|Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates his pole position after the qualifying session of the Belgian F1 Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps August 27, 2011. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Spa, BELGIUM - Defending F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel drove his race car to another pole win, the 13th consecutive for the Red Bull team. It was Vettel's ninth pole win in 12 tries this season with teammate Mark Webber owning the other three poles victories in 2011.
Vettel circled the 4.352 miles, 19-turn, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps road course in one minute, 48.298 seconds.
But it wasn't easy for the champion what with changing conditions due to the on-again, off-again rain in the Ardennes Forest. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton tested Vettel by temporarily taking the top spot on the final lap. Vettel, however, was just behind Hamilton on the track and came across the line with the fastest time of the day to win the 24th pole of his career.
"It was a difficult session all-in-all, Q1 and Q2 with very tricky conditions," said Vettel.
Jenson Button won Q1 qualifying with a time of 2:01.813, but failed to get past Q2 when he was called into his pits with what seemed like a safe time. It wasn't and he'll start 13th. It's the first time Button has failed to make Q3 since Brazil in November 2010.
Hamilton won Q2, edging Fernando Alonso, but in the final round it was Webber and Vettel leading the way for most of the session. Hamilton made his run on the final lap, but Vettel was simply too strong and grabbed the top spot for yet another pole win.
"The circuit was drying very quickly," said Vettel. I didn't feel comfortable in the beginning, but we made a big step forward in Q2. I 'rediscovered Spa' in a way and found some better lines than all weekend."
Hamilton wasn't even sure he'd be able to race in the third session after an incident at the end of Q2 involving Pastor Maldonado.
"The front wing was badly damaged as well as the side pod and I thought the front suspension was damaged...but the guys did a great job to put it back together," said Hamilton.
Webber will start from the third position alongside Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
Nico Rosberg and Jaime Alguersuari make up the third row.
Bruno Senna in the Renault for the first time after replacing Nick Heidfeld, showed excellent speed and will start seventh on the grid. Alonso, Sergio Perez and Vitaly Petrov complete the top-10.
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his first F1 start, didn't have much fun today, crashing his Mercedes on the first out lap in Q1. It appeared that the right-rear wheel came off just before Turn 8. Without a posted time within the 107-percent rule, Schumacher's race on Sunday is dependent on the stewards allowing him to run.
"Losing a rear wheel it wasn't possible for me to anticipate and that's why I lost the car," said Schumacher. "It's a bit of a shame, my 20-years anniversary (I) would have wished it to be slightly different."
Three other drivers, Jerome d'Ambrosio, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo failed to meet the 107-percent rule and will also need steward approval to start in tomorrow's race.
The 44-lap Belgium GP is scheduled to start at 8:00 a.m. (et).