autosport.com
Search:
Find out more about our subscriptions
  AUTOSPORT+ LOGIN   
Username:
Password:
LIVE COMMENTARY: 2008 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX - FINAL PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Final Practice and Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
08:30 Hello everyone and welcome to autosport.com Live as we continue to bring you blow-by-blow coverage from the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix.

Today we will bring you coverage from the third and final practice session and then the vital qualifying hour for tomorrow's race. The schedule looks like this:

08:30 - 09:00 The breakfast bar: Ease your way into Saturday with a look back over Friday's action at Spa.
09:00 - 10:00 Live commentary and updates from the final practice session.
10:00 - 12:00 Continuing track updates, as well as weather status, and any breaking news from the circuit.
12:00 - 13:00 Live commentary and updates from the qualifying session.
13:00 - 13:30 End of day reaction and round-up, where we go from here, and what we can look forward to tomorrow.
13:30 Autosport.com Live commentary ends for today.

08:32 You can join in the fun by chatting live with other autosport.com forum members.

Click the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of your browser window if you'd like to join the debate.

08:35 With no rain for several hours, the racetrack has almost dried out, following last night's heavy rain.

Scattered showers continue to be present on the local radar and a stray shower cannot be ruled out this morning, but generally conditions are on an improving trend.

Later, conditions are expected to improve and we may even see some brief sunny spells over the circuit from time to time.

The maximum temperature will reach 18 degrees Celsius.

Spa
08:40 On Friday, the pitlane was open for three hours of practice on the classic 4.3 mile circuit with overcast skies and a threat of rain in the air.

Some indication of the teams' concerns regarding the forecasts was shown by Ferrari, with Felipe Massa posting the first laptime of the weekend – a slot usually taken by the Force India and Toro Rosso outfits.

With a front runner taking the plunge, the rest soon followed and competitive laptimes were quickly established by all except Jarno Trulli, who missed much of the session with an electrical problem on his Toyota TF108.

At the sharp end Massa remained on top, consistently whittling down the benchmark time, with Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen joining him at the top of the standings. 1:47.284 was the Brazilian's quickest time in the morning, with the McLarens more than a half-second shy of the leading F2008 Ferrari.

At the end of the first 90-minute practice session, the FIA allowed the drivers to make a further lap round to the grid for practice starts. During this time Sebastien Bourdais pulled off to the side of the track at La Source. The Frenchman was pushed back into the exit of the pitlane, and the session was over with Ferrari on top.

Massa dominates first practice at Spa

The rain held off during the break between the two sessions but, with forecasts predicting rain 30 minutes into the second session, there was understandably a scramble to put laps in during the early stages of the afternoon period.

After 20 minutes the light rain began to fall, although the circuit was still navigable on the grooved dry compound Bridgestone tyres – just.

Mark Webber was the first to find out how greasy conditions were when he snatched the front brakes at Rivage and continued straight on, nudging into the tyre wall with the front left corner of his Red Bull Renault. Although the contact was relatively low speed, there was damage to the front left wheel and suspension links and the front wing had sheared off.

The remaining drivers on track took a cautious approach and returned to the pits while the light rain subsided. After a period of waiting, they began to come out again and slowly edged down to full dry times again.

Just before the hour mark Kimi Raikkonen produced the next major moment when he spun at turn nine, crashing rearwards into the tyre barriers. The Finn rejoined minus the rear wing and, with additional damage to the floor of the car, he toured slowly back to the pits. Almost simultaneously, Fernando Alonso ran wide, mowing the lawn at Stevelot. He would rejoin without any problem.

The Raikkonen incident would have a lasting effect on the remaining minutes of the session. Upon hitting the tyre wall, water that had collected from earlier rain was sent streaming down the tarmac run-off area, making it as far as the the racetrack, at the very point where the drivers are hard on the throttle again at the exit of turn nine as they charge down the hill towards the fearsome Pouhon corner.

Ironically, in these times of extremely high circuit safety standards and extensive tarmac run-off areas, what followed next would not have occurred a few years ago given the presence of the grass and a graveltrap that used to be situated at the outside of turn nine.

Moments later Giancarlo Fisichella was the next driver to cross the newly-formed water feature. The Italian had no chance to control his Force India machine and he skated off the circuit the instant he hit the wet patch. The rearwards impact into the armco barrier on the other side of the circuit broke the rear wing and the red flags were shown.

