Dominant Leclerc on pole in Spa as Ferrari claim qualifying one-two

By Sports Desk August 31, 2019

Charles Leclerc claimed a dominant pole position at the Belgian Grand Prix as Ferrari recorded a one-two in qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton having to settle for third.

An inspired Leclerc finished 0.748seconds clear of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, last year's winner in Spa, as the Italian team sealed their first front-row lockout since the second race of the season in Bahrain.

A series of mishaps, controversies and misfortunes have meant Ferrari are somehow yet to win a race in 2019, but they are well placed to end that run at a circuit ideally suited to them due to the long straights and quicker corners.

Valtteri Bottas was fourth in the second Mercedes, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen in fifth place.

Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg were sixth and seventh respectively for Renault, but both drivers have five-place grid penalties.

That means Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified eighth, will start in sixth, while Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10 on Saturday.

After jostling for positions on the out laps before the first runs of Q3, Leclerc ended the opening part of the session ahead of Hamilton and Vettel.

Leclerc went even quicker in his second flying lap to record a time of 1:42.519 that was well clear of the rest, taking his third pole of the campaign.

"We need to work on our race pace a bit, but I think we should be fast on Sunday," said Leclerc.

Behind him, Vettel edged just in front of Hamilton to grab second by 0.015s, despite remaining a significant margin behind his team-mate.

Hamilton had a big crash in FP3 which meant both corners of his car - suspensions and wheel assemblies - had to be replaced, along with the nose, barge boards and floor, with Mercedes mechanics in a race against time in the hours before qualifying.

Leclerc was fasted in all three qualifying sessions on Saturday, after he and Vettel had also recorded a one-two in each of the practice sessions to underline Ferrari's credentials throughout the race weekend in Belgium.

The Monegasque topped Q1 where Carlos Sainz was eliminated and Pierre Gasly also dropped out in a poor first session after his return to Toro Rosso.

Leclerc and Vettel were untouchable again in Q2, as Alex Albon, who knew he had a grid penalty regardless of his qualifying result, and Lando Norris, were among the drivers to drop out.

In Bahrain, the last time Ferrari locked out the front row, a heart-breaking late engine problem for Leclerc handed victory to Hamilton, who leads the championship by 62 points over Bottas.
 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:42.519
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0.748s
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.763s
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.896s 
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.171s
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +1.738s (has five-place grid penalty)
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +2.023s (has five-place grid penalty)
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +2.038s
9. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +2.187s
10. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +2.567s

Related items

  • MotoGP Raceweek: Lorenzo not feeling pressure as Zarco takes Honda seat MotoGP Raceweek: Lorenzo not feeling pressure as Zarco takes Honda seat

    Johann Zarco will ride for LCR Honda in place of Takaaki Nakagami for the final three races of the MotoGP season, but struggling Repsol Honda star Jorge Lorenzo does not expect the move to affect his situation.

    Zarco had been without a seat after his split from KTM, with the team cutting ties with the rider early after he opted to end his deal at the conclusion of the season.

    The Frenchman has been granted a return to the sport with Honda, though, as Nakagami prepares to bow out for the rest of the campaign to have shoulder surgery following this week's Japanese Grand Prix.

    "I'm really thankful to have this chance," Zarco said. "I will do my best to pick up some good results and to enjoy the time, because these could be the last three races I can do for a while."

    Zarco has reached the podium six times in his MotoGP career, qualifying on pole four times, and a ride on a Honda bike could be seen as a threat to Lorenzo heading into 2020.

    The three-time champion has endured a miserable first season with Repsol Honda, sitting 19th in the standings, and is backing Zarco to impress.

    But, asked if it put him under pressure, Lorenzo said: "No, Nakagami and Cal [Crutchlow] have finished ahead of me in nearly all the races.

    "[Zarco] will ride a different bike – one that, in theory, is worse – but it could be an easier bike. Surely it won't be easy for him but, because of his motivation and eagerness, he'll achieve what he can.

    "Because after not having been able to ride for three or four races, he'll be very keen to demonstrate what he can do and I'm sure he'll do well."

    Even if Zarco has no hopes of unseating Lorenzo or earning a permanent deal with LCR Honda, the previously mooted switch to rivals Yamaha also looks to be off the table.

