The Red Bulls looked quick, but in the middle sector Hamilton pole-axed the pair of them, covering the same ground over a second faster than either of them.

Vettel and Webber had done enough to demote Rosberg, and were quicker than Hamilton in the other two sectors. But they couldn’t keep him from pole, which duly went to a surprised Hamilton by two-tenths of a second.

Di Resta doubted he could have been higher than fifth even if he had been on the track at the end of the session. Jenson Button claimed sixth for McLaren ahead of the Lotuses on row four and Ferraris on row five.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes2’01.012
2Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault2’01.200
3Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault2’01.325
4Nico RosbergMercedes2’02.251
5Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes2’02.332
6Jenson ButtonMcLaren2’03.075
7Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault2’03.081
8Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault2’03.390
9Fernando AlonsoFerrari2’03.482
10Felipe MassaFerrari2’04.059

2013 Belgian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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89 comments on “Hamilton snatches pole in rain-hit qualifying thriller”

  1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    24th August 2013, 14:41

    What I like about Spa is the unpredictablility. So I hope Hamilton can be challenged by Vettel or whoever ends up near him.
    Let’s see what can Webber do to annoy Vettel as well. That will make the start very intersting too. And my bet is on Kimi. We know it’s possible to win in Spa not starting in the front row. And come on, it’s Kimi in Spa. He CAN do it.

    1. I’m sorry to say it, but I highly doubt Hamilton has a hope in hell of converting his pole position into a win tomorrow – a bit of a theme for Hamilton.

      Just look at his whole weekend so far. The only reason he got pole was due to crossing the line last – end of. He and Rosberg have been struggling all weekend and I would not be surprised to see even Button finish ahead of the Mercs tomorrow.

      1. Jean-Christophe
        24th August 2013, 17:30

        Did they not seem to struggle in Hungary? You don’t know what they were doing during practice, do you? It’s been reported that they had been using a used engine together with testing new parts. So I wouldn’t jump into such conclusions too fast.

      2. The only reason he got pole was due to crossing the line last – end of.
        – Really? –
        MW, SB + LH all benefitted from a tracking drying rapidly and they all started their lap within a few seconds of each other. LH extracted the most from his car, particularly in sector 2.

        And that’s despite the Redbull looking to have a better package and car setup *all* weekend.

      3. @nick101 it’s been a theme of the entire season for merc gp to look as if they are struggling in practice and only to pull out the win or podium due to a pole. There is a reason they’re second in the WCC, not sure what season you’ve been watching, FPs dont give any insight into how tomorrow goes, if they did everyone would be winning the predictions here. Either your just that unaware or you’re just not a fan of Mercedes, but to say that Button may finish ahead of both… I highly doubt this since Nico and Lewis are good rain drivers.

        However, time will tell when tomorrow comes.

        1. Also let’s not forget that the true speed during quali was from a Merc GP car just not the one on pole.

    2. Webber’s car will break down… so he won’t do nothing to Vettel don’t worry lol

      I think the chances of hamilton depend on weather… It’s true that today he had the best track position when he conquered pole, but normaly he defends well in the races..

  2. Hamilton’s middle sector was just…wow! The rest of his lap was pretty bad!

    1. I know, right? I saw his 1st sector time and thought no way will he take pole. 2nd sector was over 1 second quicker than bulls.

      Very exciting qually…. now for a very exciting race please :)

      1. Hamilton in sector 2: 52.9
        Vettel in S2: 54.0
        Webber in S2: 54.0

        Shows how the Mercedes is setup for the race, and most importantly, if… RAIN COMES.

  3. Great qualifying session.that is the beauty off1 never ceases to delight. Extraordinary lap from lewis given tricky weather conditions.

  4. The first three (particularly Hamilton) if I’m honest were just really fortunate with the timing of their laps. I thought Rosberg and Di Resta were the drivers of the session but then again you could call that as a good strategic decision from Red Bull and Mercedes on Hamilton’s side and they did get the job done all said and done.

    1. @vettel1 I wouldn’t say Di Resta’s lap was exactly all that brilliant, because if you think about it, he only had that opportunity by being fortunate everyone else went out (also good team strategy). Rosberg’s lap was mega, bit it all came to nothing in the end and maybe should have done what the Red Bulls and Hamilton did.

      1. @philereid true but nonetheless the time was very respectable for the conditions and the car I retain, particularly given Sutil’s performance!

        1. @vettel1 a very good point. He really did outclass Sutil. I think it was still a very good time, and the fact he’s in a Force India is fantastic. I still think Lotus and Ferrari would have been higher given a better strategy call. Agree that Rosberg’s lap was most impressive.

