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Vettel on pole in thrilling wet/dry qualifying session for Belgian GP
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Aug 2011   |  2:12 pm GMT  |  116 comments

Sebastian Vettel took his ninth pole position of the season after one of the most exciting qualifying sessions for many years. He beat Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber to pole after a thrilling final run on the slick tyres on a damp track. It was quite a turnaround for the German who was slower than his team mate when the track was wet, but onto slicks he found a margin of 4/10ths of a second.

There were many surprises; Jaime Alguersuari was outstanding in the Toro Rosso in sixth place, Bruno Senna qualified seventh ahead of team mate Petrov and Fernando Alonso could manage only eighth, one second behind team mate Massa. Jenson Button was only 13th and Michael Schumacher starts from the back of the grid. Nico Rosberg again performed very well in fifth place, his highest grid slot since the Turkish GP.

“It was a difficult session,” said Vettel. “The circuit was surprisingly drying very quickly. I didn’t feel very comfortable to start with. In Q3 we were sure it was all down to the last lap. The last lap I tried to push as hard as I can. Tomorrow they say is dry but anything is possible.”

Webber said that he pushed too hard on his slicks too soon, so there wasn’t quite enough grip left on the final lap. Vettel’s judgement on this was very good.

With a track still wet enough to require intermediate tyres, rain was forecast for the start of qualifying, so most cars went out straight away on intermediates. Michael Schumacher went off in strange circumstances, a rear wheel detaching from his car and sending him into the barriers and out on his 20th anniversary in F1.

It was hard to judge when to be out on track, given that rain was due but hadn’t come when it was expected. Timing was everything. Both Lotus cars and Adrian Sutil were in the garage when the track was at its fastest, with about four minutes to go. The rain started falling hard about two minutes before the end of Q1. But Kovalainen still managed to find some time and got himself out of the drop zone, pushing Paul di Resta down to 18th. Force India had called him in believing that he was safely into Q2.

Team mate Adrian Sutil crashed his car early in Q2, making a mistake on the exit of Eau Rouge. The lap times were five seconds slower than in Q1 before the red flag came out. Alonso was in trouble not having set a time. He complained when the session was restarted that it was “impossible” with the traffic to get a clear run.

He managed to set the fastest time at the end of the session. The intermediates were lasting around five laps, but drivers had to be out on track at the end to get the fastest time. Jenson Button wasn’t and was eliminated, despite having a car which was a second a lap faster than his rivals in Q1. He was called in by his team, questioned the decision, but then accepted their decision. The team was wrong.

Bruno Senna was on track and got into the top ten. Of the midfielders Buemi, Alguersuari and Petrov were also safely into the top ten.

There was a curious incident between Hamilton and Maldonado, after the Briton pushed past the Venezuelan at the end of the fastest lap. Maldonado was eliminated. As they came out of La Source, Maldonado came alongside and went into him, damaging Hamilton’s wing. Close inspection of the replays shows Hamilton making two separate moves to the right, giving the stewards a difficult decision. Hamilton’s car was still being repaired when Q3 started.

“I was on the end of my Q2 lap, there were two Williams going very slow. I had to get past. As I exited Turn 1 I saw Maldonado close up and he went past me and swiped into me,” said Hamilton. Rival teams felt that Hamilton had his share of the blame for the incident, as the pair went up to see the stewards.

Most drivers went for slick tyres at the start of Q3, but Massa went off track, lacking heat in the tyres.

It was a thrilling Q3 session, as the track dried more and more drivers were finding that they were up to 2 seconds faster than their previous lap. Webber had the upper hand in the damp, but as the dry line increased, Vettel came to the fore.

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX, Spa Francorchamps, Qualifying
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m48.298s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m48.730s + 0.432
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m49.376s + 1.078
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m50.256s + 1.958
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m50.552s + 2.254
6. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m50.773s + 2.475
7. Bruno Senna Renault 1m51.121s + 2.823
8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m51.251s + 2.953
9. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m51.374s + 3.076
10. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m52.303s + 4.005

11. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 2m04.692s + 1.924
12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 2m04.757s + 1.989
13. Jenson Button McLaren 2m05.150s + 2.382
14. Rubens Barrichello Williams 2m07.349s + 4.581
15. Adrian Sutil Force India 2m07.777s + 5.009
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams 2m08.106s + 5.338
17. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 2m08.354s + 5.586

18. Paul di Resta Force India 2m07.758s + 5.945
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus 2m07.773s + 5.960
20. Timo Glock Virgin 2m09.566s + 7.753
21. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 2m11.601s + 9.788
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 2m11.616s + 9.803
23. Daniel Ricciardo HRT 2m13.077s + 11.264
24. Michael Schumacher Mercedes no time

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Great driving on the part of Senna! Best of luck to him! Perez looking good too – Ferrari seat 2013 looking increasingly realistic


Nando is 8th, Jenson is very disappointed, bad quali for Shumi….come raceday there will be fights and lotsa changes.