The session was restarted just under ten minutes later, with no further incident and the focus back on the laptimes. Fernando Alonso topped the session in the dying moments with a 1:48.454, ahead of Felipe Massa and Heikki Kovalainen. Kimi Raikkonen didn't make it back out in the final portion of the session as the Ferrari team continued to work on his damaged car.

Just as in the morning, practice starts on the grid were permitted by the FIA. Almost everyone apart from Webber, Raikkonen and Fisichella made use of the special dispensation, and honed their getaways – all except Robert Kubica, who failed to start and was left stranded on the grid. He pushed his BMW Sauber away towards the pitlane with the help of two marshals, and that was the last action on a very exciting day at Spa.

Alonso tops times in second practice

Sebastien Bourdais
08:45 Sebastien Bourdais made the most of two trouble-free sessions of practice on Friday. The Toro Rosso driver completed 31 laps of the track in the morning, posting the seventh fastest time of 1:48.557. Later in the afternoon he racked up another 20 laps in the tricky conditions, setting a 1:49.948.

After practice he spoke with reporters in the paddock about his Friday running.

"This morning was quite straightforward," said the Frenchman. "There was a very, very light drizzle for most of the morning but you could still work, so apart from a little braking issue that we had this morning I was fairly satisfied, and then this afternoon it was just a non-session for me. It was one of these sessions where if you want to take chances and be a bit stupid you can definitely pull quite a nice gap on everybody else, but first the track was about a second-and-a-half from what is was this morning, and second if you bring only the steering wheel back! You just look like an idiot so ... it's not my game really."

Bourdais went on to explain the difficulty a driver faces in greasy track conditions, and the problem of keeping the all-important heat in your tyres – a task made more difficult this weekend by Bridgestone's decision to bring the hard and medium compound tyres to this event.

"In these conditions keeping heat in your tyres is just a matter of commitment obviously. If you are really willing to dare it then it is not really a problem, until it gets more wet – that's the problem. You get in the corner, it is a long lap and you never know if it's actually going to be worse than the previous or the same or better. It's a bit of a casino every corner."

With more favourable track conditions expected today, the drivers should be able to attack the circuit and gain more useful tyre data. That is just one of the drivers' jobs this morning, along with fine-tuning their set-ups ahead of qualifying, and running with varying levels of fuel in the car.

08:50 Heavy overnight rain was one more thing the teams did not want to see after the weather played a major role in Friday practice. The showers will have washed much of the rubber from the track surface, leaving grip levels low at the start of today's session.

Bridgestone have arrived in Belgium with the hardest pair of tyre options - their Medium and Hard compounds. The choice is driven by the fast, sweeping turns of the fantastic Spa circuit.

A combination of the cool temperatures, hard tyres and lack of track surface rubber will make for a slippery start to practice this morning.

With rain disrupting the scheduled preparation activities on Friday, the teams have a lot of work to do before qualifying. Practice this morning is likely to be very busy, particularly after some rubber has been laid on the asphalt so that set-up changes can be made for meaningful track conditions.

08:55 There are five minutes to go before before final practice gets underway in Spa.

08:57 Official weather forecast: 20 percent chance of rain during third practice.

08:58 The track temperature is matching the air temperature at 16c and there is still moisture on the surface in places from the overnight rain.

0 min: The practice session is underway.

0 min: Giancarlo Fisichella is the first driver and he leads the charge onto the circuit.

2 min: The track has been declared wet so the teams are running wet weather tyres for the installation laps.

The racing line is largely dry, with the Formula BMW cars having been out earlier for a qualifying session.

3 min: Jenson Button has pulled up in the Honda on the run down to Eau Rouge ...

3 min: Widespread installation laps are in progress, and this is a bad start for Jenson Button. He has pulled off to the side of the track.

Button climbs out of the Honda and it is pushed away by the marshals.

5 min: Light rain is now falling on certain sections of the circuit as the installation laps continue.

7 min: Nico Rosberg reports on the team radio that the circuit is dry in many places, with damp patches in others. When asked by his race engineer whether it is worth a punt on dry tyres, he replies with a definite no.

