Belgian F1 Grand Prix 2018 Qualifying: Saturday's Results, Times, Final Grid

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2018

Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel looks on in the pits during the third practice session at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Spa on August 25, 2018 ahead of the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)        (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
EMMANUEL DUNAND/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton has pole position for the 2018 Belgian Formula One Grand Prix after finishing fastest in qualifying on Saturday.

Hamilton was quickest in a rain-soaked Q3 on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, with Sebastian Vettel unable to better his rival's time despite a late push. It means Hamilton is on pole for the sixth time this calendar year, as well as the fifth time at this race.

There was a pleasant surprise for Force India, as Esteban Ocon took P3 just ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez:

Qualifying

Hamilton was left to marvel at the difficulty of an unpredictable and demanding session:

Meanwhile, Vettel remains bullish about his chances in the race:

Vettel's confidence is well-founded since Ferrari had been in control earlier in the day.

After finishing fastest in all three practice sessions, Ferrari still held sway over Mercedes at the end of Q1, as Kimi Raikkonen paced Hamilton and Bottas:

Raikonnen made the most of his first timed lap:

A shock saw both McLaren vehicles in the elimination zone as Q1 unfolded, and that's where Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne stayed.

Surprisingly, they were joined by Renault's Carlos Sainz, who struggled to deal with the track:

Q2 saw Raikkonen continue to impress, as the Finn made history at Hamilton's expense as rain clouds hovered above Spa:

Nico Hulkenberg was among the next group to be eliminated once Q2 was in the books. Sauber's Marcus Ericsson joined him, while Vettel battled back to be quicker than team-mate Raikkonen, with Hamilton third-fastest as the rain began to fall heavily.

It set up a dramatic shootout for pole between the top 10. Things were stymied somewhat by a downpour that put cars on the slicks in jeopardy, with Mercedes man Valtteri Bottas the first to slide off the circuit:

While the rain sent drivers scurrying to the pits for a change to intermediates, Perez and Ocan stayed out.

Verstappen was taking advantage of the absentees and appeared set for pole, until Raikkonen returned to the track to take provisional.

Another wild card came from the rain easing off and the track beginning to dry out, causing the intermediates to heat up.

It didn't matter to Vettel, who briefly seized pole, while Hamilton encountered problems:

Hamilton soon recovered, though, and snatched pole from his championship challenger late on. Vettel settled for P2, while Force India will rejoice after Ocon did enough for P3.

        

FP3

Vettel made it three from three for Ferrari by finishing quickest in the third and final practice session. He was quicker than Raikkonen and Hamilton:

He was also fastest in FP1 on Friday, before Raikkonen topped the timesheets in FP2.

Ferrari's intent to set the pace was obvious when Vettel made his first foray on to the track on supersoft tyres.

Yet it was Raikkonen driving quicker following the first runs:

Bottas soon became third-fastest, and the Finn's effort was the cue for team-mate Hamilton to announce himself:

Mercedes' decision to start on the softs didn't look a bad one as Hamilton continued to test Raikkonen and Ferrari's speed. Soon, though, all four drivers from the top two teams had switched to supersofts, offering an ideal chance for comparison.

Meanwhile, Max Verstappen had clocked a respectable first run for Red Bull, with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo slower but still in touch with the big names:

Vettel promptly reasserted himself with another swift lap. He was now quicker than Bottas and Hamilton and soon went faster than Raikkonen.

A red flag brought the final session to a close after Vandoorne was left facing the wrong way after spinning onto the grass.

He was angered with Bottas:

However, not everybody felt the Mercedes man was at fault:

The red flag meant drivers had little time to get a qualifying simulation lap timed and in the books. Ultimately, though, Ferrari had done what was needed to offer a reminder of the speed and power of the car before qualifying.

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