Hamilton Denies Vettel Spa Pole
FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium - Mother Nature created one of the best qualifying sessions of the season as Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes narrowly beat the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber to grab the pole position for Sunday’s 2013 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Rain dampened the track 15 minutes before Q1, forcing teams to start on Pirelli’s intermediate tires. But when the rain stopped and the track began to dry, times began to plummet quickly. Fernando Alonso ended up with the fastest time in Q1 ahead of Hamilton while the Williams and Toro Rosso teams struggled in the unique conditions.
In Q2, Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen headed Alonso and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who bounced back from a couple of slow runs to save himself from the drop-out zone. McLaren’s Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa did likewise, leaving Hamilton perilously close in 10th at 1:49.067s as Nico Hulkenberg became the first to be excluded in his Sauber.
The rain came back with a vengeance as Q3 began, spicing things up as all but Force India’s Paul di Resta left the pits on mediums. At the end of a tiptoe lap they all came in for intermediates again even though the final sector was still wet and it had started to rain in the first sector, too. With the long lap, a fast turnaround was essential.
For a long time it seemed that Force India’s Paul di Resta was about to enjoy his first pole after the team got him out before conditions deteriorated further, the Scot lapping in 2:02.332. But as others lapped two seconds slower Rosberg somehow found a great lap of 2:02.873 to go second.
Things were improving on the track quickly, however, and a rash of improvements saw the positions behind these two changing by the second. Crucially, however, Webber, Vettel and Hamilton just beat the flag by seconds. Just after Button had moved to third, Webber completed his final lap at 2:01.325 to grab the pole. But then Vettel completed his lap, timing in at 2:01.200 to steal the pole.
Hamilton, however, would not be denied as he followed the Red Bulls with the fastest lap of the session at 2:01.012 to steal the pole in the final seconds of Q3.