Rosberg edges Verstappen and Raikkonen for pole

ยฉ XPB 

Nico Rosberg edged out Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen in a close fight for pole position in the Belgian Grand Prix.

The top three drivers were covered by just 0.166s in an exciting session, with Rosberg's first lap in Q3 enough to secure pole. The German was pushed hard by the impressive Verstappen - who missed FP3 -ย with neither improving on their final attempts on another hot day at Spa-Francorchamps.

Rosberg had appeared in trouble after FP3 - when he was 0.75s off the pace - but praised Mercedes for its recovery. While Verstappen couldn't find more time on his final lap, Raikkonen had just one run after running off on his first attempt and jumped up to third place with a good final lap. The gap between the Red Bull and Ferrari was just 0.017s.

The result was a crucial one for Rosberg, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton starting last as a result of power unit penalties. The championship leader qualified 21st after only setting a time within 107% in qualifying before returning to the pits.

Sebastian Vettel will start from fourth place having lost time exiting the final corner, with the German blaming a lack of traction from the rear of his car for costing him "at least 0.15s". Daniel Ricciardo was fifth after a scruffy final lap - missing the apex at La Source by some distance - with Sergio Perez sixth for Force India.

Nico Hulkenberg capped a good day for Force India in its fight with Williams as he took seventh on the grid, one place ahead of Valtteri Bottas who was hampered by an engine software issue. Jenson Button took an encouraging ninth for McLaren ahead of Felipe Massa as the Brazilian had just one set of tyres for Q3 and locked up at the first corner.

In Q2, strategy came into play as Rosberg, Ricciardo and the two Ferraris progressed using the soft tyre in order to start on that tyre in Sundayโ€™s race. The rest of the top ten will have to start on the supersoft, which is not lasting well in the high temperatures.

Button managed to make it through in tenth place and was just 0.024s slower than Ricciardo as Red Bull gambled by staying in the pits after his soft-tyre run. Ultimately the pair were comfortable as the gap to 11th-placed Romain Grosjean was 0.3s, showing a good step forward for McLaren with the updated Honda power unit at a track which was not expected to suit its car.

Kevin Magnussen pulled out a good final lap for 12th place ahead of Esteban Gutierrez, with the Mexican set to drop five places on the grid as a result of blocking Pascal Wehrlein in FP3. Wehrlein looked a threat for Q3 but had to abort his first run as he felt a tyre was loose, and then a poor middle sector on his only attempt - on used supersoft tyres - proved costly as he finished the session in 16th behind Jolyon Palmer and Carlos Sainz.

A flurry of flying laps at the end of Q1 meant that Sauber's Felipe Nasr just missed out on progressing through to the second round of qualifying after having one of his lap times deleted for running wide at Eau Rouge. Manor's new driver Esteban Ocon was a solid 18th in his first Formula One qualifying session. Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat finished the session in a disappointing 19th place just ahead of Sauber's Marcus Ericsson.

Already beset by a mountain of engine change penalties, Rosberg's team mate Lewis Hamilton put in only a token appearance in qualifying. He completed just four laps in total but he was well off the usual Mercedes pace, finishing in 21st position purely to ensure that he would make the field and take his place on the back row of the grid

Fernando Alonso had a premature end to his qualifying when his McLaren crawled to a halt at the top of Eau Rouge. The team had already been forced to change his engine after a fluid leak on Friday morning, so the two-time world champion was already due to start tomorrow's at the back of the grid.

As well as Hamilton and Alonso, Sunday will also see grid penalties for Sauber's Marcus Ericsson for technical component changes.

AS IT HAPPENED: Belgian GP Qualifying

FP3 REPORT: Raikkonen pips Ricciardo to top FP3 at Spa

Silbermann says ... Spa too hot

Romain Grosjean column: More motivated than ever

Chris Medland's 2016 Belgian Grand Prix preview

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