Red Bull’s Mark Webber takes pole for Belgian Grand Prix
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – Mark Webber secured pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix with a first run time in final qualifying that put him well clear of the rest of the field.
Webber’s time of 1:45.778, the first sub 1 minute 46 seconds lap of the weekend, came before rain once again fell at Spa-Francorchamps, hindering his rivals chances of going quicker, as the session turned into an almost futile run to the end for everyone but Lewis Hamilton.
The McLaren man produced a stunning time of 1:45.863 on a damp track to secure a place alongside Webber on the front row, relegating Robert Kubica to third.
Kubica’s Renault has been quick all weekend following the introduction of their F-duct, and the Pole will be delighted with third.
Webber’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel had to settle for fourth, and has ground to make up on his championship rivals, with Jenson Button for company alongside him.
Webber said: “We knew the first lap was going to be important because of the unpredictability of the weather. This year it has been so on and off, even for Spa. I was happy with my first lap but you never know in this company if it’s going to be enough.
“Lewis did a great job and improved, so congratulations to him. But this is a special place to get pole and I’ll do my best tomorrow to take advantage.”
Webber will have Hamilton all over the back of his car going into La Source, and will know the McLaren is useful in changeable conditions if the weather comes into play again.
Hamilton said: “Mark did a fantastic job and it was tricky today with changing conditions. My first Q3 run wasn’t a great lap. Turn 14 was drying out, I was first to get there and I didn’t know how hard I could push.
“The second lap was good but I lost three and a half tenths in the first sector, which was already damp. The car feels pretty good here though, so we are in a good position.”
Felipe Massa was sixth-quickest to seal the dubious honour of being the faster of the two Ferraris, as team-mate Fernando Alonso had a poor first run condemning him to tenth after rain prevented him from improving his time.
Man of the weekend Rubens Barrichello produced a superb lap at his 300th grand prix to take seventh for Williams ahead of Force India’s Adrian Sutil and team-mate Nico HÃƒÂ¼lkenberg.
Mercedes are in the middle of a weekend to forget as Michael Schumacher outqualified team-mate Nico Rosberg to take 11th, but a 10-place grid penalty for the infamous incident with Barrichello four weeks ago in Hungary sees the German drop to 21st. Rosberg, meanwhile takes a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change to start 17th.
It was a momentous day for the new teams as Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock made it through to Q2 for the first time since Malaysia, taking advantage of the adverse conditions as Petrov and both Sauber drivers failed to make it through, with Kovalainen taking bragging rights as the highest placed of the new teams.
It makes for an interesting battle off the line. Red Bull have not taken advantage of their dominance in qualifying and the McLarens usually get away well -the run up to Eau Rouge and Les Combes the perfect opportunity for Hamilton and Button to get a good run on their rivals, while the pace of the Renault could help Kubica get in the mix with the big boys.
The biggest factor in Sunday’s race, as with most race weekends in Spa, will be the weather. The strategists on the pit wall could end up working overtime should rain interfere with their plans, and there are none greater than Mercedes’ Ross Brawn, who is sure to have something in mind to elevate his ailing drivers after a poor qualifying.
The points-scoring hopes of Schumacher and Rosberg could lie with the uncertainly and chaos caused by rain and in Brawn, they have the man to put them in a position to capitalise, and at the very least get a jump on Force India and Williams, who have looked solid so far this weekend.