        2. @vettel1 a very good point. He really did outclass Sutil. I think it was still a very good time, and the fact he’s in a Force India is fantastic. I still think Lotus and Ferrari would have been higher given a better strategy call. Agree that Rosberg’s lap was most impressive.

      2. First time Force India comes with a good strategy for qualifying with di Resta :P

    2. Agree the first 3 were fortunate, but di Resta was also fortunate in a different way (if track position is fortune).

      Rosberg clearly the standout driver, although should also be noted Hamilton put over 1s in to the Red Bulls on the middle sector with identical conditions, so clearly earned his position.

      1. Hamilton put over 1s in to the Red Bulls on the middle sector with identical conditions, so clearly earned his position.

        The only thing clear from that fact is that the Mercs and the RB’s were running very different downforce levels on their cars.

    3. Ros Brawn revealed that Di Resta had set the time with DRS (which was deactivated soon after). So, I don’t rate it very high. But, full marks to Force India for grabbing the opportunity given that non of the other teams could think of it. But then they lost the plot by bringing him in too early. This really was an up and down session. Hope the race stays this way!

      1. Why did Di Resta not do another lap, surely he had more time than all others.

        1. They told Paul that The Trio of Lewis, Vettel and Webber wont get a Lap time and He was P2. But they mis calculated and Those 3 Improved and Dumped Paul from P2 to P5

    4. @vettel1 why do u say particularly Hamilton?

      1. @jleigh because he was pretty much last over the line and just seemed not in the same class as Rosberg through the rest of the session.

        @jason12 I’m guessing it was simply complacency from Force India in thinking they’d have a comfortable enough margin and not fully recognising just how much the track would improve towards the end of the session. 5th’s good though and he is in a great position for racking up good points – maybe even a podium if things pan out well for him!

        1. @vettel1

          “Fortunate” is not a word I’d use for the drivers occupying the top three grid positions. The teams (Merc and RB) got the strategy calls right. It was similar to Malaysia really in many ways, if you recall. Hamilton looked mighty in qualifying there, but Vettel took pole by coming in for a new set of intermediates. In the end, arguably ROS was the driver of the session, but the top three were almost as good.

          1. @sankalp88 Don’t get me wrong I was fully expecting all three to put in a strong performance and they definitely delivered but Rosberg just looked the better driver today. Yes, getting the lap in at the right time is all part of the game absolutely but I can’t help but feel Hamilton just wasn’t as quick as Rosberg today.

        2. don’t forget that Grosjean is starting directly behind him. that’s a dangerous position in Spa.

          1. LOL, he hasn’t messed up any start this season ;)

        3. @vettel1 I think in such conditions , making sure to be the last one to cross the line is just as much guile as luck .So blaming Hamilton is not going to achieve anything . Usually vettel makes sure that he is the last one to cross the line . If you notice Hamilton simply took the risk as there were only 3 seconds after he crossed the line to the checkered flag in Q3 . He tried the same in Q2 and wasn’t successful and almost got eliminated in Q2 (10th) . Besides , Rosberg did a killer lap but lost out because he could not get another lap . That way if it rains , If I am leading , I’d watch out for Nico. I will be , of course , rooting for Hamilton ;-)

          1. @hamilfan I’m not “blaming” him for anything, just passing observation! I’ve grouped Vettel and Webber in the same category of late benefactors and actually was only really complimenting Rosberg, not really criticising any of the other three!

    5. @vettel1
      Yes… just like Vettel in canada.

      1. Vettel set his Lap time first and the others just couldn’t beat him on first timed laps. In the 2nd runs the Conditions worsen and couldn’t get the Lap time improvement for any one.

        1. @harsha

          Lewis was 6 tenth up before the last corner. I just wanted to convey in F1 there is so such thing as luck. It all boils down to strategy and ability.

          1. But he out breaked and cutted the Chicane. So it doesn’t matter how much he was up. It still considered as he was not improved time at that place. I know it was due to Strategy and ability and i didn’t said it was due to luck

    6. Rosberg in my view was the better driver as he (if am not mistaken) improved his time twice while the others were walking backwards trying to beat Di Resta’s. I just wasn’t expecting Webber, Vettel and LH to beat that time. Super exciting when they did it but a bit sorry for Di Resta.

      1. I think you’ll find Rosberg had the benefit of DRS in Q3, then it was disabled and noone could match him until the track dried.

    7. @vettel1, remember, the last/first 3 had to have enough fuel onboard to run that lap, a handicap on the earlier laps.

