Lewis Hamilton claims sixth straight pole at Belgian GP

Philip Duncan 17:48 22/08/2015
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Hamilton (c) leads Rosberg and Bottas (r).

Lewis Hamilton blew away his rivals to claim his sixth straight pole position for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The world champion posted a best lap of one minute 47.197 seconds to leave Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg trailing in his wake by almost half-a-second.

It marked Hamilton’s 10th pole from 11 races this season, and with it, an unassailable lead in the race for the pole position trophy – a title which Rosberg won last year.

Valtteri Bottas was third for Williams with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, winner last time out in Hungary, only ninth.

After completing a practice double on Friday, Rosberg left this historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit suggesting he was “one step ahead” of his team-mate, who he trails by 21 points in the championship.

But the 30-year-old German will head into Sunday’s race at least one step behind Hamilton, and perhaps a few more.

Hamilton was in a different league here. His brilliant lap around this four-mile track bordered on genius, and the gap to Rosberg will be a hammer blow to the man who is set to become a father for the first time next week.

“I am really happy today with the performance of the car and so far this weekend,” said Hamilton, who is now just two shy of a half-century of pole positions.

“The car has been feeling great and this is a circuit where if you can get the right balance, it is fun to drive.

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“Pole is fun to have but it is a long race and long stretch down to turn 5. My goal today was to get pole position and my last two laps were the best laps I had all weekend so I am really happy with them.”

Rosberg, who has got the better of his team-mate on just one occasion in qualifying this season, said: “For sure I am disappointed. I lost a bit this morning in free practice, we went the wrong way.

“I had a good balance in qualifying so I could push well but Lewis was too quick – in the end he found quite a bit extra which I didn’t have in my pocket.”

McLaren fell at the first hurdle but such is their demise this season it came as little surprise. Jenson Button qualified 17th ahead of his team-mate Fernando Alonso.

As has been the theme this weekend, only the Manor pair of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi, were slower, but both Button – pictured enjoying a joke with Ron Dennis after the session – and Alonso will be demoted to the final row.

The pair have taken on an eighth Honda engine of the campaign – their second of the weekend, and following a raft of replacement components, were subjected to an unprecedented 105-place grid drop.

With only 20 cars on the entry list, their punishment is confined to propping up the pack when the lights turn green on Sunday.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the ailing team will be alarmed by the gap to their rivals.

Button’s best lap was one second adrift of the next car, the Sauber of Felipe Nasr. Alonso was even further back, half-a-second slower than Button.

McLaren headed into the weekend knowing that this track – where power holds the key – would not play into the hands of their uncompetitive Honda package – but could they have foreseen it would have been this bad?

“It’s funny, you cross the line and think maybe that lap was good enough to be further up,” Button, who started from pole here in 2012, said.

“That lap I did was equal to my pole position lap three years ago. So you’ve got to deal with that and it’s the same for both of us and the whole team. There is a long way to go before we’re competitive.”

One of McLaren’s former drivers Kimi Raikkonen is enduring an equally frustrating season. The 2007 world champion was surprisingly signed up by Ferrari for the 2016 campaign earlier this week, but that is where his luck ran out.

Midway through Q2, he stopped on track at turn 14. “Something broke,” Raikkonen said. His qualifying over, and with no time under his belt, he placed 14th. It was a bad afternoon for Ferrari in their 900th grand prix weekend, with Vettel only ninth.

Romain Grosjean starred for Lotus and qualified fourth but faces a five-place grid drop for a gearbox change.

Sergio Perez was next up in his Force India with Daniel Ricciardo sixth for Red Bull. Felipe Massa, Pastor Maldonado, Vettel and Carlos Sainz completed the top 10.

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