9 min: These conditions are not helping the lack of dry-weather preparation time for qualifying and the race. There are likely to be a lot of far from ideal set-ups on the cars if the track does not dry up quickly.

9 min: Needless to say the track is empty of cars at the moment as everyone waits to see what the weather does.

10 min: The light rain now appears to have stopped all round the circuit.

11 min: Nick Heidfeld joins the racetrack with intermediate tyres bolted on his BMW Sauber.

12 min: Sebastien Bourdais also joins Heidfeld on circuit for a look at the track conditions.

13 min: Down in the Force India garage, Giancarlo Fisichella's race engineer informs him that there may be more rain at 17 minutes past the hour.

13 min: Nick Heidfeld crosses the start-finish line and begins a flying lap, the first today.

14 min: Light rain is falling once again in Spa.

15 min: With his rain light flashing like a beacon, Heidfeld completes the lap and his time is 2:00.227.

16 min: Sebastien Bourdais completes his first flyer of the day and he goes quicker than Heidfeld - 1:59.674.

18 min: Jacky Ickx is a welcome visitor and he is touring the Ferrari garage, as both Force India cars and Sebastian Vettel come out to sample the conditions.

20 min: Adrian Sutil continues straight on at Les Combes but continues without damage to the Force India.

21 min: These light showers have halted the drying process for the circuit and it is damp on the racing line once again from the light rain.

The chances of fully dry running in this session are diminishing rapidly.

22 min: The recent light rain has seen the laptimes deteriorate, and as yet no-one is able to better Bourdais' 1:59.674.

Nick Heidfeld is second, with Sebastian Vettel third, Adrian Sutil fourth and Giancarlo Fisichella in fifth place.

23 min: Sebastien Bourdais now finally improves on his seventh lap of the morning. 1:58.992 is his time and now as the drivers get used to the conditions, improvements are slowly coming.

24 min: Nelson Piquet is the next man to top the order, clocking a 1:58.393 on intermediate tyres.

24 min: Timo Glock moves to the top of the list with Fernando Alonso going second. The benchmark time for Glock is a 1:58.656.

25 min: Mark Webber goes fastest of all with a 1:58.370. The times are coming but it will be a slow process to dry this long circuit out.

26 min: Timo Glock retakes P1 from Weber and the target time continues to decrease - 1:58.312 for the German.

29 min: Timo Glock comes into the pits after that run which saw him move to the top. Mark Weber is second in the Red Bull Renault. Renault drivers Nelson Piquet and Fernando Alonso are third and fourth, with Nick Heidfeld in fifth and Sebastien Bourdais in sixth as we approach the half-hour mark.

29 min: The Ferrari and McLaren drivers are choosing to stay in the pits at the moment.

With the ban on spare cars in 2008, any accident that damages the chassis in this session would mean the driver would be forced to start from the pit lane tomorrow in a car built up around a new tub overnight.

31 min: David Coulthard takes his turn at the top of the list with a 1:57.848. Moments later Nick Heidfeld immediately tops the Scot with a lap of 1:57.015.

32 min: Fernando Alonso is thinking ahead about the conditions in qualifying and tells his team that he would like a worn set of intermediate rubber if the track remains like it is at this point.

33 min: Sebastian Vettel lowers the benchmark by almost two seconds and he posts 1:55.192 in the Toro Rosso. Heidfeld is second, Coulthard third, Glock fourth and Mark Webber is in fifth position.

35 min: The track continues to dry, with the light showers moving away from the circuit.

Timo Glock is one of the first cars out on dry rubber as a drying line continues to be established.

35 min: Kazuki Nakajima comes out for the first time since his installation lap at the start of the session. The Japanese driver is told on the radio that he will do three timed laps.

He is running on the harder Bridgestone dry tyre.

35 min: Timo Glock is now on his first flying lap with the harder dry tyre.

37 min: Timo Glock clocks a 1:55.353 on dry tyres, the second quickest time.

He should improve on the second lap as tyre heat and his experience of the grip level builds, however a sideways moment in La Source will dent the laptime.

38 min: Kazuki Nakajima takes it cuatiously as he brakes for La Source at the beginning of his first flying lap. The rear end of the Williams fidgets under acceleration as he attempts to dive down the hill towards Eau Rouge.

Through the middle sector of the lap and now Kazuki has managed to run at speed and generate some heat.

