In a different scene to normal, the sun was shining down on Spa and was it shining with the temperatures hitting 30 Celsius in the Ardennes forest. That is going to have a knock on effect to the qualifying hour, with the supersoft being handled like a qualifying tyre, which is a second a lap faster than soft.
Penalties galore will make the final grid different to the result of qualifying including Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso picking up large engine penalties, Marcus Ericsson for a new turbocharger and Esteban Gutierrez for blocking in FP3.
Haas were first to leave the pitlane at the start of FP1, closely followed by the Manor. Esteban Ocon initially went out on a set of the medium tyres, the hardest of the compounds on offer this weekend. Grosjean was the first over the line on a 1:49.5, although it was a bit of a scruffy lap leaving his teammate Gutierrez to go three tenths of a second faster. Gutierrez also went wide at Rivage to lose time as well. Ericsson lost time behind a Manor at the Bus Stop chicane and was slower than the two Haas drivers in third, teammate Nasr went second and then took the time away after he straightlined the chicane at Eau Rouge.
Wehrlein’s first lap was good, and went three tenths faster than Gutierrez, although Nico Rosberg was just behind and took the top of the standings. The lap was highlighted that Massa’s Williams was slower, along with Palmer. Raikkonen went a tenth faster than Rosberg at the top of the timesheet, with Vettel then taking over that mantle to give a Ferrari one-two. Perez put the Force India fifth, with Verstappen fifth, before being demoted to sixth by Nico Rosberg who went ahead of Perez. Bottas could only go seventh, and just ahead of Pascal Wehrlein, slowing it was a really good lap by the Manor driver. Magnussen also got his time deleted by doing the same thing as Felipe Nasr.
Coming out later than others, Daniel Ricciardo started his fast lap with six minutes remaining. Fernando Alonso brought out the yellow flags, but stopped on the circuit at the top of Eau Rouge, ending his day early. Red Bull’s Ricciardo went seventh fastest, setting an identical time to his younger teammate Max Verstappen.
Another run by the Haas drivers saw them match each other as well, improving to ninth and tenth, dropping the impressive Pascal Wehrlein to eleventh. Everyone up to Wehrlein in eleventh went out again for another run, with Lewis Hamilton leaving qualifying early after setting a time two seconds off the pace and not going out for another run. The Renault drivers went out earlier than the others for the second run, Palmer leading the cars on the road. Palmer went 11th on his run, with Magnussen then taking that place back. Ericsson went 15th, with Ocon also getting ahead of the Sauber. Wehrlein did another fantastic lap for 8th. Surprisingly Felipe Massa did an amazing lap for first, with Kvyat and Nasr losing out.
Those who departed in Q1 included Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Nasr, Esteban Ocon, Daniil Kvyat.
Pascal Wehrlein emerged as the first car on the circuit for the second part of qualifying, with him coming back into the pits thinking that his tyre was loose. Rosberg went out on a set of the soft tyre. Ferrari and Red Bull also went out on the soft tyre, the favoured for the weekend to start the race. Rosberg started his fast lap just as the other cars were heading onto the circuit, although Verstappen went on the supersoft. Rosberg crossed the line on a 1.:46.9, a tough baseline for the others to catch.
Gutierrez went second, with Grosjean in fourth – Button separating the pair. Force India then went faster than the middle of the pack. Hulkenberg going second just three tenths slower on the supersoft tyre, and Perez in third. Raikkonen on the soft could only go fourth, with Vettel in fifth. Verstappen out on the supersoft went second, ahead of the two Force India drivers, the Rosberg time untouched. Magnussen had just scraped into the top ten at this time.
Williams and Carlos Sainz went out late in the session, Bottas taking a set of the supersoft tyre and could only make it sixth fastest before being demoted by his teammate. Ricciardo in ninth decided to stay in the pitlane, not believing those behind would better time given the large second gap between him and Gutierrez. Button went tenth, and either Palmer or Gutierrez could better the time. Grosjean could only go 11th, with Wehrlein only went 14th fastest, and Magnussen in 12th. The last over the line was Sainz, and he could only beat Wehrlein to 15th.
Those who went out included Grosjean, Gutierrez, Palmer, Magnussen, Sainz and Wehrlein.
There was a flurry of activity as the cars headed out for the final part of qualifying, all on the supersoft tyre with it a straightforward shoot out for pole position. Bottas was the first over the line with a 1:47.6. It wasn’t long before it was beaten by Sergio Perez, a couple of tenths faster than the Williams, with Hulkenberg going second. Ricciardo was only fourth, with Vettel fastest, quickly deposed by Max Verstappen. Rosberg went faster by only a tenth of a second, with Kimi Raikkonen aborting his first run after going off the road.
Felipe Massa had a very large lock up into the first corner on his one and only lap, which was then compromised for the rest of the lap – half a second down in the first sector alone. It wasn’t a good lap from the Brazilian to go eighth and a second and a half down on the leader. Ricciardo was also half a second down as well on his second lap, gaining some back through the middle part of the lap. He could only go third though, with Jenson Button beating Massa for eighth. Verstappen went slower and stayed second, with Hulkenberg not improving either. Kimi Raikkonen split the Red Bull drivers, with Vettel out qualified by his teammate for fourth.