Button takes shock pole position in Spa

Jenson Button caused a huge upset in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, taking pole position for the first time in over 3 years. The McLaren dominated Q2 and Q3 to sail to pole, and will be joined on the front row by Kamui Kobayashi.

Sauber were the biggest winners of the day, with Sergio Perez 5th. Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton all disappointed in Q3, while Sebastian Vettel didn’t even make it into the top 10. Here is what happened:

Q1

After heading the field in second practice, Charles Pic was first out of the pits. He briefly led the standings, before Nico Rosberg set a 1:51.125.

Most drivers started off on the harder compound, and it showed, as even Lewis Hamilton struggled to get into the 1:49s. Tyre temperature was clearly an issue, as Felipe Massa slid into the gravel, and Narain Karthikeyan had a moment at Pouhon.

A 1:49.401 put Fernando Alonso on top, while teammate Felipe Massa’s lap was ruined by a slow HRT car. Lewis Hamilton, running a high-downforce setup, could only manage a 1:49.6.

Jenson Button, running a low-downforce configuration, then took top spot with a 1:49.250.

With 5 minutes to go, Kimi Raikkonen was out of the pits, and immediately set the fastest middle sector en route to 3rd. The Red Bulls were next, with Vettel and Webber 6th and 7th respectively.

On the medium tyre, Pastor Maldonado inherited top spot, while Rosberg could only manage 14th. Romain Grosjean decided to take on the softer compound, but had a scare at Pouhon when his Lotus oversteered at nearly 150mph.

Rosberg decided to slow down to get clear space for his final lap, and ended up missing the chequered flag, being knocked out of Q1. This sealed the bottom 7, and ensured that Grosjean’s mistake hadn’t harmed the Lotus.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Nico Rosberg – 1:50.181

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:51.719

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:51.967

21) Timo Glock – 1:52.336

22) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:53.030

23) Charles Pic – 1:53.493

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:54.989

Q2

Sergio Perez was first up, setting a 1:48.880. Mark Webber pipped that time by 0.2 seconds, while Alonso went another 5 hundreths faster.

Hamilton and Raikkonen both set fastest laps, then Button slashed three quarters a second off their times, with a 1:47.654.

Bruno Senna was next to have a huge slide at Pouhon, just about holding the car in the right direction. With 3 minutes to go, most cars left the pits for their final runs.

Felipe Massa moved into the top 10, but was 1.5 seconds off Button’s lap. Pastor Maldonado took 9th, Hulkenberg 10th, while Sergio Perez leaped into 2nd place. There was a huge shock, as Sebastian Vettel only took 11th place, 0.012 seconds off 10th position. Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa both disappointed, neither making it through to Q3.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Sebastian Vettel – 1:48.792

12) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:48.855

13) Michael Schumacher – 1:49.081

14) Felipe Massa – 1:49.147

15) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:49.354

16) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:49.543

17) Bruno Senna – 1:50.088

Q3

The McLarens and Lotuses were out first, followed by Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado. Raikkonen was up first, setting a 1:48.205. I t appeared as if Hamilton would go faster, but made a huge mistake and ruined his lap.

Jenson Button went 0.6 seconds faster than the Lotus, while Maldonado immediately abandoned his lap. The track went oddly silent, as the drivers waited until the final few minutes to set their fastest laps.

The track temperature rose as the cars left the pits again, helping the performance of the cars.

Kimi Raikkonen’s final lap wasn’t enough to topple Button, not improving on his previous lap. Alonso, Webber and Hamilton all had extremely poor final laps, going 6th, 7th and 8th respectively.

Kamui Kobayashi took a surprise 2nd, with Pastor Maldonado an impressive 3rd. However, the biggest shock of the day was by far the McLaren of Jenson Button, taking another 0.1 seconds off his time, and taking his first pole position since Monaco 2009.

Sergio Perez will line up 5th, making Sauber the biggest winner of the day. Romain Grosjean was a disappointing 9th, and with his gearbox penalty, Webber will drop down to 12th place on the grid.

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