Lewis Hamilton Takes Advantage of Rain for Belgian Grand Prix Pole

Rain is the name of Hamilton's game, and it let him take a record 78th pole position.

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Qualifying
Mark Thompson—Getty Images

Qualifying for the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix started with the first Q1 double-knockout for McLaren in 2018, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne sandwiching both Williams at the back of the grid. Vandoorne, a Belgian, disappointed his home crowd by qualifying last. He will start alongside Valtteri Bottas, who suffers a grid penalty for an engine change.

Eliminations continued in Q2, Renault, Alfa Romeo Sauber, and Toro Rosso-Honda all falling victim to faster competitors in that order. As cars returned to the garage, rain started to fall around Spa-Francorchamps, catching teams off guard. None trialed wet-weather setups in practice, and all teams eagerly deployed their cars on slicks to try for a fast time before the track soaked up too much moisture.

They were too late. Valtteri Bottas spun off through Blanchimont, signaling that it was time for intermediate tires. Both Force Indias stayed out, hoping to make the best of what little dry track remained, but a scary slide through Raidillon by Sergio Perez confirmed this to be a mistake. Force India too switched to intermediates at its first opportunity.

But even intermediate tires looked inadequate. Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull struggled on his first timed lap, and the Aussie went off at the end of Kemmel straight. Max Verstappen had an equally difficult drive, but more success with keeping his Red Bull on track. As he slithered his RB14 toward completion of the session's first timed lap, Ferrari reported over the radio that rain had already passed, and lap times tumbled from there.

Sebastian Vettel found the right line first, taking provisional pole by almost three seconds, but Lewis Hamilton snuck in one more rainy lap, echoing his stunning Hungary performance with a pole more than seven tenths faster than Vettel—the 78th of his career.

With a shocking recovery from its near-dissolution over summer break, and almost being barred race entry, Force India interrupted the frontrunners' party, locking down the second row of the grid for itself, Esteban Ocon ahead of Perez. Romain Grosjean equals his best qualifying result of the season, and starts fifth alongside Kimi Räikkönen, whose car ran out of fuel according to MTV Finland. Red Bull lords over a lowly fourth row, behind which Kevin Magnussen and future Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly will start.

Full starting order for the Belgian Grand Prix can be found below.

  1. Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes - 1:58.179
  2. Sebastian Vettel/Ferrari - 1:58.905
  3. Esteban Ocon/Force India - 2:01.851
  4. Sergio Perez/Force India - 2:01.894
  5. Romain Grosjean/Haas - 2:02.122
  6. Kimi Räikkönen/Ferrari - 2:02.671
  7. Max Verstappen/Red Bull - 2:02.769
  8. Daniel Ricciardo/Red Bull - 2:02.939
  9. Kevin Magnussen/Haas - 2:04.933
  10. Pierre Gasly/Toro Rosso-Honda - 1:43.844
  11. Brendon Hartley/Toro Rosso-Honda - 1:43.865
  12. Charles Leclerc/Alfa Romeo Sauber - 1:44.062
  13. Marcus Ericsson/Alfa Romeo Sauber - 1:44.301
  14. Nico Hülkenberg/Renault - No Q2 Time
  15. Carlos Sainz Jr./Renault - 1:44.489
  16. Fernando Alonso/McLaren - 1:44.917
  17. Sergey Sirotkin/Williams - 1:44.998
  18. Lance Stroll/Williams - 1:45.134
  19. Stoffel Vandoorne/McLaren - 1:45.307
  20. Valtteri Bottas/Mercedes - Grid Penalty