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A Tale Of Two Teams

Qualifying for the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix brought a mix of the usual expectations with a few surprises thrown in.

It was no surprise to see Mercedes on top once again, with Lewis Hamilton taking the favoured seat at the head of the time sheets. Like that treasured chair in the family lounge, Lewis has made that top spot his own in recent years, his frame now well ensconced in that number one position. At the other end of the grid there was the sad story of Ferrari. Like a rudderless boat Ferrari floundered around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit with the very real prospect that the once mighty Scuderia Ferrari engined machines might not progress through Q1.

Indeed Charles Leclerc sat in the bump position as the final runners crossed the line for the final team and merrily found himself safe for the second session. Sebastian Vettel fared slightly better than his much fancied teammate and snatched 13th on the final run. His time of 1:43.567 was over a second slower than Hamilton’s fastest time. Ferrari powered Alfa Romeo and Haas had both cars eliminated, with Kimi Raikkonen less than 1/10th of a second from taking Leclerc’s place in Q2.

An analysis of Vettel’s qualifying laps in 2019 and 2020 highlighted an alarming disparity in straight line comparisons, with F1’s Paul Di Resta stating that The speed has gone, from Ferrari.

Leclerc radioed to his team as Q2 beganWe need a tow, theres a fine line between traffic and tow.

It was a clear acknowledgement that the car needed assistance to match the pace of the faster cars in Q2. Thus raising the conundrum of orchestrating a fast lap while weaving amongst traffic. The team ended the first run over 6/ths off the pace of Daniil Kvyat in tenth place. There was little change in the final stages of the session. Ricciardo was forced to sit out the final minutes with a brake by wire issue, but sat safely within the top 5. Ferrari, on the other hand, were well and truly on the outer. Vettel and Leclerc joined Kvyat, Gasly and Russell on the sidelines for Q3.

Hamilton set a new qualifying record of a 1:41.451 on his first flying lap to head Bottas by 0.578 seconds. Daniel Ricciardo jumped into 3rd place less than 4/100ths of a second behind Bottas. Hamilton took another 2/10ths from his time on his second run and lowered the record to 1:41.252. Bottas also improved but remained half a second behind Hamilton’s best time. Verstappen leapfrogged Ricciardo into 3rd with a 1:41.778. Ricciardo had been faster through sector 1 in his second run only to then lose ground in sector 2. The Australian decided to end the lap in the pitlane and save some precious life in his Renault.

Hamilton took his 93rd F1 pole position and his 5th in 2020 from Bottas, Verstappen and Ricciardo. Albon, Ocon, Sainz, Perez, Stroll and Norris rounded out the top 10.

“Today, a very clean session. Every lap was just getting better and better,” Hamilton told Paul Di Resta. “Today’s a really important pole for me because I woke up to the saddest news of Chadwick passing away. It’s been such as heavy year for all of us and the bad news really rolled me. It was really not easy coming back and to get focussed with that hanging on my heart. I wanted to get out there and drive to perfection because what he has done for our people and what he has done, he’s a superhero. So he showed all these young kids what’s possible and he was a shining light. That one was for Chadwick” Hamilton added, in honour of the Hollywood Black Panther star who died on Saturday after a battle with cancer. “Rest in peace, mate.”

Fourth represented Ricciardo’s best qualifying performance at Spa and perhaps signalled an upturn in performance for Renault.

“I’m very happy with today’s qualifying. It was so close to the top three, but Max got me by a couple of tenths at the end,” Ricciardo told Renault Sport Media. “My lap was clean and probably as good as it was going to get. I left it all out there and the second row is a big reward. The car works well in lower downforce and that was the same last year. Tomorrow looks interesting. We have good pace in the dry, but if it’s wet, we’ve shown in the past we’re not bad either. If it rains, it creates more opportunities, so whatever the conditions, we’ll take it and aim to do the best possible job.”



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