F1 2013 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton bids for Spa pole position

PUBLISHED: 09:37 24 August 2013 | UPDATED: 14:21 24 August 2013

Lewis Hamilton racing at Spa ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton racing at Spa ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

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FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton battles for pole position in qualifying for the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit today (Saturday).

Lewis Hamilton signing autographs for fans at Spa ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand PrixLewis Hamilton signing autographs for fans at Spa ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

The 28-year-old Mercedes motor racer from Hertfordshire was only 15th and 12th fastest in the first two practice sessions at Spa yesterday (Friday).

Reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel set the pace in the afternoon’s dry session, fractionally ahead of Mark Webber, and Red Bull will start qualifying as favourites.

However, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be looking for good grid positions.

Speaking after second practice, Hamilton said: “The car feels very different here with the low downforce set-up, compared to at the last race [in Hungary], and we need to refine a few areas to get the balance sorted.

“We were able to get some good long run work done today [Friday] and that’s the most important thing for the race.

“We’ve got time to make the changes required so I’m optimistic that tomorrow [Saturday] will see an improvement.”

The Belgian Grand Prix, the first race after Formula One’s summer break, takes place on Sunday at the historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes region, with a start time of 1pm BST.

Spa features the longest full-throttle period of the season at 22.7 seconds and 1.84km from Turns 1 to 5. Engines are at full throttle for 72 per cent of the lap, with 11 of the 14 corners taken in fourth gear or higher.

Lewis Hamilton in practice ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand PrixLewis Hamilton in practice ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

With rain always likely somewhere on the track, the circuit has a 75 per cent risk of a Safety Car deployment, placing it in the ‘very high’ risk category.

The Silver Arrows’ one lap qualifying pace has been impressive so far this season, but Mercedes officials are still looking for the right set-up in Belgium.

Team principal Ross Brawn said on Friday: “We still have some work to do on our single lap pace but we think we know what needs to be done there in order to improve.”

Mercedes director Toto Wolff added: “The long-run pace looked good [in practice] but we need to analyse why we were losing time in sector one over a single timed lap.

Belgian Grand Prix

* Race distance: 44 laps (308.052km/191.424 miles)

* Start time: 14:00 (local)/12:00 (GMT)

* Circuit length: 7.004km/4.352 miles

* 2012 winner: Jenson Button (McLaren MP4-27) 44 laps in 1hr29m08.530s (207.344km/h)

* 2012 pole: Jenson Button (McLaren MP4-27) 1m47.573s (234.393km/h)

* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-19) 1m45.108s (238.931km/h)

“The other factor we will have to consider is the weather, as the forecasts suggest there will be rain around on Saturday and Sunday, which could influence some of the compromises we make in terms of set-up.”

Hamilton won in Hungary last time out before the sport’s extended summer break and is desperate to keep the momentum going after claiming his maiden victory for the Silver Arrrows.

He said: “Spa is a fantastic circuit and it’s so much fun to drive. We’re all looking forward to the second half of the season and the opportunity to bring home some more good results.”

One of the world’s most historic race tracks, Spa-Francorchamps has been synonymous with F1 for more than 60 years.

Lewis Hamilton in the pits at Spa ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand PrixLewis Hamilton in the pits at Spa ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

The 4.352-mile/7.004km circuit is the longest of the season, and it’s also one of the fastest, with an average speed of 145mph.

Its most challenging corners – of which Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont are three – are revered by the drivers as their combination of high G-forces and huge speeds makes this race very tough on man and machine.

Ahead of qualifying, Rosberg said: “Spa is most definitely one of the best tracks of the year and all drivers love racing there. It’s a great feeling to drive through the fast corners, and particularly taking Eau Rouge at full throttle.

“The Belgian Grand Prix is always a special one as it’s very close to Germany and so a lot of our home fans will be there for the weekend, along with some of my friends.”

Spa-Francorchamps featured in the inaugural championship calendar in 1950, but its current design bears only a passing resemblance to the original 14km layout that last hosted a grand prix in 1970.

That final race on the super-fast old track was won at an incredible average speed of 150mph, making it the sixth fastest race of all time.

The modern circuit was opened in 1979 and, despite alterations to Eau Rouge and the Bus Stop chicane, it has retained much of its fast and flowing nature.

A committed driver and an aerodynamically efficient car are prerequisites to success, but racing at Spa-Francorchamps is rarely straightforward due to the fickle microclimate of the surrounding Ardennes hills.

Nico Rosberg racing at Spa ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand PrixNico Rosberg racing at Spa ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Rain invariably features at some point during the race weekend.

Should this year’s 44-lap race remain dry, the teams will use Pirelli’s Medium and Hard tyre compounds, as they did in Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain and Great Britain earlier in the year.

Of the track, Mercedes team principal Brawn said: “Spa is one of Formula One’s most historic circuits with its characteristics loved by drivers, fans and the teams alike, and we often see some exciting and dramatic racing there.

“As usual, we will have a unique aerodynamic package adapted to the Spa layout. We finished the first half of the season on a high and will be aiming for an equally strong second half.”

Mercedes supremo Toto Wolff added: “We cannot take anything for granted in terms of performance and Spa is always a demanding circuit for reliability. The key will be to do our homework well in practice in order to achieve a strong race result for the team.”

Qualifying for the 2013 Grand Prix of Belgium starts at 1pm on Saturday.


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