Belgium Qualifying: Rosberg on pole as Hamilton fumbles

Nico Rosberg will start the Belgian Grand Prix from pole position

Nico Rosberg will start the Belgian Grand Prix from pole position

The old motorsport cliche that rain is a great leveler does not apply to the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship, as Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix with an even bigger gap to their rivals than they enjoy in dry conditions.

Although Hamilton appeared to have the upper hand on day one, Rosberg kept his cool in a tense session to claim pole position at an always tricky when wet Spa-Francorchamps, while his teammate once again compromised his session with an error when it mattered.

With intermediates bolted on to their Silver Arrows for the final Q3 shootout, Hamilton led Rosberg out of the pitlane onto the damp, but drying track. The Briton got it all wrong as he started his flying lap going into La Source hairpin and from then on his efforts were compromised, and the advantage went to his German teammate and title rival.

Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, took advantage of the difficult conditions to finish third ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Nico Rosberg has four poles in a row to his credit

Nico Rosberg has four poles in a row to his credit

“It’s one of the most special tracks of the year, so to be in front here is great,” said Rosberg, who finished just over two tenths clear of Hamilton. “It was not quite as difficult out there as on some other occasions, as the conditions were pretty much always intermediates, so that made it a bit easier today. But still, it’s always difficult on this track in the wet, so I’m really happy.”

Hamilton, meanwhile, said that a Q3 brake issue had forced him to adjust his braking points and had cost him time across the circuit.

“I had a glazed brake, so the car was pulling to the left or to the right and there was nothing I could do on the out laps to try to get rid of that, so I was struggling under the braking,” he said. “I had to bring the braking point a little bit further back and I was losing massive amounts out of particularly turn one.”

In the run-up to qualifying, torrential rain had fallen across the track but by the time the green light went on at the end of the pit lane to signal the start of Q1 it had largely abated. Conditions on track were difficult however, with low grip and little visibility.

Lewis Hamilton will start from second on the grid

Lewis Hamilton will start from second on the grid

The early pace was set by Hamilton, who logged a time of 2:09.492, to lead Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo by just under two tenths of a second. The conditions were clearly treacherous, however, and after a trip through a run-off area following radio traffic from his team, Hamilton told his pit wall not to speak to him during his flying laps. Elsewhere, Esteban Gutierrez was in trouble, the Sauber driver coming to a halt at Stavelot corner.

As the 18-minute session wore on a dry line was began to form and gradually the whole field switched to inters. With three minutes left in the session, Hamilton and Rosberg were in control at the top of the timesheet, but at the bottom the drivers in the drop zone were Andre Lotterer and Marcus Ericsson of Caterham, Marussia’s Max Chilton, Sauber’s Adrian Sutil and the non-running Gutierrez and Force India’s Sergio Perez. Lotterer was also outside the 107% mark, his time of 2:19.870 well over three seconds adrift of the cut-off.

The Le Mans winner made it through with his final lap, however, posting a time of 2:13.787 to finish just under a second in front of team-mate Ericsson, who finished in 22nd position.

Perez too made it out of the drop zone, rising to 12th. It was the opposite for team-mate -mate Nico Hulkenberg, however. The German dropped to 18th place and out of the session, complaining that his “brakes felt colder and colder” and that he had “lost all confidence” in his car.

Sebastian Vettel will start from third

Sebastian Vettel will start from third

Also eliminated from the session were Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado who finished ahead of Hulkenberg, Marussia’s Max Chilton, Gutierrez, Lotterer and Ericsson. Rosberg topped the segment ahead of Hamilton, Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas and fifth-placed Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne.

Q2 saw the condition fluctuate throughout, with a mid-segment shower soaking the track once more. Vergne hadn’t emerged in the early part of the session and when the rain came it looked like he had left his runs too late. He jumped from P16 to 12th on his first flying laps but as he keep running on intermediate tyres and kept improving, so too this those around him and positions in the lower reaches of the top 10 remained fluid throughout.

In the end, Vergne could not muscle his way into Q3 and finished 12th, just behind Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who had risen to eighth but then dropped back to 11th as first Jenson Button and then Sebastian Vettel found sufficient improvement to slot into tenth and seventh respectively.

Fernando Alonso start fourth

Fernando Alonso start fourth

At the top end Hamilton finished in P1 ahead of Rosberg with Fernando Alonso third ahead of Bottas.

Q3 saw conditions improve throughout, with the session ending in bright sunshine. Once again it was Rosberg who set the pace, the title leader recording a lap of 2:05.698 as Hamilton complained about his brakes not feeling right. Mercedes issued instructions as to how the Briton could get temperature into his brakes but the tactic didn’t work and Hamilton could find no way past his team-mate when the final runs took place.

Rosberg claimed pole with a time of 2:05.591, just over two tenths clear of Hamilton, who afterwards said he had suffered with a glazed brake which caused him to go wide at La Source hairpin and compromise his session.

Red Bull Racing profited in the conditions with Vettel third and Ricciardo fifth. Fernando Alonso split the Renault-powered pair. Williams, expected to be Mercedes main challenger here, finished sixth and ninth respectively, with Bottas quicker than Massa.

McLaren‘s Kevin Magnussen qualified in seventh ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in eighth and Jenson Button was 10th. (GP247-F1 Media)

Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 23 August 2014
Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2:07.130 2:06.723 2:05.591 22
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2:07.280 2:06.609 2:05.819 22
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 2:10.105 2:08.868 2:07.717 24
4 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2:10.197 2:08.450 2:07.786 21
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 2:10.089 2:08.989 2:07.911 21
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 2:09.250 2:08.451 2:08.049 23
7 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 2:11.081 2:08.901 2:08.679 22
8 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 2:09.885 2:08.646 2:08.780 21
9 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 2:08.403 2:08.833 2:09.178 20
10 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2:10.529 2:09.272 2:09.776 22
11 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 2:10.445 2:09.377 16
12 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 2:09.811 2:09.805 13
13 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 2:10.666 2:10.084 16
14 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 2:11.051 2:10.238 17
15 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2:10.898 2:11.087 16
16 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 2:11.051 2:12.470 14
17 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 2:11.261 9
18 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 2:11.267 8
19 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2:12.566 8
20 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 2:13.414 4
21 45 Andre Lotterer Caterham-Renault 2:13.469 9
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2:14.438 9
Q1 107% Time 2:16.029