    Zarco had been linked with Yamaha as a test rider but told L'Equipe: "The door has clearly closed. Honda and Yamaha are two big rivals. I talked to both and made an informed choice."

    Yamaha star and MotoGP great Valentino Rossi added: "It's a shame. It's no secret that Yamaha was looking at Zarco for test rider and he would have been important for us.

    "Now he's close to Honda and we need to see what he decides to do for 2020, but it looks to me like we will have to find another fast test rider. It will be difficult to find someone like Johann."

  • MotoGP raceweek: Champion Marquez has Doohan in his sights - Japan Grand Prix in numbers MotoGP raceweek: Champion Marquez has Doohan in his sights - Japan Grand Prix in numbers

    Marc Marquez may have wrapped up a sixth MotoGP World Championship last time out in Thailand but there are still plenty of landmarks on offer for the brilliant Spaniard at the Japanese Grand Prix.

    The Repsol Honda star produced a stunning last lap to deny rookie Fabio Quartararo a maiden win last time out to make it six titles in seven years and continue his period of dominance.

    But immediately after the race, Marquez insisted he wants to finish the season with a flourish in the final four rounds of 2019.

    Below, with the help of Opta data, we look at the key numbers at Motegi - including milestones Marquez can hit along with Valentino Rossi's unwanted barren run.


    13 - Marquez has finished on the podium in his last 12 MotoGP appearances. If he reaches the podium in the next Japan Grand Prix, it will be his best historical run in the top category. 

    10 - The Spaniard has won nine races in 2019, the same figure he recorded across the whole of last season. Only in 2014 has he won more races in a single season in MotoGP (13).

    54 - Marquez (53) could level Mick Doohan (54) as the third-placed rider with the most wins in 500cc/MotoGP.

    4 - The Repsol Honda rider has won his past three MotoGP races; the last time he won in four top category races in succession was back in 2014 (10). 

    4 - No MotoGP rider has won the Japan Grand Prix more often than Rossi in 500cc/MotoGP and he is the only current rider that has won races at both the Suzuka (2001, 2002 and 2003) and Motegi circuits (2008).

    42 - Rossi has not won in any of his past 42 MotoGP races (since Netherlands, 2017), just three off his longest run without winning in the top category (45 between 2010 and 2013).

    12 - This is also the longest run Rossi has recorded without a podium finish with Yamaha in MotoGP (12 grands prix in a row).

    99 - Andrea Dovizioso has finished on the podium 99 times in his career (all categories); only three Italian riders have reached 100 podiums previously (Rossi, 234, Giacomo Agostini, 159, and Max Biaggi, 111).

    200 - This will be Jorge Lorenzo's 200th grand prix in MotoGP; he has three World Championships, 47 wins, 113 podiums, 43 pole positions and 30 fastest laps in the top category.

  • Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium could host Miami GP after agreement reached 'in principle' Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium could host Miami GP after agreement reached 'in principle'

    Miami is set to host a Formula One race in 2021 after an agreement was reached in principle to stage the event at the Hard Rock Stadium.

    It was originally thought F1 was looking to gain permission to put on a race in Miami's harbourside area but faced opposition to the idea and consequently switched focus to the home of NFL franchise the Miami Dolphins.

    A joint statement from F1 commercial chief Sean Bratches and Dolphins vice chairman Tom Garfinkel confirmed the venue could host the inaugural Miami Grand Prix in the 2021 season.

    "We are thrilled to announce that Formula One and Hard Rock Stadium have reached an agreement in principle to host the first-ever Formula One Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium," the statement read.

    "With an estimated annual impact of more than $400million and 35,000 room nights, the Formula One Miami Grand Prix will be an economic juggernaut for South Florida each and every year.

    "We are deeply grateful to our fans, elected officials and the local tourism industry for their patience and support throughout this process. We look forward to bringing the greatest racing spectacle on the planet for the first time to one of the world's most iconic and glamorous regions."

    Garfunkel tweeted images of what the race will look like and indicated it would take place in May on the calendar, with the design of the track layout mainly using car parks and land owned by the stadium.

    CEO Chase Carey had outlined growing F1 in America as one of his focuses when Liberty Media completed its takeover just under three years ago.

    Reports suggest permission still needs to be granted by the Miami-Dade County officials before getting the go-ahead.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.