He crosses the line and goes second tio Glock with a 1:54.666.

39 min: Glock, once again sideways in La Source on a stream of water, sets the new benchmark at 1:52.514 on dry rubber.

39 min: Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari takes to the circuit for the first time today.

40 min: Nakajima is now much quicker on his second flyer. Increasing cnfidence in the conditions having done a lap already enables the Japanese driver to push harder and his looks like he is quicker than Glock.

Indeed Nakajima takes P1 away from the German with a time of 1:52.122.

41 min: Raikkonen is on to his first flying lap and is another to discover the small amount of water that is running across the circuit at the La Source hairpin.

42 min: Timo Glock posts a 1:52.138 and gets much closer to Nakajima's time but he remains second, but the big guns, and far back Mark Webber, are coming ...

42 min: Mark Webber goes third behind Nakajima and Glock with a 1:52.410.

43 min: Nico Rosberg is now fastest of all with a lap of 1:51.236 and briefly it is a Williams one-two.

44 min: David Coulthard is told on the team radio by his race engineer that the radar is clear and no further showers are expected.

44 min: Kimi Raikkonen slots in sixth quickest with his first run but is sure to improve as he gets more laps in.

Timo Glock is back at the top of the order as times tumble, with 1:50.718 now the benchmark.

45 min: Nico Rosberg retakes P1 from Timo Glock and lowers the mark by a tenth to 1:50.530.

46 min: Replays how Kimi Raikkonen locked his left front on the approach to the Bus Stop chicane. He couldn't slow the car in time, forcing him on to the run-off but he continues without damage.

46 min: Timo Glock crosses the line with 1:50.099 and that sees him back at the top, but Sebastien Bourdais is through seconds later and he goes P1 with 1:50.074.

47 min: Down the order, Adrian Sutil is flying and sets the fastest first sector time of all. However the German loses a lot of time in the second section of the track and ultimately he moves into ninth with 1:50.952.

48 min: Lewis Hamilton finally comes out for some laps in the final ten minutes.

Despite the poor track conditions, this is the final opportunity to hone the set-up of the cars before they are locked off in parc ferme for the remainder of the weekend.

48 min: Sebastien Bourdais is fastest with just over ten minutes remaining, ahead of Glock, Webber, Rosberg and Nelson Piquet in fifth.

49 min: Robert Kubica plants his name at the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:49.993.

49 min: Fernando Alonso is now trying the softer Bridgestone tyre, a choice that may prove useful in these low grip conditions.

50 min: Nelson Piquet now tops the timesheet in the Renault with a 1:49.709, with teammate Alonso slotting in second.

51 min: Lewis Hamilton is immediately setting the pace with the softer tyre on his McLaren.

His time is a 1:48.356, over a second quicker than Piquet's recent effort.

51 min: Nick Heidfeld improves, sets personal best sector times in all three sectors of the circuit, posts a 1:50.759 and is still down in 11th position.

52 min: Felipe Massa and Heikki Kovalainen join the track with the softer tyres on their cars. The pair have sat out almost all of the session, waiting for the best conditions at the end of the hour.

54 min: Rubens Barrichello is set to move up from his current 17th place. He does, but only up one place to 16th with a time of 1:51.822.

54 min: Lewis Hamilton's lap after his table-topping effort had a scary moment at Les Combes. Lewis clipped the slippery kerb in the second part of the chicane and was spat out in to the gravel trap on the outside.

Hamilton kept the McLaren rolling and is back underway.

55 min: Heikki Kovalainen's first flying lap was a 1:48.891, slotting him in second quickest.

56 min: Felipe Massa clocks a 1:50.147 on his first flyer but is likely to do far better next time around with some heat in his Bridgestones.

56 min: David Coulthard is on the circuit after his earlier run in the damp conditions. He leaps up the list to fourth, splitting the two Renaults with 1:49.757.

57 min: All the cars, other than Button's stranded Honda, are on track for a frantic conclusion to this session.

58 min: Massa's Ferrari looked nervous on his second attempt and he backed off at the conclusion of the lap for a further tour.

58 min: Nico Rosberg goes fourth iin the Williams just beating David Coulthard's time. 1:48.901 for Nico with only the McLarens and Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari ahead of him.

