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Charles Leclerc on Pole at Spa

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Charles Leclerc racing through Eau Rouge
An out-of-focus shot of Leclerc about to climb up Eau Rouge
Photo: FORMULA 1 | YouTube
2019 Belgian GP Qualifying Results

Charles Leclerc took a decisive pole position at Spa-Francorchamps today, beating teammate Sebastian Vettel by over seven tenths of a second, a massive margin by Formula One standards.

Though Leclerc seemed to have the measure of Vettel throughout the weekend, he was rather helped by a chaotic final Q3 session in which all of the drivers tried to position themselves to use other drivers’ slipstream and instead hampered their laps.

Leclerc was one of the few to be unaffected, but it did mean that Vettel barely squeezed by Hamilton despite the Ferrari’s pace advantage around the Belgian circuit — “What a mess, what a mess, what a mess,” he lamented after his final lap.

Still, Vettel shouldn’t be too sad to start second, as it’s arguably the best spot to be on the starting grid of this particular circuit. This is because the run from the start line to the first corner, a hairpin, is quite short, after which are two long straights punctuated only by the famous Eau Rouge section — but F1 car aerodynamics are such that the drivers don’t even need to lift.

In effect, it’s hard for any driver to keep a car at bay, provided they were close behind at the exit of the hairpin, throughout that long, flat-out section before arriving at the first major braking zone. And because the run to the hairpin from the start line is so short, Leclerc won’t have much time to build a gap — he’ll just have to hope Vettel gets a bad start.

Lewis Hamilton, in third place, should also be happy about that result following his crash in the final practice session just before the start of qualifying. Somehow, his mechanics managed to piece his car together in time to get him back in the car, and he even managed to beat his teammate Valtteri Bottas once more.

The Honda-powered Red Bull never expected an amazing result at Spa, but Max Verstappen should nonetheless feel fairly confident of a good result tomorrow, as he wasn’t far off the frontrunners. Alexander Albon, his new teammate, failed to make it to Q3. He’ll hope to make a better impression tomorrow, or his bosses will wonder why they bothered to replace Pierre Gasly in the first place.