Sebastian Vettel secured pole position today at Spa-Francorchamps, stealing the place from Lewis Hamilton right at end of a tricky qualifying session for Sunday's F1 2011 Belgian Grand Prix.
Conditions were changeable throughout and it was only in the final phase that runners finally switched from intermediates to slicks, and so as the track dried, so the times started to tumble.
Sauber's Sergio Perez initially set the ball rolling in Q3 with a 1 minute 58.3 second lap, but there were bigger guns behind him, with Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber each taking a turn at the top. Perez then proved how much the track was drying by returning to P1, before Webber twice improved on the target time.
Vettel then threw his hat into the ring, lowering his team-mate's 1m 49s best before Hamilton defied the damage inflicted on his car by Pastor Maldonado in Q2 – more on that to follow - to take nearly half a second off the benchmark. Vettel wasn't done, however, and crossed the line shortly after the Briton, taking another half-second to claim yet another pole for Red Bull Racing at a circuit where McLaren and Ferrari were expected to have the upper hand. It was Vettel's ninth of the season and ensures Red Bull maintains its clean sweep of F1 2011 poles.
Webber meanwhile, who had been quickest throughout free practice, had to settle for third in the sister RB7 and will start alongside Felipe Massa, who got the better of Ferrari team-mate Alonso in the dying seconds. It is the second race in succession the Brazilian has beaten his number one team-mate.
Alonso eventually ended up in a rather dismal eighth, bumped down late on by Mercedes man Nico Rosberg, as well as Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari and Bruno Senna, who impressively will start seventh on his maiden outing with Lotus Renault. Senna had a great session and beat team-mate Vitaly Petrov at the first time of asking. Petrov will line-up tenth, with Perez one spot in front in P9.
Jenson Button was unable to make it through to the top-ten shootout after a 'miscommunication' with his team. The Englishman had been right on the pace and quickest in Q1. However with a number of drivers improving late on in Q2 his time was pushed further and further down the order. He will start 13th, behind Sebastien Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi.
Williams duo Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado took 14th and 16th, although the latter is unlikely to start from that position after a run-in with Hamilton. Lewis had to get a little robust with the Venezuelan in order to complete his lap in heavy traffic at the end of Q2 and the two banged wheels. However Maldonado then seemingly took revenge and swerved in front of his opponent as they exited La Source on the slowing down lap. Only quick make-shift repairs from McLaren allowed Hamilton to take in Q3. It remains to be seen what action the stewards will take.
Adrian Sutil is provisionally sandwiched between the two Williams drivers'. He had held a top-five position before clattering the wall at Raidillon and bringing out the red flags.