Belgium 2008: Lewis Hamilton Takes Commanding Pole

Belgium 2008: Lewis Hamilton Takes Commanding Pole

Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position at the Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, adding to his previous ten and setting himself up for a good race tomorrow. The session remained dry although the track was a little greasy to begin with. Lewis was pretty confident throughout and along with Heikki Kovalainen, they were enjoying the cool temperatures playing to the advantage of the McLaren MP4-23. Felipe Massa came close, but in the end the Brazilian had to settle for second.

Q1

Despite complaining over the radio to the team about wheel balancing issues, Lewis Hamilton set the early pace and already Felipe Massa couldn’t respond with a faster time. Kovalainen too was enjoying the qualifying session and the Finn was hot on the tail his team mate. Also looking very handy were the Scuderia Toro Rossos, with Sebastien Bourdais finding a good groove with his car and setting a fastest time.

Typically though, the bottom six who failed to make it past the the first stint were both Force Indias, both Hondas and Kazuki Nakajima for Williams. In fact, the Williams driver hasn’t had a great weekend so far, only setting the eighteenth fastest lap in FP1, the fifteenth in FP2 and the sixteenth in FP3. The young Japanese driver’s only saving grace is that he wasn’t at the very bottom of the timing sheets, as Giancarlo Fisichella took that honour.

Q2

The second session saw an improvement in the times right from the word go as Kimi Raikkonen went out early at set the fastest lap of the weekend so far. Raikkonen went out early partly because the fear of rain was heightened for Q2, and partly because the Finnish driver has been suffering in qualifying recently. However, the lap time didn’t stand for too long though as the McLaren’s showed some improvement as well, Heikki going to the top and Hamilton having to stay just behind after a little wobble coming out of the final corner.

Perhaps a little surprising to see in the final dropzone are both Toyotas. While the Cologne-based team haven’t had a great race meeting so far, their recent results suggest a good development pace. Unfortuantely for them, Scuderia Toro Rosso have also improved and for the second race in a row, managed to get both cars in to the top ten. This left Jarno Trulli in eleventh and Timo Glock in thirteenth. Also failing to make the grade were Nelson Piquet Jr., David Coulthard and Nico Rosberg.

Q3

The final session was little surprise, with McLaren looking to be very strong – the conditions perfectly suited the cars and Ferrari had little to respond with. The only thing that may upset the running order tomorrow is the fuel loads of Raikkonen and Kovalainen. The Ferrari driver certainly appears to be heavier, although recent Scuderia strategy has shown that Kimi isn’t always as heavy as it seems on Saturday. And judging recent races, starting fourth may be enough to put Kimi out of contention already.

Fernando Alonso did well to haul his Renault into sixth and Nick Heidfeld showed promise by getting ahead of his team mate and finishing in fifth. In fact, Robert Kubica isn’t having a great weekend either, having only qualified in eighth and surrounded by Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Sebstien Bourdais. The only other surprise was Bourdais getting ahead of team mate Sebastian Vettel. And judging by the difference in times, one has to wonder what strategy Vettel is on; the German was 1.4s slower than the Frenchman.

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