Hamilton has largely been a spectator after his Mercedes team decided to take a penalty – one which has been lingering over the world champion following a series of engine failures in the opening phase of the season – here in Belgium. Formula One’s all-conquering team believed that the historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit would offer him the best chance of scything his way through the field.
But after Nico Rosberg, who trails Hamilton by 19 points in the championship, only narrowly secured pole position from the Red Bull of Max Verstappen – who at 18 becomes the youngest driver ever to start on the front row of the grid – their advantage is not as great as they may have hoped. Add to that the extremely warm temperatures – 35C yesterday – and Hamilton’s chances of becoming the first driver to win from the back of the pack in F1 history appears bleak.
“If I had a choice of tracks to start dead last and overtake this is definitely not in the top three,” said Hamilton, who posted one compulsory lap in qualifying yesterday. “Being this hot, it’s going to be hard to follow and being in traffic, it’s very unlikely I’ll get to my stop target or go longer, so it is going to be even harder to get into the top 10 with the tyres the way they are.”
The sport’s complicated rulebook means Hamilton will serve a 55-place grid penalty following an engine change and a host of additional new components.
But with only 22 competitors, Hamilton will start no lower than the 21st place in which he qualified.
Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel will form an all-Ferrari second row, with the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo in fifth. Jenson Button qualified ninth for McLaren.