59 min: Nick Heidfeld in the BMW leaps to the top of the order with soft tyres on his car. His 1:47.876 is the time to aim for in this late scramble.

60 min: The session has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

10:00 The order is changing dramatically in the middle of the field at the last laps are now in progress.

Fernando Alonso is on a charge and the Renault driver moves up to fourth with 1:48.470.

10:01 Sebastian Vettel posts the fifth fastest time in the Toro Rosso - 1:48.768.

10:01 A late improvement from Heikki Kovalainen has put him up to second quickest with a 1:48.165.

10:02 Fernando Alonso squeezes one last lap in and moves up a position from fourth to third with a 1:48.307.

10:02 Felipe Massa's run to the flag nets him fifth quickest with a 1:48.692.

10:03 The cars are again being allowed to return to the grid for a practice start from the line.

10:04 So Nick Heidfeld ends a dramatic final practice session on top of the standings with a time of 1:47.876. Heikki Kovalainen is second for McLaren, with Fernando Alonso taking third after that final lap. Lewis Hamilton dropped down to fourth, with Felipe Massa fifth and Sebastian Vettel ending the session in sixth place.

10:07 For Lewis Hamilton's practice start, his race engineer Phil Prew was requesting him to practice the start from the pole position starting slot - a touch presumptious perhaps.

Lewis to his credit decided against that course of action, and chose to start on the right hand side, further down the grid.

10:08 A busy two-hour break is in store for the teams as they decide what set-up to put on the cars for qualifying and the race.

With the majority of practice lost to poor track conditions, most of the planned work has been disrupted, leading to the potential for a very mixed qualifying result as cars end up out of their expected positions due to the lack of track time.

10:14 The report and classification for the final practice session is now available:

Heidfeld tops rainy practice in Belgium

10:35 Weather update:

Showers continue to dodge around just to the south and east of Spa-Francorchamps. From the radar you can see that the line of showers is coming up from France, through Luxembourg and the far south-east of Belgium.

Generally these showers have stayed 10 to 20 miles to the south east of the circuit, but occasionally one or two have strayed a bit more northerly, as demonstrated by the light rain at the start of the morning practice.

With rain showers still in the area, the teams will remain concerned as they continue their preparations for qualifying.

11:28 Jeroen Bleekemolen has been crowned the 2008 Porsche Supercup champion after Damien Faulkner failed to secure the points for pole position in qualifying today.

After an impressive run of top finishes, including wins at Monaco and Valencia, Dutchman Bleekemolen now has an unassailable points lead with tomorrow's race in Belgium and the final round at Monza still to be run.

With the Porsche Supercup session now complete, the track is silent and anticipation is building for the vital hour of Formula One qualifying.

11:50 Weatherwise there are signs of improvement over the circuit, as the sun tries to show itself through the clouds.

The line of showers is beginning to push further south now, out of Belgium, easing fears of any precipitation during the qualifying session.

11:53 Light rain showers have hindered the planned preparation for today's qualifying session. With limited running on Friday afternoon and this morning, the drivers have not had their usual amount of track time to dial in the cars to the circuit.

The disrupted preparation could lead to an upset from the expected form if some drivers have not managed to get the best from their machinery in the curtailed practice time.

Bridgestone's hardest compound tyres are on offer here in Spa and the low ambient temperatures and lack of rubber on the racing surface have made the softer option rubber a clear favourite for setting quick flying laps.

11:55 Lewis Hamilton and Renault boss Flavio Briatore make their way from the motorhome paddock, up the steps and towards the second tier of the paddock where the team garages and pits are located.

Fernando Alonso also takes the short walk towards the Renault garage.

11:57 Just a handful of minutes remain before the battle for the grid begins in earnest.

The first period of qualifying is set to be busy with the laptimes determining how many laps of the 4.3 mile circuit each driver will get.

11:59 Official weather forecast: No rain expected during Q1.

0 min: The qualifying period has started.

0 min: Nelson Piquet is the first driver to come out onto the racetrack.

1 min: Giancarlo Fisichella and Kazuki Nakajima also head out.

1 min: Jenson Button heads out of the pit lane for his first run. His Honda ground to a halt on his first lap of practice this morning and he was forced to sit out the session with a fuel pressure problem.