Few remarks :


– Ferrari & heating issues : a never ending issue

– Massa outqualified Alonso for the 2nd consecutive race but No1 seems to care

– McLaren has a habit of outsmarting themselves in qualies this year costing Button a quali podium

– Bruno is indeed a Senna

– Spa is no longer a great track : The downforce has transformed EauRouge and Blanchimont into flat out corners, formerly the 2 best corners of the cicruit.


Great great first proper qualifying session for Bruno Senna. I was really amazed how he performed under pressure at the end of Q2. Well done.

I sincerely hope he keeps the Renault seat in Singapore despite Grosjean wrapping the title in GP2.

Very solid performances by Jaime Alguersuari, Sergio Perez and Heikki Kovalainen.

Excellent qualifying session thanks to changeable conditions. Maybe we should have grands prix only in place where there is a possibility of rain?


What’s the point of having the 107% rule if it’s not going to be enforced?

HRT didn’t qaulify, they shouldn’t start the race


Don’t forget the racing line dictates that drivers will exit La Source over on the left side of the track and then drift to the right before Eau Rouge.

It would be perfectly natural for Hamilton to want to move across, whereas Maldonado had no good reason to move to the left and that’s probably the first thing the stewards threw at him.


Notice how all that stupid pre-season talk about artificial rain has gone away?


Great pole by Vettel…. It was a tricky day to say the least and he and Hamilton really walked the field nicely


It’s hard to believe that anyone can see Hamilton as completely innocent in this incident.


It’s the difference between wagging your finger at someone and hitting them with a baseball bat.


Without a doubt, but it’s still disingenuous.

Alonso looking good though!


Tomorrow: ElFraud owned, part II.


James, now that we’ve seen the onboard footage the penalties handed out seem very hard to understand. A 5 grid slot drop is trivial punishment for what I’d call violent conduct on the race track. Can you explain the thinking behind it? Did they simply believe it was accidental?


I too watched it and it seemed to me they both should be blamed… Hamilton did not look innocent at all


I’m surprised too. Seems very lenient


for Hamilton Move at the last corner . . He have to do so otherwise he will be out of top 10

at the time Lewis did the last lap in Q2, his time is 12, if he didn’t try to pass at last corner, his best time will not good enough for Q3, . . . he has to pass to make the timne.


The steward decision should have been to ban Maldonado. It is clear that he tried to damage Lewis’s car. A five place grid penalty does not do it for me. The session had finished, Maldonado had no reason to be alongside Hamilton at that point anyway. All those seeing moves from Hamilton and adjudicating that Hamilton should be punished also, I question your integrity. This was the last straw for me.


I’ve got the feeling JB will smash Hamilton tomorrow. Same thing for Kobayashi


It seems Lewis got a reprimand and Pastor got a 5 grid penalty. I initially saw the incident (after the finish line) as all Pastor’s fault. The replays seem to show Lewis did his share to aid the incident too.

Great result for RBR on a circuit they weren’t expected to do well at. Congrats to Seb, by far the best qualifier in the field. Great result for Lewis too (with all that toe-in). Well done to Jenson too, 13th is a great result for the rain master.

How long is it since we saw wheel banging in qualifying? Great stuff. This season just keeps getting better IMO. Bring on sunday.


The sarcasm re. Button is misjudged. He explained in detail what happened to cause his Q2 cock up.

What is worrying is McL’s inability to have the right strategy for BOTH their cars at the same time.


Re: The Hamilton/Maldonado incident; I think I’m seeing something else compared to many. I see Lewis ahead of Pastor and jinking slightly to his left to drive down the middle of the track, but then moving back to his right when he realises he has a car coming alongside him. Pastor then appears to try and drive him onto the grass – the very fact that he has two wheels on the grass having hit Hamilton when he has the rest of the track available to him suggests that he intended to give Hamilton a swipe (although he probably didn’t intend to hit him.)

I’m surprised at how lenient the penalty is for Maldonado and that Hamilton was given a reprimand in the first place. I don’t see what he has done wrong in this incident.


5 place penalty for Maldonado, thats not much of a deterrent for the future is it, he should have been disqualified and given a 2 race ban, it was tantamount to throwing a punch!!!….


