Mercedes' dominance prevailed in the Belgium Grand Prix qualifying, even when the heavens opened, as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton locked the front row once again. The former was two seconds quicker than third-placed Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
Rosberg, who clinched pole position, made the least number of mistakes in the damp Spa-Francorchamps track and was more than two-tenth faster than his teammate and championship rival Hamilton.
However, it is not going to be an easy race for Rosberg as starting from second could be a blessing in disguise for Hamilton. Last year, the Brit started from P1 but Vettel flew past him on top straight and had to settle for second.
Hamilton showed his strong race pace in Hungary, when he stormed through the field and finished third ahead of his teammate. The championship leader is required to make a clean start, and even that does not guarantee a victory for the German.
"I hope to have a good start and a clear race tomorrow because, like we have seen in Budapest, Sunday is the day that counts," Rosberg said. "But I'm quite confident as we have a fantastic car. I'm looking forward to the race."
Meanwhile, it is a good chance for Hamilton to cut down his championship deficit as after quite a few races, he will have a clear track ahead of him. Hamilton was hit by technical issues in the qualifying of the last two races but he finally managed to break the jinx and qualified second.
The former McLaren racer could have challenged Rosberg for the pole but he ran wide at La Source on his first Q3 run and couldn't recover after that.
"I'm just happy to be up here. I was nervous going into qualifying, not knowing if the car was going to make it through it," Hamilton explained. "I'm grateful for all the hard work the team put in to make sure we have no problems. It's a great feeling to be back up here."
Spa was termed as Williams' best opportunity to beat the Silver Arrows but in wet conditions they were nowhere near their finest and struggled on inters. Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished sixth and ninth respectively.
The weather is expected to remain clear on race day and the British outfit will be looking to use the dry conditions to move closer to the German manufacturer. There long-run pace was pretty good on Friday, and with Mercedes power they can fancy atleast a third place.
"The final practice where I finished P1 showed that we have a very strong car in the dry, but wet conditions allow other cars to move closer to us and unfortunately we didn't qualify as high today as we can," Bottas said.
"I lost some tyre temperature in my warm up lap because of traffic which is crucial for us and this made my final run trickier than the ones before, and throughout qualifying we were losing time in the second sector," he added.
Force India also came into the weekend with a lot of optimism but they endured a disastrous outing, with both their cars failing to make the Q3 cut. Nico Hulkenberg had a nightmare qualifying as was knocked out in Q1 and will start from P18.
Sergio Perez, however, managed to reach Q2 but only finished P13, ahead of Sauber's Adrian Sutil. The Silverstone-based outfit will be pounding upon their race pace and dry conditions.
"It was not the easiest day for us," Perez said. "I was struggling in the wet conditions and that was the main issue today. I wanted to be further up but we did not maximise everything."
"I am feeling more optimistic for tomorrow and we should have strong race pace," he added. "P13 is not a bad place to start the race and I'm sure we can move forward and make up some positions."
Meanwhile, Marussia's Jules Bianchi (P16) pulled off another scorching performance in the qualifying as he outpaced Hulkenberg and Lotus' Pastor Maldonado. Caterham's Andre Lotterer also made a good debut, beating his teammate Marcus Ericson in qualifying.
Where to Watch Live
Formula One: Belgium GP Live Streaming Information
Race start: 2:00 pm local time, 5:30 pm IST, 12:00 pm GMT
|India||Star Sports 4, Star Sports HD2|
|United Kingdom||BBC, Sky Sports|
|Middle East and North Africa||Bein Sports Arabia|
|Germany, Italy||Sky Sport|
|UK||HERE or HERE or HERE|
|Germany and Italy||HERE or HERE|