2 min: Piquet continues round and crosses start-finish to begin the first qualifying lap this afternoon.

3 min: The track is fully dry to start the session, with no rain having fallen since the light showers in practice earlier today.

3 min: Piquet is running on the harder tyre and is visibly struggling to get rear grip as he plants the throttle pedal. Nevertheless he completes the lap and posts a 1:48.727.

5 min: Both Ferraris and both McLarens are heading out for a run.

5 min: Fisichella goes second with 1:49.137, wit Sutil third Barrichello fourth and Kazuki Nakajima fifth in the early stages.

5 min: Lewis Hamilton is reporting on the radio that he has a small vibration on his current set of hard tyres. He is offered some replacements from the pits but carries on to get a time on the board.

6 min: Nelson Piquet comes back into the pits after a single timed lap, as Timo Glock crosses the line to go fastest so far with 1:48.496.

6 min: Felipe Massa clocks a 1:47.686 to set the benchmark for the rest of the field.

7 min: Lewis takes little notice of his vibration and he sets an impressive 1:46.887 on the harder tyre.

9 min: Felipe Massa continues for a further lap which improves him to second but over half a second down on Hamilton's opening salvo.

Heikki Kovalainen is third for McLaren from Raikkonen's Ferrari.

9 min: Behind the two McLarens and the two Ferraris, Sebastian Vettel is best of the rest in fifth, with Toyota duo Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock in sixth and seventh.

10 min: Sebastien Bourdais misses the braking point for the Bus Stop chicane and the Frenchman has blown his first attempt at a laptime. He then gets a clean lap and posts a 1:48.010 to go tenth on his next attempt.

10 min: The harder tyre has been used for much of the running so far with drivers down the order now swapping to the softer option to try for a quicker time.

12 min: Nico Rosberg is the 20th and last driver to set a competitive time in the first phase of qualifying. He posts a 1:47.752 to go eighth, a good performance in the early stages.

12 min: Kimi Raikkonen has continued on a run of laps and has improved to second with a 1:46.960, just slower than Hamilton.

13 min: The BMWs of Kubica and Heidfeld have banked their times and look secure in fifth and seventh.

13 min: All 20 drivers have now set a time.

In the dropzone are: Mark Webber, Giancarlo Fisichella, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button and Kazuki Nakajima.

All five drivers need to improve or they will be eliminated. Kazuki Nakajima is told on the radio that he is losing one second in the second sector of the lap.

15 min: Nick Heidfeld is another man making progress with a series of practice laps in this session. He is now up to third with a 1:47.419 for current third position.

15 min: Any right thinking driver at the bottom of the times will want to be leaving the pits now, so as to guarantee two flying laps to give themselves a better chance of progressing through to the next stage.

16 min: Heikki Kovalainen has returned to the circuit to take advantage of more track time with the current conditions. Heikki hooks up a lap to take himself fastest of all on a 1:46.812.

16 min: Adrian Sutil in 15th, at the moment through to the second stage amazingly, does the right thing and comes out. He'll definitely get two attempts.

None of the others have bothered, very surprising.

17 min: Fisichella comes out now with 3:08 left on the clock. It will be tight whether he gets one or two flying laps. The others will only get one.

17 min: Felipe Massa has returned to the track to make another attempt on the harder tyre. He is the quickest man in the first sector.

19 min: Massa vaults up to second quickest, right with the times from the McLarens, as he improves his understanding of the track conditions.

19 min: Adrian Sutil is on the first of two attempts he'll get on this run. The German comes through bidding to take Force India through to the next round ... and he improves to 14th with 1:48.226.

20 min: The qualifying period has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

12:20 Fisichella won't make a second attempt - this lap is his only chance, and it's not quick enough.

Giancarlo crosses the line and he goes 16th with 1:48.447 - eliminated.

12:21 Mark Webber vaults up to eighth place on his last lap and is safe.

12:21 Sebastien Bourdais surprises everyone by topping the session in the Toro Rosso with a 1:46.777.

12:22 Eliminated drivers after the first period of qualifying:

16) Barrichello
17) Button
18) Sutil
19) Nakajima
20) Fisichella.

12:22 Bourdais deployed the softer Bridgestone tyres for that run while most of the leading times were set on the harder rubber.

