A dramatic Q3 qualifying session saw Sebastian Vettel snatch pole position from Lewis Hamilton in the dying moments, as the Red Bull driver improved Hamilton’s pacesetting time for McLaren of 1m 48.730s to 1m 48.298s. Mark Webber made it a strong day for the Milton Keynes team with 1m 49.376s for third place.
Felipe Massa sprung a surprise by qualifying his Ferrari fourth on 1m 50.256s, but team mate Fernando Alonso could only manage eighth on 1m 51.251s. That left the Spaniard behind fifth fastest Nico Rosberg on 1m 50.552s, splendidly on-form Jaime Alguersuari who took his best-ever qualifying slot of sixth in the Toro Rosso on 1m 50.773s, and surprise of the meeting Bruno Senna who put his Renault seventh with 1m 51.121s.
Behind Alonso, Sergio Perez was ninth for Sauber on 1m 51.374s, with Vitaly Petrov 10th in the second Renault on 1m 52.303s.
Just after Webber set the pace, having been second to Button in Q1, Sutil went fifth fastest then promptly dropped his Force India at the exit to Eau Rouge, bringing out the red flag with just under seven minutes left as the track was cleared of debris.
When things resumed, there was further drama. Hamilton went fastest right near the end, after passing Williams’ Pastor Maldonado on the exit to the Bus Stop. But then the Venezuelan drove into the McLaren on the exit to La Source, having appeared to veer deliberately to the left. After a stewards’ investigation, Maldonado was handed a five-place grid penalty, whilst Hamilton was given a reprimand.
Just as that incident was happening, Alonso went fastest, the last man to cross the line as condition improved.
There was more bad news for McLaren. Button didn’t get a run right at the end after a misunderstanding with the team, and his 2m 05.150s lap left him only 13th, behind Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi on 2m 04.692s and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi on 2m 04.757s. Behind Button, Rubens Barrichello was 14th for Williams on 2m 07.349s, ahead of Sutil on 2m 07.777s, Maldonado on 2m 08.106s and Lotus’s Heikki Kovalainen on 2m 08.354s.
Everyone had a hurry-up as rain was expected in Q1, but ultimately it just held off. The track was nevertheless very slippery, especially up Kemmel.
There was immediate bad news for Mercedes as Michael Schumacher’s right-rear wheel fell off as he approached Rivage on his out lap. As the MGP W02 crashed, his chances of a lap time disappeared on the 20th anniversary of his sensational debut.
The other unlucky man of the session was Force India’s Paul di Resta, who looked good initially but spun near the end. Just as he seemed likely to squeak through in 17th place he was bumped by Kovalainen. Thus the Scot will start 18th on 2m 07.758s, ahead of Lotus’s Jarno Trulli (2m 08.773s), Virgin team mates Timo Glock (2m 09.566s) and Jerome d’Ambrosio (2m 11.601s), and HRT team mates Tonio Liuzzi (2m 11.616s) and Daniel Ricciardo (2m 13.077s). The last three all failed to beat the 2m 10.339s 107 percent time, but along with Schumacher have been granted permission to race by the stewards. by formula1.com