  5. I just had a thought… Is the Mercs car setup for wet race… Cause Rosbeeg and Hamilton were quick in the wet particularly through the middle sector… But Hamilton gets lucky with the last lap of all.. Seriously.. Are Mercedes going for a wet setup and compromising their straightline speed… Cause that’s going to prove critical on the first lap… From La Source to Les Combes…

  6. Feel Bad Rosberg what a lap. everybody else was average

  7. I feel sorry for Lotuses and Ferraris. They were just very unfortunate. I hope their race pace would do something.

  8. damnnn if alonso had got across the line in time to do another lap i think he would have made it on the 2nd row

    1. Ferrari is a bunch of losers. What could we expect? Even if they have a car fast enough they can’t handle the situation.
      I’m pretty much sure this is the end of fighting for the WDC.

      1. Alonso had a spin, without it he could have done another lap. I don’t think it’s fair to blame Ferrari for that.

        1. Poor car control in changing race conditions by ALO.

          He’s a poor qualifier anyway, and some say he’s complete.

          1. Alonso doesn’t quali laps in quali itself because the next day in races his every lap is a qualifying-lap.

    2. Yep. I was so frustrated to see he’d missed it by one or two seconds. That was crucial not only for the race but to get his season back on track. As usual for Ferrari, nearly there but not quite. Hopefully their race pace is vastly improved.

    3. Ferrari and its drivers have lost interest to compete at the highest level. Just bunch of people with high pride thats it.

    4. Could he have cut the chicane to make it to the line? Might have been an interesting one with the rules.

    5. Alonso made a mistake himself. If he didn’t, he would have had the time for one another lap, like HAM, VET, and WEB.

  9. Merc seems to be doing a better job strategically and responding to car problems (for some reason critics call this sandbagging).

    Here’s to hoping for rain tomorrow as Merc otherwise just don’t seem to have the pace.

  10. Brilliant Quali! This is why I love Formula 1!!!!

    Good Job Lewis, the title hunt starts here!!!!

  11. WOW !!!….. That’s what I am talking about……

    What a Session !!!!! Want more of such Thrillers…….

  12. Michael Brown (@)
    24th August 2013, 15:08

    This time, Vettel is on a low downforce setup while the Mercedes have a high downforce setup. We’ll see if Hamilton can run away with it, or if Vettel can pass him quickly with his straight line advantage.

    1. It certainly is a turn of events isn’t it! haha!

    2. Be careful, the speed trap reflects the exit at “Raidillon”…lewis is pretty goog on maximum speed 319km/h I think. But I don’t understand how are they loosing time on the 1st and 2nd sector with a good top speed…

      1. http://youtu.be/9W_bChhqUb0?t=33s

        305kph max in qualifying , no drs.

  13. I don’t understand how people are remarking about certain drivers “getting lucky”, that’s the nature of qualifying, everyone had the same amount of time to set their best lap, everyone was on the same track, timing your run that you would end up posting the last time is something I’m sure engineers can estimate.

    I think Kimi’s being hamstrung from time to time by his team where they make tactical mistakes from time to time. Jenson beating the Lotus and Ferrari teams spoke to his skill in the wet and the fact he was positioned to take advantage of the quickly drying track (I guess those grooves did work!)

  14. That was an absolutely fantastic qualifying session. I was very pleased to see van der Garde and the Marussias in Q2. But after all the twists and turns, the front row has a familiar look: Hamilton and Vettel. Bring on the race (and the rain)!

  15. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
    24th August 2013, 15:24

    That qualifying session was brilliant. Love Spa, love the rain.

  16. Well, I must say that this was a very exciting Qualifying. Starting with Q1, it was full of suspense, Q2 looked like it was going back to normal but Q3 really reaked havoc! Although a bit disappointed, Ferrari seem to be on pace or at least did look fast in the dry which is a good sign.
    I feel gutted for DiResta… I was rooting for his pole but I really cannot understand how he was pipped since the track didn´t seem to be improving, in any case, it seemed to be getting worse… that was really weird!
    Anyways, it seems it is going to be a tough race for the Maranello boys although the good thing is that they don´t have to worry so much from trouble coming from behind. If it is wet, the top ten will be at the first corner before the rest get traction and then the rest is going to go down to strategy but it´s going to be a loooooooooooong sunday for Ferrari. If ALO makes it to third, he will be the greatest in my book!!

  17. Although I’m dutch I’m normally not really fond of Giedo van der Garde. But today he really did well posting 3rd fastest time in Q1 before outqualified on a dry track.

    1. Indeed. I presume its also his home race so probably a few fans there celebrating.

      1. Nope he is Dutch and Spa is in Belgium

  18. I do wonder – is van der Garde’s 3rd place at the end of Q1 the highest position in which one of the “new” teams has been classified at the end of an official session?

    1. If you are including practice sessions, then Charles Pic in the Marussia has finished top of a Friday practice session coincidentally at a very wet Spa last year!

