World championship leader Mark Webber will start tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix on pole after emerging fastest from a rain hit qualifying session at the Spa Francochamps circuit.
The Aussie overcame showers in Q1 and the threat of elimination in Q2 to finish the top-ten shootout quickest, with his closest title rival Lewis Hamilton grabbing second place late in the session.
Of the three sessions it was Q1 that provided the most excitement, the session beginning with the whole field headed out in search of a banker lap. With rain imminent this was going to be key.
But Vitaly Petrov soon threw everyone’s plans in to disary. The Renault driver somehow managed to find a wet patch on a largely dry circuit and dropped his car. He made contact with the wall, stalled the engine, and thus brought about a red flag. Badger’s own Benson Jamichello was watching the action near where Petrov had his off, and sent reports that the Russian ‘sped off on a moped, waving to the crowd like the Queen’.
When the track went green again everyone once again made their way on to the circuit. But by now it was raining heavily around Stavelot, causing total chaos when the cars hit it at speed for the first time. Several drivers ran wide in to the gravel whilst Lucas di Grassi and Jarno Trulli collided, leaving the Brazilian sitting in the middle of the track.
At this point several big hitters- including Sebastian Vettel- looked vulnerable, but as the track dried a little they were able to put quicker laps in and ensure safe passage to Q2.
But there were some casualties in Q1. Petrov will start last after his error, and he was joined in the knockout zone by both Saubers. Kamui Kobayahsi and Pedro de la Rosa both ended up in the gravel within seconds of eachother, and finished the session 19th and 22nd quickest respectively. Along with these three Jarno Trulli, Lucas di Grassi and the Hispanias of Senna and Yamamoto fell in Q1.
The poor fortunes of Petrov and the Saubers created an opportunity for the new teams to sneak a car out of Q1, and Timo Glock and Heikki Kovalainen capitalised on it. They both progress to Q2 for the first time since Malaysia- well done to both Lotus and Virgin.
Q2 also started busily, but with no more rain falling things were far less chaotic. The drying tarmac meant that times came down as the session progressed, resulting in a dash for the top ten positions in the closing minutes.
Both McLarens and Ferraris made it through comfortably, as did Sebastian Vettel. Mark Webber was teetering on the bring of elimination late on, but pulled out a solid lap to join his fellow frontrunners in the top-ten shootout. Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil also progressed without too much fuss.
That left two spots up for grabs, and there was quite a scrap over them, with the Mercedes and Williams pairings and even Jaime Alguersuari in the hunt.
In the end both Williams drivers produced quick laps in the dying moments to sneak in to Q3, leaving the Mercedes cars of Schumacher and Rosberg 11th and 12th. Schumacher had shown decent pace in this session, but missed out to countryman Hulkenberg by 5 hundredths of a second. He’ll start 21st thanks to his ten place grid penalty.
Also eliminated were Alguersuari, Tonio Liuzzi, Sebastien Buemi and Q2 gatecrashers Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock, Heikki winning the battle to be quickest of the new teams’ runners.
Finally Q3, which looked set to be a battle between the the Red Bulls and Lewis Hamilton. Things were posied for a real scrap.
But it never really happened. Webber went quickest on his first run, with Robert Kubica second and Hamilton third. Meanwhile Fernando Alonso had a poor lap in his Ferrari, and found himself down in tenth as the cars prepared for a second run. But rain in and around the pit area made improving a tall order. Alonso was nowhere near moving up the grid, and ended the session slowest. He’ll start a very disappointing 10th.
Both McLarens managed to improve though, with Button going 5th and Hamilton snatching a place on the front row. He’ll start second to Webber, whose time was good enough to seal him pole. Teammate Vettel starts 4th, alongside the Renault of Robert Kubica, with Massa 6th, Barrichello 7th, Sutil 8th and Hulkenberg 9th.
So Mark Webber, has a sixth career pole, and will tomorrow look to extend his title lead. But with Hamilton alongside him it’ll be far from easy. We could be set for a belter of a race- not that we’d expect any different from Spa-Francochamps.