12:24 Adrian Sutil had a second flyer open to him, but backed off and came into the pits with his chance to respond to other improvements by that time gone.

12:26 Tremendously disappointing qualifying for Kazuki Nakajima in 19th. His teammate Nico Rosberg made it through, almost 8/10ths of a second faster than the Japanese driver.

0 min: The second qualifying period is underway with a tight scramble in prospect to make it in to the final ten.

0 min: The remaining 15 drivers now refocus and look ahead to the second phase of qualifying.

No early takers in the first minute, with only 15 available in this portion.

1 min: Kimi Raikkoen is a surprising man to be the first to head out. He is taking the softer tyre, which was clearly the quicker option at the end of Q1.

3 min: Ten drivers have joined the racetrack, with Raikkonen now starting his qualifying atempt.

4 min: Widespread out-laps in progress while Raikkonen continues round on his flying lap.

Nick Heidfeld joins the racetrack, with only Robert Kubica yet to go out.

4 min: Raikkonen bangs in a quick 1:46.296 for the rest of the field to aim at.

6 min: Fernando Alonso is on a great lap in the first two secotors of the lap. The Spaniard crosses start-finish and goes fourth with a time of 1:46.653.

6 min: The McLarens of Kovalainen and Hamilton are sprinting for the line.

Kovalainen takes the fastest time away from his compatriot with a 1:46.037.

Hamilton, on the harder tyre, slots in just behind after wheelspin exiting the final chicane.

7 min: Felipe Massa slots in fourth quickest initially with a 1:46.391 on the softer tyres.

7 min: Nick Heidfeld came out of the pits with the bulk of the drivers, but came back into the pitlane immediately for some reason. He is now back out on track again and his teammate Robert Kubica joins him.

Kubica is out there running the softer tyre.

9 min: Nick Heidfeld is the last driver to start a flying lap in this second part of qualifying.

9 min: His teammate Robert Kubica completes his attempt and it is a 1:46.839 which puts him sixth.

10 min: Nick Heidfeld eventually completes a timed lap and it's a 1:46.311 to go fourth.

12 min: All 15 drivers have now set a laptime in the second part of qualifying.

In the dropzone are: Glock, Webber, Trulli, Coulthard, Rosberg.

Sebastien Bourdais is just ahead of the lot of them in tenth position so far, and they will all be aiming at a slot in the top ten when the session ends in a few minutes.

14 min: Lewis Hamilton reported to his McLaren team that the clouds look darker at the back of the circuit on his way back to the pits.

The official weather forecast is for no more rain during qualifying.

15 min: The qualifying period has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

12:42 Sebastian Vettel is in eighth position and needs a good lap here if he wants to stay in the top ten. His first sector is reasonable but on a par with many drivers at the moment (31.3s), but his second sector is good, a tenth up on where he needs to be. The German crosses the line and goes seventh.

Time will tell if that is enough.

12:43 Eliminated drivers after the second period of qualifying:

11) Trulli
12) Piquet
13) Glock
14) Coulthard
15) Rosberg.

12:44 Sebastien Bourdais makes it a Toro Rosso double in the top ten with a late effort for an impressive eighth. Teammate Vettel is also though with the scramble dropping him to ninth.

12:44 Official weather forecast: No further rain expected during qualifying.

12:46 The times at the top in qualifying period two were close with the top eight being separated by 0.057 seconds.

12:47 David Coulthard steps out of his Red Bull Renault and is now standing in the back of the garage telling Dr. Helmut Markko what he thought of the session.

12:47 Meantime the top ten drivers get ready for the pole position shootout which is about to begin.

12:49 Raikkonen, Massa, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Kubica, Heidfeld, Alonso, Vettel, Bourdais and Mark Webber will settle the best places on the grid for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix in the next ten minutes.

0 min: The challenge for pole in Spa is underway.

1 min: Most of the ten have come out onto the track quickly and are soon to start their flying laps.

1 min: The cars quickly head out as they are short on time in this session due to the long lap.

2 min: Sebastian Vettel is the only driver yet to join the track.

2 min: Felipe Massa heads over the the line on soft tyres to start his first attempt at the pole.

4 min: Massa sets a 1:48.666 with race fuel in his Ferrari and a couple of minor mishaps on his lap.