Amazing seeing some people blame Lewis and the “British media” for this.


Great stuff from Senna, even more so because he has been standing on the side for so long, jumped in and done so well in difficult conditions.

Fingers crossed for him tomorrow. Good boy!

Senna and Kubica in Renault next year? Oooh, what a thought!


Petrov has a 2 year contract that includes next year, and he brought in plenty of $$$$


Hell yeah. That would be fantastic!


I think Michael has to question whether there is sabotage on his car as it seems to me like there have been far too many strange breakages with his car only! Co-incidence that Jock Clear is back in the garage?



It is slightly off-topic, but I just wanted to share this. I went to Croatia on vacations and just by pure accident had a pleasure to meet Bernie, Christian Horner and Sebastian Vettel.

Together with my friends we went to have a dinner in a small town called Trogir. We were looking for a restaurant and I was shocked to see Bernie Ecclestone – I could not believe my eyes. We went to the same restaurant and when Mr. E was going to pay the bill, I stopped him and we chatted a bit. We asked Sebastian to come over and he was kind enough to take a photo with us:-)

He also thanked us in Polish – great humble chap:-) I am a Ferrari fan, but good luck to him…I think he will be the one to replace Alonso, when his Ferrari era will be over.



Pretty cool. Thanks for sharing. Are you on twitter by any chance?


Not really, this is too much for me – email and some forums is maximum I want to get in terms of push content:-)



Say, alex, is that you on the right?

I have to ask “Do you like working out?”

Maybe you haven’t seen that film, so you must have formed a wrong impression!

Perhaps it’s you on the left.


Haven’t seen the film, but the guy with muscles is my friend:-)


Watching a replay of the Hamilton Maldonado incident you can clearly see Hamilton moving right twice, just after Maldonado pulls out from behind him and just after Maldonado get the front third of his car ahead of Hamilton. Both looked responsible.


James do you know if Alonso went for a different setup for Sunday…risking it all?


“I was on the end of my Q2 lap, there were two Williams going very slow. I had to get past.”

While I make no defence for Maldonado’s behaviour, this is a great example of what Lewis still needs to learn. Both the Williams drivers in front of him had had their laps compromised, but didn’t force their way past the driver ahead.


for Hamilton Move at the last corner . . He have to do so otherwise he will be out of top 10

at the time Lewis did the last lap in Q2, his time is 12, if he didn’t try to pass at last corner, his best time will not good enough for Q3, . . . he has to pass to make up the time.


No, if Hamilton hadn’t made the pass he would have been out in Q2 like them.


Where does it state that you cannot overtake during Qualifying, 100% legal pass from hamilton, maybe that’s the reason the williams drivers are where they are.


James, do you know whether Alguersuari and Senna have gambled on a wet set-up, as you would not usually expect them to be quicker than Alonso’s Ferrari.


In the post qualifying press conference, both Vettel and Hamilton said that with parc ferme rules in effect, nowadays teams don’t really have a wet setup, unless they are absolutely sure it will be raining during the race. When it’s unpredictable,teams try to find the right balance with downforce levels, but basically it’s all a dry set up now…

“Q. It sounds as though you are happier with the car in dry conditions. Have you actually set it up for the dry? Is it more for dry than it is for wet?

SV: Not really. To be totally frank these days there is not really a wet set-up anymore. It is difficult, as from Saturday to Sunday you are not allowed to change anything. There are a couple of things that yes, if you could guarantee 100 per cent wet running, you would go for it, but it is not a massive change anyway. As I said yesterday and this morning, I wasn’t really happy but in qualifying, and then especially Q2, we seemed to pick up the pace, also in the wet. Yes, it was drying but also in those places where it was still damp I think for the first time this weekend we were very competitive. All in all, a bit last-minute. It is not easy when you don’t run that much but we got it back.”

“Q. (Mike Doodson – Honorary) Lewis, at the end of Q2, in one of the snatches we got of you on TV, your car was bouncing quite a lot and producing sparks. Is that something to worry about, is the car perhaps set up more for the wet than the dry?

LH: No, again, I think – just to repeat what Sebastian said – nowadays there’s not really a big difference between dry and wet set-up. I think in the past and in other categories you softened the car a lot more. As you go into qualifying nowadays, you can’t change between qualifying and the race and so you have to try and… the set-up is generally very, very similar from dry to wet. But I have no idea why it would be sparking. It’s either just too low or something’s hanging off, but I haven’t seen that.”


Alguersuari maybe.

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