Hamilton sets new Spa lap record for 93rd pole position, heads Bottas and Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton continued his dominance of the 2020 Formula One season by smashing Sebastian Vettel’s 2018 lap record and taking pole position by 0.511s from Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Max Verstappen third for Red Bull.

Whilst the top three had a familiar look to it, it was Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo who has impressed the most thus far, the popular Aussie fourth fastest ahead of Alexander Albon, Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz as Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Lando Norris rounded off the top ten.

But it was another disastrous showing from Ferrari on the eve of the famous marque’s 1000th grand prix as an engine manufacturer, last year’s pole sitter and winner Charles Leclerc alarmingly down in 13th a place ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel.

“Today was a very clean session,” said an emotional Hamilton, before dedicating his pole position to actor Chadwick Boseman, who passed away from colon cancer. “Every lap was just getting better and better. We did a lot of great work in the background. It’s a really important pole for me, because I woke up to the saddest news of Chad passing away, and it’s been such a heavy year I think for all of us, and that news really broke me. So it was not easy to get back and focus coming in today, with that hanging on my heart. But I wanted to go out there and drive to perfection because what he has done for our people and for what he has done for the superhero shows all these young kids that it’s possible. He’s such a shining light and will live forever.”

“Of course there’s been times where we have tried to get a tow and you’ve got these three difficult sections where obviously you have the straight line first section which is pretty straightforward, but getting the right wing level here is not so easy and as you can see I was really quick in the first and last sector but not so good in the middle sector and this weekend it was my choice to go first or second and I chose to go first.

“I just wanted to be out in the clean air and not having to worry about people up ahead of me getting the gap in the last corner and wondering whether it’s a four or eight second gap because you can still be getting a tow from someone at seven seconds behind and I didn’t want anything coming in my way and it worked out perfectly.”

For second placed Bottas, it already seems a tall order to win a race that surely he must to put just a little bit of pressure on Hamilton and keep his championship hopes alive.

“Turn 1 was a bit inconsistent,” reflected Bottas. “I think we got the car right but in Q1 the tyres were too cool, or something. The second run was pretty good, overall, so I don’t really know why the gap to Lewis but I’m not too bothered because I know second place is quite a good place to start here, so it should be an interesting run into Turn 1. I have to attack if I want to keep the title hopes there and nothing is over until it is over, so I’m going to go for it. The first lap is a great opportunity but here the racing is always good, so I know already there will be opportunities to do it.”

With variable weather always a factor around Spa-Francorchamps and forecast to play a role at some stage on Sunday, another threat to Hamilton’s dominance could come from Verstappen, who is actually ahead of Bottas in the drivers’ standings after his second place in Spain.

“I think for us I think overall it’s been a very positive weekend so far,” said Verstappen. “We came here and we thought it was going to be really tricky for us and to be P3 and that close to Valtteri, I think overall I can be very pleased with that. The lap was very decent, I might have run out of energy a little but very pleased, a good day, and a lot of opportunities for tomorrow.

“If you look at the lap time difference to Lewis I don’t think we can suddenly in the race start to fight him, but around here you never know, and like you said with the weather as well I hope that comes into play, makes it a bit more difficult for everyone and it’s a bit more fun as well and especially on this track, if there’s a bit of weather around, it’s a lot of fun.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.

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