Formula One is back after the summer break with Spa playing host to the 13th round of the championship this weekend.
The Belgian Grand Prix is Max Verstappen’s ‘home’ grand prix and the Orange Army were out in force in the grandstands this afternoon to cheer the Dutchman on.
That was not all they were cheering though as a loud roar erupted from the Dutch contingent in the final practice session on Saturday morning as Lewis Hamilton crashed at the Fagnes Chicane. Despite causing some significant damage to the front left of the car, the Mercedes mechanics were able to get the car out for qualifying.
Here's what happened earlier to the championship leader Lewis Hamilton
It's a race against time for Mercedes to get that car ready for qualifying!
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) August 31, 2019
As is common at this point of the season, there are grid penalties to be applied after qualifying.
Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg each receive five-place grid penalties for running new Renault engines in practice before replacing them with older engines for the remainder of the weekend.
Alexander Albon, Daniil Kvyat and Lance Stroll will start from the back of the grid because they have replaced their engines.
Five minutes into qualifying, Robert Kubica’s Williams suffered a dramatic engine failure with a massive plume of smoke coming out of the back of the car as the Pole went through Blanchimont. The Pole will start right at the back of the grid tomorrow.
This is a real shame for Williams as they had the prime opportunity of gaining a few places on the grid after grid penalties had been applied.
After a red flag delay, it was Max Verstappen who was having some trouble out on track as he suffered from a brief loss of power.
Verstappen had been reporting similar problems in practice. He was eventually able to get a lap time on the board.
Fortunately for Verstappen, he set this lap time in the nick of time as a few seconds afterwards, Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo became the second car to suffer engine failure in the session. The red flag that followed brought the session to a premature end.
This meant that we said goodbye to Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat, George Russell and Robert Kubica at the end of Q1.
Q2 was less eventful than Q1 with Romain Grosjean, Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon and Antonio Giovinazzi being eliminated in the session.
Drivers struggled to get a good track position in Q3.
Firstly, Lewis Hamilton nearly ran into the back of his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, at Stavelot as those on their out lap got out of the way of those on a flying lap behind. Then, at the Bus Stop chicane, Bottas nearly ran into the back of Nico Hulkenberg as the German was staying out of the way ready for his teammate Daniel Ricciardo to come past on his flying lap.
Traffic or no traffic, though, there was one man that could not be caught in qualifying. Charles Leclerc’s pole time put him a whopping 0.748 seconds ahead of his teammate, Sebastian Vettel, in second.
On face value, it looks as if the championship leader Lewis Hamilton will have a hard job to overhaul the two Ferraris in front of him.
However, if he can get a good run out of La Source, through Eau Rouge and Radillon and slipstream down the Kemmel Straight, the Brit might find himself in the lead by the time he reaches Les Combes.
Could Sebastian Vettel get his first grand prix victory since he won here at Spa in last year’s Belgian Grand Prix? Or can his teammate, Charles Leclerc, finally stand on the top step of the podium for the first time in his career?
All will be revealed tomorrow evening from 11.10pm (AEST). F1 has well and truly returned.
The grid (with grid penalties applied, as of 1.30am AEST on Sunday)
1. Charles Leclerc: 1:42.519.
2. Sebastian Vettel: 1:43.267.
3. Lewis Hamilton: 1:43.282.
4. Valtteri Bottas: 1:43.415.
5. Max Verstappen: 1:43.690.
6. Kimi Raikkonen: 1:44.557.
7. Sergio Perez: 1:44.706.
8. Kevin Magnussen: 1:45.086.
9. Romain Grosjean: 1:44.797 (Q2).
10. Lando Norris: 1:44.847 (Q2).
11. Daniel Ricciardo: 5 place grid penalty.
12. Nico Hulkenberg: 5 place grid penalty.
13. Antonio Giovinazzi: No time (Q2).
14. Pierre Gasly: 1:46.435 (Q1).
15. George Russell: 1:47.548 (Q1).
16. Robert Kubica: No time (Q1).
17. Carlos Sainz: 5 place grid penalty.
18. Lance Stroll: Grid penalty.
19. Alexander Albon: Grid penalty.
20. Daniil Kvyat: Grid penalty.