Hamilton waltzes to front row in the wet

Webber takes pole for Red Bull but McLaren driver pushes him close on final run

Some suggest the weather in Spa is unpredictable. Actually, it's precisely the opposite. It will rain here. It always does. Goes with the territory. What is difficult is predicting exactly when it will rain.

Precipitation was forecast for qualifying yesterday and it duly arrived, in the middle of the first of the three sessions. But then it dried out again and the second session was quite smooth. Lewis Hamilton headed it from his McLaren team-mate, Jenson Button, and the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

Going into the third and crucial session, which decides pole position, rain was on the way again so everybody was on their mettle to get out the moment the track opened, to set banker laps. Webber's was the best, 1min 45.778sec. Hamilton's, by contrast, wasn't great: 1:46.203. Not fast enough to win the cigar, nor to beat Robert Kubica in his back-on-form F-ducted Renault, or Vettel.

As they all regrouped for their final runs, the clouds were darkening. Time to do the business or get off the pot. Webber, Button and Vettel all tried and failed to go quicker. But Hamilton was pushing for all he was worth despite dampness at La Source, the critical first corner that determines how much momentum you can build up before the descent, compression, and directional change prior to climbing up Eau Rouge. He lost three-and-a-bit tenths of a second there alone, but round the rest of the lap he made up time beautifully to record 1:45.863. Second fastest time, front row of the grid. One of those wonderful laps.

"That was quite a tricky session, and Mark did a fantastic job," Hamilton said after wishing the Australian a happy birthday for the previous day. "I was a bit disappointed with my first lap, because I wasn't really able to pull the time out of the tyres. On the second lap, Turn One was a little bit damp, but the rest was dry so I was able to use the tyres. The potential was there for P1, but to be P2, on the front row, is a good position for us.

"I was quite happy with the car. We'd made some changes going into qualifying, which is rare for us, and fortunately they were the right ones.

"But it was very difficult out there. I was the first one to go out on the final runs, so I was the one who really had to picture and understand all the dark patches on the road, whether they were just different Tarmac or wet areas that could affect you, and you wouldn't really know until you hit them. We were all on a knife-edge out there."

Webber, meanwhile, proved another point by outqualifying his team-mate, Vettel, on a true racer's circuit. Coming on the day after Webber turned 34, it was another excellent performance from the championship contender who just won't go away.

"We knew the first lap would be pretty important, because round here it can be so unpredictable," said Webber. "The weather this weekend has been almost unique even for Spa, so on and off.

"I was really happy with my first lap, but you never know in this company, so I pushed to the limit and it proved to be enough for pole halfway through. For sure the weather made it a little difficult. It was pretty tense at times in that sort of situation. It was easy to get outside the bubble; miss a braking point and you can be out. It was an easy day to get egg on your face."

The chances are that may be easier still this afternoon, with heavy rain predicted, which could render the 44-lap event a lottery.

"It's a great place to get pole, a beautiful circuit, so I'm going to enjoy that tomorrow and do my best," Webber concluded. Behind him, Hamilton, Kubica, Vettel and Button will sit calmly, intent only on spoiling that enjoyment.

Belgian Grand Prix qualifying result from Spa-Francorchamps 1. Mark Webber (Aus) RedBull-Renault 1min 45.778sec; 2. Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:45.863; 3. Robert Kubica (Pol) Renault 1:46.100; 4. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) RedBull-Renault 1:46.127; 5. Jenson Button (GB) McLaren 1:46.206; 6. Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:46.314; 7. Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams-Cosworth 1:46.602; 8. Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes 1:46.659; 9. Nico Huelkenberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth 1:47.053; 10. Fernando Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1:47.441; 11. Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes 1:47.874 (relegated to 21st place on grid after penalty); 12. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1:47.885; 13. Jaime Alguersuari (Sp) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:48.267; 14. Vitantonio Liuzzi (It) Force India-Mercedes 1:48.680; 15. Sebastien Buemi (Swit) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:49.209; 16. Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus-Cosworth 1:50.980; 17. Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin-Cosworth 1:52.049; 18. Jarno Trulli (It) Lotus-Cosworth 2:01.491; 19. Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) BMW Sauber-Ferrari 2:02.284; 20. Bruno Senna (Bra) HRT-Cosworth 2:03.612; 21. Sakon Yamamoto (Japan) HRT-Cosworth 2:03.941; 22. Pedro de la Rosa (Sp) BMW Sauber-Ferrari 2:05.294; 23. Lucas Di Grassi (Bra) Virgin-Cosworth 2:18.754; 24. Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault No time.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Louis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot