Belgian GP: Hamilton equals Schumacher’s pole record at Spa

Lewis Hamilton beat Formula 1 title rival Sebastian Vettel to pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix, equaling Michael Schumacher's record tally of 68 career poles with a sublime performance.

Hamilton impressively broke through the 1m43s barrier for the first time in Q2 at Spa, and repeated the feat on his first run in Q3, leading Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by more than three tenths of a second.

Hamilton found even more time on his second Q3 run, clinching pole with a stunning 1m42.553s effort.

Vettel's Ferrari languished in fourth after the first runs in Q3, but the world championship leader pulled things together on his second run, taking a tow from teammate Raikkonen in the final sector to beat Bottas to the front row.

Vettel's 1m42.795s lap made him the only driver other than Hamilton to break through the 1m43s barrier. Bottas improved to a 1m43.094s best on his own final run, but struggled in the middle sector compared to Hamilton and ended up relegated to the second row.

Raikkonen held a provisional front-row spot after the first runs in Q3, despite suffering unexplained vibrations from the rear of his Ferrari throughout qualifying, but "f***** it up" on his final Q3 run, so aborted the lap and dropped to fourth.

Max Verstappen was best of the Red Bulls in fifth, almost half a second clear of teammate Daniel Ricciardo, while Nico Hulkenberg's Renault comfortably beat the Force Indias of Sergio Perez - who complained of a loss of grip in Q3 - and Esteban Ocon to seventh.

The second Renault of Jolyon Palmer looked set to qualifying best of the rest behind the top three teams after setting the seventh quickest time in Q2, but he broke down at the exit of Stavelot on his out-lap in Q3, after losing gearbox oil pressure, so wound up 10th.

Fernando Alonso missed out on the final Q3 spot by 0.084s, despite the efforts of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne to give him a tow along the Kemmel Straight on Alonso's final flying lap.

Alonso then aborted the attempt, complaining of "no power" from his Honda engine at the exit of Pouhon over team radio.

Romain Grosjean found more than three tenths on his second Q2 run, but that was only good enough for 12th, ahead of Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen – who went slower on his second attempt – and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz.

Grosjean felt he lost downforce behind Vandoorne's pitting McLaren in the final sector, without which he felt he might have made the top 10.

Vandoorne was 15th, but didn't set a time in Q2 and will drop to the back of the grid in any case thanks to a 65-place penalty for two illegal engine changes earlier in the weekend.

Williams' disastrous Spa weekend continued with both cars dropping out in Q1. Felipe Massa fell less than a tenth short of making the cut after a late improvement, knocked out by a better one from Sainz's Toro Rosso.

Massa ended up 16th quickest, but will drop back thanks to a five-place grid penalty for ignoring double waved yellow flags in final practice.

Daniil Kvyat was 17th in the second Toro Rosso, almost seven tenths adrift of Sainz, complaining he had "no reference" after breaking down with an engine problem early on in FP3. Kvyat will take a 20-place grid penalty for requiring an engine, turbo and MGU-H change after practice.

Massa's Williams teammate Lance Stroll was 18th quickest, but didn't venture out for a second run in Q1.

Marcus Ericsson won the private battle of the Saubers to avoid being slowest of all in qualifying, beating teammate Pascal Wehrlein to the 19th quickest time by 0.465s.

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