Leclerc romps to pole as Ferrari claim one-two
Ferrari seek to claim their first win of the 2019 season   (Credit: Kenzo Tribouillard, Getty Images) 

Leclerc romps to pole as Ferrari claim one-two

Charles Leclerc dominates qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps to claim pole position as Sebastian Vettel finished second to put the cherry on the Belgian bun for Ferrari. 

jaquobcrooke
Jaquob Crooke

Charles Leclerc blitzed his way to a sensational pole position as Ferrari asserted their dominance in qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Leclerc transferred his formidable pace from the Free Practice sessions to deliver a resounding qualifying success for the Italian manufacturers, beating his team-mate Sebastian Vettel by a staggering seven tenths of a second.

Mercedes' best efforts to disrupt Ferrari's first qualifying one-two of the season bore no fruit, although Lewis Hamilton came to within breathing distance of Vettel's fastest lap time and will start from third on the grid.

Valtteri Bottas' return for a new contract was the fourth fastest time, starting ahead of Max Verstappen, who overcame his power shortage issues to qualify fifth and provide a wary headache for those in front of him in the race.

Q1 - Sainz a first-round casualty

Carlos Sainz's qualifying session came to a premature end as the McLaren driver could only muster P17.

The smooth operating Spaniard was on course to set an improved lap time, however an engine failure on Antonio Giovinazzi's Alfa Romeo caused the session to be red flagged with a minute remaining, thus cancelling out Sainz's efforts.

It was a disappointing afternoon for Toro Rosso as both Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly exited in P18 and P16 respectively, as Gasly displayed a concoction of emotions as his lowly starting position was eased by beating his new team-mate.

At the top end of the pack, the repercussions of Hamilton's FP3 escapade left his Mercedes mechanics with minimal time to repair the car, yet the team worked tirelessly to get the World Champion on track for Q1 and were given a helping hand when Robert Kubica's Williams ignited and provoked a temporary halt to the session. 

Williams' woes continued as George Russell fell victim during Q1, however it was the nature of Kubica's retirement that echoed elements of concern for Mercedes-powered manufacturers.

Max Verstappen, supported by a vociferous contingent of Dutch in the grandstands, found his qualifying session hindered by a power shortage as he exited Pouhon with the ERS battery store on his RB14 failing to recharge.

After returning to the pits, the pressure was on Verstappen to deliver a time and the Red Bull driver duly delivered, posting a 1:45:187 to split the Ferrari and Mercedes duo's and ensure his passage to the second phase of qualifying.

Q2 - Ice in his veins

The trend goes that injury is supposed to have a detrimental effect on your sporting performance. Step forward Kimi Raikkonen, who posted arguably the most sublime lap during the opening stage of Q2, despite the fact he's been hobbling around the paddock thanks to an injury he suffered during the summer break.

The time was enough to see the Finn comfortably progress into Q3, with his team-mate Giovinazzi unable to participate in the session.

Alexander Albon endured a relatively inactive debut qualifying session, with the pending penalty for tomorrow's race making it a meaningless afternoon in regards to the Red Bull driver attempting to extract the car's one-lap pace.

Lance Stroll once again failed to out-qualify his team-mate Sergio Perez as he finished in P13, six tenths shy of the top ten.

Though McLaren entered the weekend with minimal expectations, Lando Norris produced an exceptional lap and can consider himself to be unfortunate that it was not worthy enough of making Q3 - the rookie missing out by just a tenth of the second.

Kevin Magnussen was victorious in a Haas shoot-out as the Dane nicked P10 and a spot in Q3 at the expense of his team-mate Romain Grosjean, who will be starting in P11.

Q3 - Leclerc unbeatable

It was a relief for Mattia Binotto as Ferrari duly delivered in the final stage of qualifying.

Leclerc's exceptional weekend went from strength to strength and was untouchable as he stormed through the first sector before gliding to a sensational pole lap, seven tenths ahead of Vettel and Hamilton.

The start of the session posed an unnatural sight - it's quite peculiar when you see a Formula 1 car attempt to navigate the circuit as slowly as possible.

With teams and drivers vying for track position and seeking a tow through the first sector, congestion built-up through Stavelot and Blanchimont and the traffic nearly caused an embarrassing incident for Hamilton as he slammed on the brakes to avoid Bottas.

Bottas similarly locked-up further down the road as he avoided Nico Hulkenberg, with the Mercedes duo both complaining about the 'following' strategy.

Daniel Ricciardo set the pace with a 1:44:247, though the Renault driver's effort was soon cancelled out by Hamilton who dived into the low 1:43's.

Leclerc, in formidable form across the entire weekend, obliterated Hamilton's time by a staggering six tenths before his team-mate Vettel could only muster P3 early on following errors at T1 and T10.

And Leclerc managed to discover another tenth to knock off his previous lap time to consolidate his hold on pole position.

Below Verstappen in P5 were the Renault duo of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg, their race pace being reinforced by a respectable qualifying session.

Whilst Hulkenberg's future is in doubt, the German maximised his machinery - despite complaints over balance - and Ricciardo proved to be a standout performer, quietly weaving his magic to manage P6.

Raikkonen secured P8 for the Alfa Romeo team ahead of Perez in P9, whilst Magnussen will start tomorrow's race from P10.

 

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