To no one’s surprise, this year’s faster, crazier Formula One cars smashed the track record at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton claimed pole for tomorrow’s race with a 1:42.553, setting a new track record and matching Michael Schumacher’s record number of 68 pole positions claimed in F1.
This wasn’t a comfortable pole position to claim, either. Both Hamilton and Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen complained of vibrations throughout their qualifying runs, with Hamilton’s car visibly wobbly on the slow-mo cam.
Hamilton first smashed the record in the second qualifying session with a 1:43.539 lap time, but broke that record twice until his final pole-winning lap.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel went second fastest in qualifying with a 1:42.795, putting the top two who are contending for the world drivers’ championship this year right next to each other on the front row. This should be fun.
Formula One’s first qualifying session back after the summer break had several incredible moments. Renault driver Jolyon Palmer—a driver who’s been one of the punching bags of F1 this season—made it into the third qualifying session alongside his teammate. Sadly, Palmer ran off track with a smoking car in the early part of Q3, reporting lost gearbox oil pressure. Either way, it’s the second time in a row Palmer’s made it into the top 10 and his third appearance in Q3 this year.
Both McLarens made it into the second qualifying session, only embattled sad man Fernando Alonso complained of lost power at the end of Q2. “No power, no power!” he radioed in. Alonso stormed off once he was back in the garage, visibly frustrated for obvious reasons.
Alonso is holding off on announcing whether he’ll stay with McLaren next year given their three years of not being able to provide a reliable, winning car. Rumors of Alonso switching to Williams, however, are giving Alonso fans some hope that he could end up with a moderately better car next year.
Full qualifying results are here:
However, it’s worth noting that it’s grid penalty season for going over the number of allowed component changes.
Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is getting a 20-place grid penalty for for new power unit elements after issues in Free Practice 3. Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson are both getting five-place grid penalties for unscheduled gearbox swaps. Meanwhile, Belgian McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne has a whopping 65-place grid penalty for all the things McLaren changed on his car at his home race as well. Additionally, Williams driver Felipe Massa has a five-place grid drop for ignoring yellow flags during Free Practice 3.
Either way, Spa is a classic race every year, and tomorrow’s could be one of its fastest, most intense runs ever. I’m so ready for F1's Spa day.
UPDATE [8/27]: Add Jolyon Palmer to the list of grid penalty recipients. Renault opted to swap his gearbox because of the issue Palmer experienced in qualifying, per Autosport, giving him a five-place grid penalty.
Additionally, after an overnight investigation, Pirelli told Motorsport.com that they’re not concerned about the integrity of their tires at Spa despite the strange waves on the rear tires that we saw in slow-mo footage. The phenomenon occurred when cars accelerated into the chicane before the pit straight as well as out of the hairpin. However, that hasn’t alleviated fears that the tires could damage the cars. Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe believes the issue caused a rear endplate failure on Lance Stroll’s car in practice.