Lewis Hamilton hopes Mercedes will be able to cut the gap to Ferrari across the long runs in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix after failing to put up a challenge in the fight for pole position in qualifying.

Ferrari swept to a front row lock-out in qualifying at Spa on Saturday led by Charles Leclerc, who managed to finish seven-tenths of a second clear of teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton narrowly missed out on a front row starting position, falling 0.015s shy of Vettel's time, but was powerless to stop Leclerc from streaming clear at the front thanks to Ferrari's straight-line speed advantage.

His run to P3 on the grid followed a crash in final practice on Saturday afternoon that left Mercedes' mechanics to complete a sizeable rebuild of his car in the two-hour window before qualifying.

"The guys did an incredible job, incredibly diligent, just to perfection, taking the car apart and rebuilding it. There’s so much pressure on the guys through the weekend, and naturally I don’t ever want to put them in that position, but I think they relished the challenge so I’m really proud of them," Hamilton said.

"Going into the session I was just hoping I put the car in the right place and hoping to pay them back with a good qualifying session. I think today was really smooth, I think the team did an amazing job and in terms of where they put us out there. It was a little bit tricky when everyone was slowing down [to create a gap], but nevertheless, congratulations to Charles, he’s been so quick all weekend.

"I think in the long run I hope we can at least give them a bit of a challenge tomorrow. I think a bit of their straight speed, which is generally where all the speed is, it’s usually not there so much in the race, so hopefully we’ll be there or thereabouts with them tomorrow, and put in maybe some interesting strategies. We’ll see."

Hamilton has spoken previously about how much he relished fighting with Ferrari at the front of the field, with its pace at Spa coming as little surprise to the F1 drivers' championship leader.

"When you’re on pole, you’re always the happiest naturally. Nonetheless, I’m happy that we have a fight," Hamilton said.

"I think we knew coming here it was going to be challenging, we didn’t know where the Red Bulls and Ferraris would be. We knew the Ferraris would be extremely quick given they’ve been fastest on all the straights throughout the year. That’s a big gap, seven-tenths is a huge margin.

"But in the race trim it looked like it was a lot closer. I’m excited that I’m in a position where I can hopefully I can try and battle these guys tomorrow. That makes it more fun for us, for me, and for the fans hopefully."



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