Then in Q3, he had an epic lap in his first run, then was even faster, finishing 0.5 seconds behind his teammate Valtteri Bottas, to secure his sixth pole at Spa and fifth of the season.
Bottas came in second to give Mercedes their first lockout at number one in Belgium since 2015, with the Finn making his first appearance in the top two, but only with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finishing just 0.015 seconds behind the third .
READ MORE: Bottas ‘didn’t bother’ to miss pole as he seeks lap 1 advantage over Hamilton
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull Racing
Esteban Ocon made two Renauts in the top six for the first time since Monza last year, while Carlos Sainz starts seventh – his best qualifying at Spa, beating the two Racing Points, which did not light up the timesheets as expected. McLaren’s Lando Norris completed the top 10.
Ferrari, so dominant at Spa last year, was nowhere in the top 10 on penalties, with the red cars lacking pace in all three sectors, with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel 13th and 14th respectively. It was the first time since Silverstone 2014 that a red car did not participate in the third quarter. They have a lot of work to do if they want to get anything back from this race.
Belgian GP Qualifying Facts & Statistics: No Ferrari In Q3 For First Time Since 2014
Watch all the highlights of the Belgian GP qualifying
Q1 – Ferrari says Russell impresses
The big question as the first quarter approached was therefore whether the Scuderia could avoid the ignominy of at least one car starting out in the first part of qualifying for the first time in the turbo hybrid era based on pure performance.
It wasn’t very nice after the first run, with Vettel in the drop zone after the first runs, the Ferrari looking very uncomfortable in the fast corners of Spa.
But after some scrambling for position in the final laps, as the drivers tried to avoid being the first car on the track, Vettel and Leclerc saved their rashes by scratching in P13 and P15 respectively, the latter scratching with a tenth. What a difference a year makes, red cars are 1.048 slower than last year.
Haas may have started in the top 10 with both cars at Spa in the past two years, but they were both sent off in Q1 this time around with Kevin Magnussen getting it wrong on his last lap to skate on the gravel before joining. .
Up front, Lewis Hamilton was the fastest, ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, with the Silver Arrows 0.959 faster in Q1 than in Q3 last year.
KO: Raikkonen, Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Latifi, Magnussen
Belgian GP Qualifying 2020: “I can’t do much more”, says Leclerc
Q2 – Albon impresses as Mercedes dominates
Such is Mercedes’ speed advantage over the rest of the field, the Silver Arrows were able to move towards the middle tire. Verstappen followed suit, as did the two Racing Points. However, only Mercedes and Verstappen were able to make it work.
Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll had to box and put on soft tires as they finished the first few races in the drop zone, but with the softer rubber installed they had the pace to make the top 10 shots on goal.
Red Bull’s Albon looked stronger at Spa and in qualifying he showed a good turn using the soft to go third faster, with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz also achieving a blazing lap with the fifth fastest time.
Ferrari’s resurgence ended in Q2, with Leclerc admitting to having done his best on team radio, finishing 13th fastest, one place ahead of Sebastian Vettel, behind the two AlphaTauris.
READ MORE: Leclerc says P13 is ‘better than expected’ after Ferrari twice retired in Q2
Eliminated: Kvyat, Gasly, Leclerc, Vettel, Russell
Q3 – Hamilton beats Bottas as Verstappen narrowly misses
Hamilton looked effortless as he set a new track record in his first run in the final segment of qualifying, while teammate Bottas made a mistake in the opening seconds, running out of the first corner .
The Finn, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Friday, recovered to complete a more respectable lap, but he fell short of Hamilton, who went even faster in his next race, again breaking the record for track.
Verstappen came so close – even closer than he thought – to the front row, but placed third for Red Bull’s first top-four start at Spa since 2016. Elsewhere, Ricciardo finished third faster after the first heats and was strong enough in the second to secure a top four spot on the grid.
Although Norris was edged out by his teammate Sainz, his arrival in Q3 means he is the only driver other than the two Mercedes and Verstappen drivers to start each race this year in the top 10.
Qualifying Belgian GP 2020: Lewis Hamilton wins brilliant pole at Spa
The key quote
“I didn’t make any mistakes on all of the laps,” said poleman Hamilton, “but the first round of Q3 was an ace and I thought there was probably no way to beat that.
“But Turn 1 has probably been a weakness for me the last few years and I just got stronger and stronger there. I saw that I was out of turn 1 and then I continued to pull away the entire lap so it was a very, very good lap so I’m happy with that.
READ MORE: Hamilton says Chadwick Boseman inspired him to ‘drive to perfection’ as he dedicates pole Spa to deceased actor
The Belgian Grand Prix starts at 3:10 p.m. local time, i.e. 12:10 UTC. Mercedes are locking down the front row for the first time in five years, but they’ll be wary of the huge threat Red Bull’s Verstappen poses from P3.
Bottas also likes his chances to start second, with an eye on catching a tow in the Kemmel Straight that could see him catapult past Hamilton.