    2. Glock was 2nd for Virgin in Practice 3 at the 2010 Japanese GP. Only he and Alguersuari set times though because it bucketed it down.

  19. I really don’t know how people can say that Rosberg’s lap was brilliant but Vettel, Hamilton and Webber’s laps were down to luck and the track improving. In my opinion all 4 laps were down to the track improving.

    1. It is because at that very moment /within 30sec of Rosbergs lap, people coming after him crossing the line were significantly slower than him. Hence it was looking like track was getting worse. But as it turned out, track was getting better towards the last few minutes meaning the very last people crossing the line (without making a mistake ofc) would be the fastest. So Rosbergs time vs the track and all other front runners at that very moment was blindingly fast.

    2. Because Rosberg improved when no one did. He was first only .5 sec down on the first lap and beat DiResta in the second lap when everyone where 1.5-2 secs slower.

      1. Because Rosberg had DRS, then it was diabled as it got wetter and noone could match him.

        How can anyone honestly think Rosberg is 1.5seconds quicker than Alonso/Vettel/Hamilton on pure pace alone?


  20. Both Marussias and VDG’s Caterham in the mid-pack to start tomorrow’s race. I don’t care how it happened, I just care that it happened – and it made me absolutely ecstatic.

    1. I really hope Bianchi can get a stellar result from this.

      1. Probably not, unless it rains. Finally, a chance for points after 4 years!?

        1. Marussia seemed so much of the pace :/

    2. With you 100% :D

  21. Qualifying today was Spa ( and F1 as a whole) at it’s best. By far the best qualifying session of the season currently. I think the drivers out on slicks early in Q3 lucked into their strategies and that Di Resta and Massa actually made the right calls on strategy but because of the typical Spa weather, they were unfortunate to miss out on a higher grid position. But the likes of the Red Bulls and Hamilton made their own luck via not calling it a day and going into the pits thinking that the weather got worst to the point where they were out of contention for pole, instead they stayed out and fortunately the track suddenly improved and came to them. These strategies evidently show that teams have different radars that tell different stories.

    It was startling how Rosberg was able to get around half a second of Di Resta’s benchmark never mind pip him for pole a lap later. I don’t think Di Resta and Force India will be lamenting of “what could’ve been” but rather complimenting themselves and thinking that they narrowly missed out because of unpredictable weather.

  22. Brilliant! Successfully predicted the pole winner for once! Pole time was 14 seconds off but I’ve got something right!

  23. Wow lucky guys at the front. The track dried incredibly quick. Watching hamiltons pole lap, I count six huge apex misses, looked like an incredibly average lap, and yet it was pole. Shows how unpredictable spa weather is. Must have dried very quickly to allow such a lap to put Lewis on pole. That’s racing though, a few people in the lower half of the top ten probably thought they had the right strategy call. Here’s hoping for an equally unpredictable race!

  24. no comments on Gutierrez?

    1. He was way up on the time sheets TWICE in Q1 and starts on the back row. Carlos Slim couldn’t buy him a break this year even if he sold Telmex.

  25. Merc seems to be on the back foot, so it’s good to see Ham leading the grid, maybe Rosberg gets a good start and splits the bulls. Hoping for a good race, particularly because it’s gonna be my first GP at Spa. Can’t wait.

  26. I was surprised Massa kept his time in Q3 as he appeared to have all 4 wheels over the white line as he went through Eau Rouge at the start of his fast lap. Not that it would have made any difference to his gird placing.

  27. Top three guys got lucky with when they were out. I think Rosberg would have beat Hamilton if he could have got the extra lap in.

    Couldn’t believe it in the press conference when Hamilton talked about Red Bull with their “incredible pace”. What’s this guy watching? They haven’t had the best car since Montreal and before that was Bahrain. Mercedes were far and away the best car in Hungary.

    Alonso blew it again. Sure he got caught out by not getting that extra lap in, but before that he could only manage 4th best while Rosberg was on pole. Both Ferrari and Lotus are probably the fastest cars. Mercedes could be 3rd or 4th fastest tomorrow. Even McLaren might be quicker than Red Bull in dry race conditions.

    If Vettel can manage a podium it will be a small miracle.

  28. Hamilton was brilliant. Very exciting session throughout.

  29. I wonder how McLaren now feel about the 50% paycut they offered Lewis last year? The driver who replaced him is in 13th, and the one he regularly outqualified is in 6th. If Jenson could put that McLaren in 6th, the Lewis could have certainly beaten Rosberg’s time, or at least DiResta.

  30. Was lucky enough to be invited into the Caterham garage for Q1 and Q2.
    Was great to see them get through to Q2.
    What a great bunch of people. :D

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