Nico Rosberg may have secured pole position in Belgium but it was second-placed Max Verstappen that claimed the plaudits.
Nico Rosberg: “We had a difficult weekend until Qualifying. Especially, this morning we were thinking that we were off the pace a bit. So I was really happy to grab pole today. The Red Bulls were quickest on the long runs on Friday, so we need to be at our best to beat them. The tyres are a big challenge in the heat here this weekend. The degradation is very high. My disadvantage at the start is that I have a harder tyre with lower grip, so Max should get off the line quicker on the Supersoft. I reckon that, with some luck and a maybe a Safety Car, Lewis can climb up to the top very quickly, so he can’t be ruled out either. In any case, I’m pleased with my qualifying and looking forward to tomorrow. It will be an exciting and intense race.”
Lewis Hamilton: “Firstly, the team have done an incredible job – the guys and girls back at Brixworth building the engines and then everyone here who’ve been kitting and fitting them – so a huge thank you to them. To bring a new engine here, take it out after FP1, put another new one in for FP2, then do the same again before FP3 was just an unbelievable job. I have a massive 55 place grid penalty today – but I also now have three new engines in the pool for the season, which is positive. In terms of today, it was definitely a weird qualifying session for me. There was no point in showing my pace. It was all about race preparation. The key for me is making sure I come out of tomorrow having lost the fewest points possible – and that meant having as many fresh sets of tyres available as possible and making sure the car was set up well. I can’t say right now what the plan is – the team will know already what’s best and we’ll discuss that later. We’re not easily the quickest here. We’re all going to have massive degradation and looking after the tyres will be a struggle for everyone. It’s going to be far from an easy, breezy day but where I can just pick people off. There will be lots of pit stops and who knows what else. I’m going to have to battle my way through the traffic – but I’ll give it my best as always and see where I end up.”
Max Verstappen: “It’s a great feeling. As soon as I crossed the line in Q3 on my fastest lap, I could see the fans going really wild so I knew it was a good lap. It’s been already an amazing weekend. To see so many fans around the track and feel their support is incredible and I’ve been enjoying the whole week a lot, so to be second on the grid is fantastic. It would have been very difficult to get pole position. The chance is always there if you are that close and in sector two we were very strong, but we were missing some top speed. Tomorrow will be very interesting with the different strategies between us, Mercedes and Ferrari so I think it’ll be a good fight. Hopefully the supersofts will give me a bit more grip in the first few laps and then for sure I will drop off a bit but that’s my strategy. I will probably have to pit a bit earlier but we have to wait and see how the race goes. Big thanks to the team for such a quick turnaround and working so hard on getting me out on time in Qualifying.”
Daniel Ricciardo: “In Q3 I would have loved to have got a bit more out of it, but I’m not too disappointed looking at the race tomorrow. I’m really pleased I got through on the softs in Q2, that was our objective, whether it works tomorrow or not let’s see, but that’s what I wanted to get out of it. I’d be less happy with P5 on some tracks, but I’m not disappointed for two reasons: you can overtake here and with the tyres we’ve got this weekend, you can do a lot during the race tomorrow. If you can have a faster car or if you can be a bit more intelligent, then it can pay off. In Q2 my objective was to start on the softs. It was a nervous few minutes but we did it. I’m happy; it’s close enough to the front and I’m on the softs, sure a few cars in front have them too, but it’s going to be a good race. Two years ago I started in P5 and won! Max did really well to get on the front row – but we have a split strategy for tomorrow, we talked about it before qualifying and he wanted to start the race on supersofts and I wanted to start on softs, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “So far it has been a decent weekend, the car was behaving well today and we had the speed. My first run in Q3 was very good, but I went sideways and off track. The second attempt was even better, but in the last chicane I had some slight understeer and lost a few tenths compared to my Q2 sector. Today I felt we had the chance to get pole position, so I’m a bit disappointed, my laptime was not good enough. On a positive side, we are very close compared to the last couple of races. We decided to start the race with Soft tyres, if you can make them work it will make a massive difference, we’ll see how the race will pan out but I think our plan will be fine. We’ll do our best, of course the hot conditions won’t be easy for the tyres, but it’s the same for everybody. Hopefully we’ll be up there fighting also tomorrow.”
Sebastian Vettel: “I’m sure we made a step forward from yesterday! If you look at the gaps between the cars, they are very close, so tomorrow it should be a good race. Obviously you always want a little bit more, the exit of the last corner in particular wasn’t very strong, so I can’t be happy with that. The rest of the lap was ok, we had a much better balance than on Friday, but it’s important to be fast in all three sectors to be up there. We decided to start the race on the Soft tyres, we believe that this is the best strategy, we’ll see tomorrow. Anything can happen, there could even be some rain, in Spa you never know…”