Leclerc romps to Belgian Grand Prix pole, Hamilton third after late car fix

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc once again put himself in pole position to take a first victory of his Formula One career by smashing the opposition in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Having dominated Friday’s free practice session, the Monegasque set a scintillating lap time of 1m42.519s in Q3 to finish .748s ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel with a recovering Lewis Hamilton third.

“I definitely did not expect to be ahead by that much, but definitely happy with my lap,” Leclerc told Sky Sports afterward. “It obviously feels amazing. It felt good – the first sector wasn’t quite what we wanted, but after that we were very strong. We need to work on our race pace a bit, but I think we should be fast tomorrow.”

If Leclerc was the star of the show, Hamilton was justifiably a close runner-up on Saturday, the five-time champion jumping into a newly repaired car just in time for Q1, having crashed out at the end of FP3. It was to his credit that he was still able to finish just .015s behind Vettel and ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Max Verstappen was a somewhat predictable fifth fastest in front of his Belgian ‘home from home’ orange army of fans with the Renault duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg somewhat surprisingly next on the grid ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen.

After impressing during Friday’s free practice during his first outing for his new Red Bull team, Alexander Albon will only start 14th on the grid but only because engine parts changes meant he did not attempt to progress from Q2.

Having switched positions with Albon and dropping back down to sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso, Pierre Gasly did well to out-qualify in-form teammate Daniil Kvyat despite the Russian benefitting from an upgraded Honda engine.

But all eyes tomorrow will switch back to the front of the field, and especially the intriguing battle between Ferrari and Mercedes with tyre choice and strategy sure to keep Leclerc sweating all the way to the chequered flag.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.