Nico Rosberg denied Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton pole position in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix after coming out on top in a rain-affected session.
A downpour soaked the circuit less than an hour before qualifying commenced, leaving the drivers and teams no choice but to use Pirelli’s intermediate compound tyres to progress out of Q1. Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez was instantly denied that chance when mechanical gremlins left him stranded out on track and in need of a lift back to the pits, but it didn’t stop Q1 from continuing. Nico Hulkenberg, something of a wet weather specialist, was out of sorts and struggled with fading brake temperatures that saw him end the day a disappointing 18th, behind the wayward Lotus of Pastor Maldonado. Andre Lotterer managed to out-qualify new Caterham team-mate Marcus Ericsson on his debut, and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi advanced to Q2 at Maldonado’s expense.
The Frenchman couldn’t manage better than 16th, joined in the second drop-zone by Daniil Kvyat in 11th, Jean Eric Vergne, Sergio Perez, Adrian Sutil and Romain Grosjean.
Q3 saw the sun break through the Ardennes clouds, ensuring a frantic last-minute dash for fresh intermediate tyres and the last of the improving track space. It was a race not to be won by McLaren’s Jenson Button who locked up on his final lap and ended up 10th with no improvement, leaving Sebastian Vettel to beat Fernando Alonso for the somewhat superflous ‘best of the rest’ title in 3rd.
With the Mercedes duo running almost two seconds a lap faster than their nearest rivals the front row was never in serious doubt, and when Hamilton made several errors on his last flying lap the pole position was Rosberg’s. The Briton later claimed to be suffering from a catching front brake, but was unable to elaborate on which side of the car the problem existed.
CLASSIFICATION – Qualifying – Belgian Grand Prix – 23rd August 2014