World champion Sebastian Vettel defied his doubters yesterday when he powered his Red Bull into pole position for today’s Belgian Grand Prix.
In capricious conditions at the sprawling and spectacular Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Belgian Ardennes, the 24-year-old leader of this year’s title race demonstrated no lack of pace or form as he outpaced nearest rival Lewis Hamilton in the closing second of a dramatic qualifying session.
Hamilton, the 2008 champion, suffered damage to his McLaren car when he was smashed into apparently on purpose by Pastor Maldonado’s Williams at the end of Q2 and German Michael Schumacher, the seven-time champion, was eliminated in the opening seconds when he suffered a mechanical failure on his Mercedes.
For Schumacher this was no way to celebrate the 20th anniversary since he made his Formula One debut.
Hamilton, with the side-pod of his car held by heavy black tape, wound up second by 0.4 seconds, but a full second clear of third-placed Australian Mark Webber in the second Red Bull.
Felipe Massa was fourth for Ferrari ahead of Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso and, remarkably, Bruno Senna, on his debut with the Renault team after an acrimonious promotion in place of Nick Heidfeld.
Two time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was eighth ahead of Sergio Perez of Sauber and Vitaly Petrov in the second Renault.
Vettel’s pole was his ninth this year and the 24th of his career and brought him his best starting position to date in Belgium.
Jenson Button will star in 13th place.