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GP Week : Issue 188
It was cool but dry on saturday morning in spa as the cars left the pitlane for the final free practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend. Rain was anticipated, but the track stayed dry for the duration of FP3. Sebastian Vettel once again dominated the session, but Fernando Alonso was hot on the German’s heels, one-tenth behind. The session ended with a sigh of relief along the pitlane as the hour passed without any tyre troubles, putting paid to concerns that Friday’s failures would lead to weekend-long safety issues. Ten minutes before the pitlane opened for qualifying, the promised rain began to fall in the Spa paddock. Qualifying got under way on a damp track, and the drivers left the pits on intermediates. As the track began to try, talk turned to slicks, paving the way for chaos on the timesheets in the closing minutes. Before anyone moved to slicks, however, the times changed as conditions improved, with no fewer than seven drivers claiming the top slot in under a minute. Giedo van der Garde popped up in P3 on mediums, posting the fastest s3 time in the process. Both Marussias made it out of Q1, while Maldonado, Vergne, Ricciardo, Bottas, Gutierrez, and Pic made up the dropout zone. As Q2 got under way, drivers were warned that there was more rain on the horizon, making the setting of an early banker vital. But teams adopted a mix of strategies, leading to a tense end to the session, with drivers jumping up and down the order in the final minute. When push came to shove, Hulkenberg, Sutil, and Perez joined van der Garde, Bianchi, and Chilton in the dropout zone. As the pitlane opened for Q3, so too did the skies, with umbrellas raised as one around the circuit. The final sector was the heaviest hit, and with the pack out on the medium compound there was the potential for serious trouble. All 10 drivers returned to the pits for a change of rubber before the real run of qualifying laps could begin. With five minutes remaining, only di Resta, who’d rushed out immediately, had completed a timed lap. Then the rain began to fall in earnest, raising the prospect of a Force India on pole. But then just as quickly the rain stopped, parts of the road dried, and there were some heroic final laps which would tajke away di Resta's 'almost' gamble.Rosberg crossed the line in P1 just after the chequered flag, while Hamilton and Vettel both crossed the line in time to complete one final lap. Webber claimed provisional pole, but only held the position for a nanosecond before being bested first by Vettel and then Hamilton, who took pole with a 2m01.012s lap – which he himself almost seemed to disbelieve ... QUALIFYING 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2m01.012s 2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 2m01.200s 3. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 2m01.325s 4. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 2m02.251s 5. Paul di Resta (Force India) 2m02.332s 6. Jenson Button (McLaren) 2m03.075s 7. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 2m03.081s 8. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 2m03.390s 9. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 2m03.482s 10. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 2m04.059s 11. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1m49.088s 12. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 1m49.103s 13. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 1m49.304s 14. Giedo vd Garde (Caterham) 1m52.036s 15. Jules Bianchi (Marussia) 1m52.563s 16. Max Chilton (Marussia) 1m52.762s 17. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 2m03.072s 18. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 2m03.300s 19. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 2m03.317s 20. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 2m03.432s 21. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 2m04.324s 22. Charles Pic (Caterham) 2m07.384s All In ThE TIMIng ThE gRId 28 GPWEEK.com // 28 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> BELGIUM