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|Carlos Sainz Jr.
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Lewis Hamilton won his sixth Belgian Grand Prix pole on Saturday. Earning the top spot on the grid hasn’t always meant a race win for the reigning F1 champion—he has won the Belgian GP three times, and only twice from the pole—but in this case, the English driver has too much speed for anyone else to overcome. Only a mechanical issue can keep him off the top step of the podium.
Lewis Hamilton -245
|Belgian Grand Prix Information
|Belgian Grand Prix
|Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
|Sunday, August 30, 9:05 a.m. EST
|How to Watch
|Watch on ESPN+ here!
Over the years, the Belgian Grand Prix has been dominated by a relatively small fraternity of drivers. Michael Schumacher won it a record six times. Ayrton Senna triumphed in four straight races from 1988 through 1991 and won five overall in the space of seven seasons. Kimi Raikkonen tasted victory four times in five years from 2004 through 2009.
Lately, however, F1 drivers have shared the wealth at Spa. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are both three-time winners in the last 10 Belgian Grand Prix. Jenson Button, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Rosberg, and Charles Leclerc (last year’s winner) each posted one victory during that stretch.
There are five former winners in Sunday’s race—Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, and Leclerc. The event is scheduled for 44 laps around the long 4.352-mile, 20-turn Spa-Francorchamps course.
Another race, another front-row lockout for Mercedes. But in Saturday’s qualifying session at Spa, there was a huge difference even between the two black cars. Lewis Hamilton ran perfect laps in all three sessions shattered the track record on his first Q3 run and took it even lower on his second.
Hamilton dedicated his pole-winning performance to Chadwick Boseman, star of the film “Black Panther,” who died Friday at age 43 after a long battle with colon cancer. Hamilton posted a lap at 1:42.252 to break the previous record of 1:42.519 set by Charles Leclerc in last year’s time trials. Valtteri Bottas was second in qualifying on Saturday, but his best effort was more than a half-second slower than Hamilton’s.
I didn’t make any mistakes in all the laps, Hamilton said after his record run. The Q3 number one lap was ace, and I was thinking there’s probably no way I’m going to beat that. Turn 1 probably has been a weakness for the last few years, but I just got stronger out of there. I saw that I was up out of Turn 1, so I just kept eking away after that. That was a very, very good lap. I’m happy with that.
Good for Lewis, because after time trials, the rest of the field is miserable when contemplating prospects for Sunday.
Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo is no stranger to the podium at Spa. Driving for Red Bull in 2014, Ricciardo won the Belgian Grand Prix from the fifth starting spot. On Sunday, he’ll show what he can do from the fourth position on the grid after a strong showing in qualifying.
Now with Renault, Ricciardo navigated the 4.352-mile Spa circuit in 1:42.061 to split the Red Bulls of third-place qualifier Max Verstappen and fifth-place Alexander Albon. Ricciardo already has one top-five finish to his credit this season, a fourth in the British Grand Prix.
It will be difficult, however, for Ricciardo to maintain or improve on his surprising starting position during Sunday’s race. Albon poses a serious threat, and the Racing Point Mercedes of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll—starting eighth and ninth, respectively—should have a better relative race pace than the speed they showed in time trials.
What a difference a year makes. In 2019, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc won the Belgian Grand Prix from the pole. On Saturday at Spa, Leclerc and lame-duck teammate Sebastian Vettel, both former winners of the event, struggled to make Q2 and will start 13th and 14th, respectively, in Sunday’s race.
That marked the first time since the 2014 British Grand Prix at Silverstone that neither Ferrari competed in Q3. So don’t look for Leclerc to go back-to-back in Sunday’s race. Not even a miracle can put a Ferrari in Victory Circle this weekend. Leclerc and Vettel will be fighting to get into the points, not for a place on the podium.
Things could get even worse next week in the Italian Grand Prix at the high-speed Monza circuit—unless the powers that be at the Scuderia can dredge up some pace in the meantime.
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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