Belgian Grand Prix 2015: Lewis Hamilton blows away Nico Rosberg to equal Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen's pole record

Hamilton will start Sunday's grand prix on pole ahead of Mercedes team-mate Rosberg and Williams' Valterri Bottas

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The Independent Online

A brilliant recovery from Lewis Hamilton saw the reigning world champion dominate qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

On Friday he lacked his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg’s speed; yesterday he found the balance he wanted and put it to perfect use to take his 48th career pole position and his 10th of the season. It was the first time since Michael Schumacher in 2000-01 that a driver has taken six consecutive poles, and the first time since Mika Hakkinen in 1999 that it has been done in a single season.

The key was getting the flow of corners right in the second sector, from the entry to Les Combes at the highest part, down through Rivage, Pouhon and Fagnes. The first and third sectors are the quickest ones, but the second demands efficiency and fluidity of directional change.

 

“It’s been a weak point for me in the past,” said Hamilton. “I know all the lines but I’ve never really put them all together, but today this was a very strong area for me.”

Everything came down to the final qualifying session, after Hamilton led Q1 and Rosberg Q2. Hamilton went back on top on his first run with 1min 47.449sec to Rosberg’s 1:47.895. Then Hamilton nailed it again on his second run, which resulted in a lap in 1:47.197. Rosberg again struggled, but took the other front-row slot with 1:47.655.

Hamilton said: “The car has been feeling great on the circuit, we got the balance right, and if you can do that here it’s definitely a great track to drive. It’s a long race and a long stretch up to Turn Five [Les Combes], but I’m happy with things today. My goal was pole and Nico was very close, but my last two laps were the best I had all weekend.”

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Rosberg is getting used to the change in qualifying circumstances since last year, when he was top dog. “For sure it’s disappointing after yesterday and then Q2,” he said. “We lost the balance this morning when we went the wrong way, but it came back really nicely in qualifying so thanks to the team for that. The balance was back and I could push well, but Lewis was just too quick.”

There were no repeats of Rosberg’s 190mph Friday-afternoon tyre explosion, but tyre performance is still a concern. Pirelli found no obvious internal cause for the failure, which suggests external damage, perhaps after a kerb trip.

“We don’t understand it,” Rosberg said. “There are theories but no evidence. It’s a bit worrying and we are keeping a close eye on it and have taken measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Lewis and I both saved a new set of soft tyres in Q1, so that should help.”

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With a whopping 1.3sec gap to their closest rival, Williams’s Valtteri Bottas, a troubled Sebastian Vettel back in eighth and his Ferrari partner, Kimi Raikkonen, right down in 14th, the Mercedes are likely to be in a race of their own – so long as they don’t collide again, as they did here last year. Rosberg was fined then for hitting Hamilton and the pair have cooled things ever since. They have also investigated thoroughly what went wrong at the start of this year’s British and Hungarian races.

“The team have done a lot of analysis and Nico and I have been at the factory practising in the simulator,” Hamilton reported. “And we’ve been working on it all weekend so we are as prepared as we could possibly be, I feel relatively good about it.”

Under new procedures, drivers can no longer work with engineers during the grid-formation lap on adjusting the clutch bite-point. That now has to be pre-set in the pits.

“We can still judge what a driver should do,” said Ferrari’s technical director, James Allison , “but all we can do now is go ‘No!’ or ‘Hooray!’”

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have a record penalty of 105 grid positions after changing parts in their Honda engines. They will start from the back of the grid with no further in-race penalties after qualifying 17th and 18th.

Final Positions after Qualifying:

1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 47.197secs,

2 Nico Rosberg(Ger)Mercedes GP 1:47.655,

3 Valtteri Bottas(Fin)Williams 1:48.537,

4 Romain Grosjean(Fra)Lotus F1 Team 1:48.561,

5 Sergio Perez(Mex)Force India 1:48.599,

6 Daniel Ricciardo(Aus)Red Bull 1:48.639,

7 Felipe Massa(Bra)Williams 1:48.685,

8 Pastor Maldonado(Ven)Lotus F1 Team 1:48.754,

9 Sebastian Vettel(Ger)Ferrari 1:48.825,

10 Carlos Sainz(Spa)Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:49.771,

11 Nico Hulkenberg(Ger)Force India 1:49.121,

12 Daniil Kvyat(Rus)Red Bull 1:49.228,

13 Marcus Ericsson(Swe)Sauber-Ferrari 1:49.586,

14 Kimi Raikkonen(Fin)Ferrari No Time,

15 Max Verstappen(Ned)Scuderia Toro Rosso No Time,

16 Felipe Nasr(Bra)Sauber-Ferrari 1:49.952,

17 Jenson Button(Gbr)McLaren 1:50.978,

18 Fernando Alonso(Spa)McLaren 1:51.420,

19 Will Stevens(Gbr)Manor Marussia F1 1:52.948,

20 Roberto Merhi(Spa) Manor Marussia F1 1:53.099

Note:

Romain Grosjean has a 5-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change and will start 9th.

Max Verstappen has a 10-place grid penalty for using his sixth engine of the season and will start 18th.

Jenson Button has a 25-place grid penalty for exceeding the allowable number of power units to be used in a season and will start 19th.

Fernando Alonso has a 30-place grid penalty for exceeding the allowable number of power units to be used in a season and will start 20th.

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