Hamilton could have taken pole 'even in the dry'

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W09 celebrates Belgian GP pole
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff both believe that they still had a good chance of taking pole for the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, even if it had stayed dry through to the end of qualifying.

Ferrari had earlier swept all three practice sessions at Spa-Francorchamps. Kimi Raikkonen was then also fastest in the first round of qualifying, with Sebastian Vettel quickest in Q2.

Even so, Hamilton didn't agree that it had necessarily been heading to a Ferrari 1-2 lock-out on the front row for Sunday's race.

"I don't know if they definitely had it, we were very, very close," he insisted after the end of qualifying. "You saw it in Q2, we were split by maybe half a tenth.

"I was hopeful that I could make up that slight distance, but I knew it was going to be very close. They were very quick on the straights."

Wolff also cast doubt on whether Ferrari had really held the necessary advantage over Mercedes to take pole if it had stayed dry.

"I don't know. We were split by a couple of hundredths when it was dry, not sure what they [Ferrari] would have had left for Q3. We had a little bit. So it would have been quite tight."

Instead it started to rain just before the final round, and that had appeared to tip the balance in Mercedes' favour.

"It seems to be the right package when it gets a bit slippy," agreed Wolff, referring to the formidable combination of 'wet weather master' Hamilton and the current W09 chassis.

"The team have done a great job and the rain is always a friend of mine," Hamilton acknowledged. "I knew I had the pace.

"It was just about trying to find the balance of not pushing too much but not backing off too much and it’s different in every single corner and at no point you can be complacent.

Even so, he struggled to stay on the track in his first flying laps and looked to be struggling to match the pace of the Ferraris even when the rain picked up.

"The rain came and none of us had been driving this weekend in the rain, so I can't even express to you how difficult it was," said Hamilton. "It was one of the toughest qualifying sessions that I can remember. It seems to get harder and harder all year long.

"You saw I went off in Turn 1 massively and then again into Turn 12 and so I only had one lap left otherwise I would have been a lot further down in the order.

"You only had a few laps to find the grip to get the tyres up to understand where the track is dry and where it was wet because it was really patchy throughout the whole lap.

Belgian Grand Prix - Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates his pole position

"You're tip-toeing, you don't know where the limit is. The track looks dry in some places but it's actually wet."

“You come to Eau Rouge and you don’t know if you have to have a little lift, obviously we all have to have a lift," he continued. "Towards the end is was dry enough in some patches and it was still quite wet in other patches. I really can’t find the words to express how difficult it was.

Hamilton will start from pole position for the fifth time at Spa-Francorchamps tomorrow, having claimed his 78th career pole in Formula 1. But he'll have his arch rival Sebastian Vettel right alongside him for the start of the race, meaning a tough battle is in store on Sunday.

"I think everyone's on the edge of their seats, but I think that's what's great about the sport," Hamilton said. "It's painful!

"It's so great to see so many people here in Spa - it's a beautiful place and an incredible track to drive.

"I'm really grateful for all the hard work the team have put in to give me a chance to be here today."

Despite making it through to Q3, Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas will start the race from the back of the grid after incurring penalties for engine component changes.

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