Why Quali has just set up the most mouth-watering race of 2016 so far

All of the ingredients are now there for the race at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit tomorrow to be an absolute stonker! Rosberg took pole, but the Mercedes dominance has almost vanished over the summer break.

Dutch wunderkind and cream of the Helmut Marko driver hatchery programme Max Verstappen smashed in a superb lap for 2nd. He was a mere tenth-and-a-half off of the ultimate pace of Nico’s Silver Arrow. To make the race even more promising for tomorrow, the newly-wed Iceman has come back from the summer break in hot form. He’s a Spa specialist and hooked the Ferrari up perfectly for 3rd and remained within two-tenths of Rosberg’s pole time.

Vettel qualified 4th and was really unhappy with the rear of the car coming out of the final chicane. He said over team-radio that he was losing at least 0.15s due to a loss of traction through those turns. Ricciardo will come away from the session feeling that he could have done better. A small error in sector-one cost him finishing closer to his team-mate.

The starting tyre is mixed among the top five, which will see a variety of strategies develop over the course of the race. Verstappen will have to pit earlier than the Ferrari’s and Ricciardo as he posted his fastest quali time in Q2 on the supersoft compound. Max will want to switch to a harder compound as early as possible to get this heavily-degrading tyre out of the way so that little advantage can be gained from the chasing three on the yellow softs.

The Ferrari’s and Ricciardo will look to do the opposite and will want to push the tyre for as long as possible to give the option of making one less pit-stop than Verestappen ahead. It will be interesting to see whether Verstappen opts for softs of mediums on his second stint, this might condemn Ferrari to one reactive strategy or another.

Another reason that the race is poised to be incredible tomorrow is because the fight between Force India and Williams is starting to take a narrative of its own. Perez and Hulkenberg have been up there in all practice sessions whilst Williams appeared worryingly off-pace even as late as FP3 this morning. Turns out they were saving their fast laps for qualifying exclusively.

Perez secured 6th over his team-mate in another session that highlights the competitiveness of the Force India. It is starting to look like the team are in a limbo between the top three teams and the midfield given their consistent edge over Williams, McLaren and the rest. Bottas did well to secure 8th and Jenson Button showcased genuine progress for McLaren-Honda with 9th on a very throttle-centric circuit. Massa rounded out the top ten after stunning everyone with the fastest lap in Q1.

Elsewhere, Renault managed to get both cars into Q2 for the first time since the opener in Australia with Magnussen 12th and Palmer 14th. Food for thought for the Renault pit-wall considering they are yet to decide the fates of Magnussen and Palmer.

The yellow-liveried cars look to be in for a long scrap with Haas for race-day, both teams showing similar pace with Grosjean lining up 11th. Gutierrez has work to do. Despite qualifying 13th, he has received a 5-place grid penalty for infringing Pascal Wehrlein in FP3. It was well deserved and the Mexican, yet again, does himself no favors by remaining ignorant to other cars on-track.

Sainz lines up 15th with Pascal the rascal Wehrlein 16th with a great performance for Manor. Felipe Nasr qualified 17th, the new front-wing of the Sauber unable to shuffle the team up the grid here. The rookie Esteban Ocon managed to out-qualify a dejected Daniil Kvyat for 18th.

The last three places on the grid are made up from the drivers receiving big penalties. Ericsson starts 20th and the back row of the grid has five Driver titles between it. Alonso is 21st in with a new engine and Hamilton will, without doubt, be the one to watch from the back.


With hot temperatures expected for the race tomorrow, there is a large sense of uncertainty around which cars will do well. The Mercedes edge hasn’t been as apparent this weekend, so hopefully the camera’s will be glued to a battle for the race win tomorrow. It’s set to be a classic.



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