Hamilton steals last-gasp pole at Spa
24 August 2013 – Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth successive pole position during a dramatic rain-hit qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday afternoon. The Briton, who posted a best time of 2:01.012 on an ever-drying track surface, edged out championship leader Sebastian Vettel, with Mark Webber in third.
As Q3 got underway, a short shower played havoc with strategies. All drivers bar Paul di Resta opted to go out on slicks, only to require an Intermediate switch at the end of their outlaps. At this point, the Force India driver had a clear track to himself, taking a comfortable provisional pole while his rivals battled with the increasing rain.
Although di Resta's position at the top of the timing screens appeared to be secure, the rainfall eased and a succession of laps soon dried the track surface. A flurry of cars, led by Nico Rosberg, then improved their times to knock the Scot off his perch, before Lewis Hamilton surged to the front for his 31st career pole position.
Rosberg slipped behind the Red Bull duo of Vettel and Webber after the chequered flag dropped, while di Resta had to settle for fifth position. Jenson Button capped a fine performance in sixth, just ahead of Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen. The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa completed the top ten.
The opening phase of qualifying was just as dramatic, with Caterham's Giedo van der Garde plus Marussia pairing Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton all making it through after gambling for slicks on an ever-drying track surface. The trio went on to claim positions 14-16 on the grid, directly behind Sergio Pérez, Adrian Sutil and Nico Hülkenberg.
The early victims of the inclement weather were Williams and Toro Rosso, with neither team able to get a car through to the second segment. Having briefly set the Q1 pace, Pastor Maldonado slipped back to 17th, the Venezuelan and team-mate Valtteri Bottas sandwhiching the frustrated Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo.
Sauber's Esteban Gutiérrez and Caterham driver Charles Pic, barring penalties, will form the final row of the grid, the pair misjudging their final Intermediate tyre runs.
Sunday afternoon's 44-lap race at Spa-Francorchamps gets underway at 2pm local time (GMT +2) and can be tracked via the GPUpdate.net live report feature