5 min: Kimi Raikkonen comes around and snatches the best time from his teammate with a 1:48.513.

5 min: The McLarens are flying on their laps, setting various fastest sector times despite the Ferraris having completed their first laps.

Lewis Hamilton goes fastest with 1:47.973.
Kovalainen is second on a 1:48.081.

6 min: Sebastian Vettel has not come out yet in the session and will only go for one run - if at all.

7 min: Nick Heidfeld has split the Ferraris and is fourth. Robert Kubica's first run is not as encouraging and he is only eighth.

7 min: In the drivers come at the end of that first run.

Lewis Hamilton is in and takes on a fresh set of softer tyres with the white stripe, as does Heikki Kovalainen.

7 min: Sebastian Vettel joins the mob and will make just a single run in the final period of qualifying.

8 min: Felipe Massa is again leading the pack of front men in the running order on track from Hamilton, Raikkonen and Kovalainen.

9 min: Lewis Hamilton is much, much faster than any other driver on his outlap. He is pushing at close to qualifying pace as he comes through to complete that lap and begin his final attack for the grid.

9 min: Massa is the quickest man in the first sector on this vital final run.

9 min: Lewis Hamilton is up on Massa's time through the first sector of the lap.

10 min: The flag is out but the flying laps continue ...

13:00 Massa is over the line in 1:47.678 for provisional pole but here comes Lewis ...

13:01 Lewis Hamilton is aiming at Felipe Massa and he takes the fastest time with a magnificent 1:47.338 with only Kovalainen to come ...

13:01 Kimi Raikkonen takes third at the flag with Kovalainen still to complete his lap.

13:01 Kovalainen goes third and splits the Ferraris with a 1:47.815.

Lewis Hamilton claims pole position for tomorrow's Belgian Grand Prix!

13:02 The Briton is delighted on the team radio and states that 'it was a pretty good lap.'

13:02 Heidfeld in the BMW takes the best of the rest in fifth with teammate Robert Kubica failing to improve from a disappointing eighth.

13:04 Fernando Alonso will start the race from sixth, with Mark Webber a very good seventh for Red Bull Racing. Kubica as you've heard was eighth, with the Toro Rosso boys Bourdais and Vettel in ninth and tenth.

13:06 The spread of times is noticable with the top five drivers being separated by almost a full second, and 1.6 seconds covering Hamilton on pole to Bourdais in ninth.

13:07 The qualifying report and classification is now available:

Hamilton storms to Belgian GP pole

"It looks like a margin. You've got to remember it's a long circuit, so it is three tenths but we don't regret it. It is so important to be on pole - not so much because of the nature of the circuit but because of the weather. I mean, if we do have rain tomorrow then this is not a circuit you want to be following cars around on so we are really delighted with our grid positions."
Ron Dennis, McLaren on British broadcaster ITV

13:17 With the notoriously fickle Ardennes weather once again playing a part today, interest now turns to the prospects for Sunday.

Autosport.com Live will publish a full forecast for race day a little later this afternoon.

Weather Forecasts and Reports

13:25 Saturday draws to a close at Spa and it has delivered another cracking day's action.

Overnight rain meant a damp start to proceedings in the final hour of practice this morning. Further light showers during the early stages of the session meant that the track remained damp through the bulk of the running, but also that practice times would tell us almost nothing ahead of qualifying.

Nick Heidfeld ended up quickest in a very busy session, with the only casualty being Jenson Button whose Honda broke down immediately after leaving the pitlane with a fuel pressure problem.

The rain held off during the break and qualifying took place on a fully dry circuit but with rain continuing to threaten.

There were no major surprises from the first period of qualifying, although Kazuki Nakajima will be seriously disappointed to have only split the two Force India cars. Adrian Sutil looked at one stage like he may take his team through to the next stage, but it wasn't to be. His teammate Fisichella and the two Hondas also fell by the wayside.

Period two signaled the end of Toyotas recent upturn in form, as neither Glock nor Trulli could find the pace necessary to progress, and both were eliminated along with Nelson Piquet, David Coulthard and Nico Rosberg.

The top ten shootout would be - as usual - a story of Ferrari versus McLaren for the pole position. Both teams showed today that they are in a league of their own with the rest trailing in their wake, but one driver was just a bit more supreme than the rest.

Lewis Hamilton came round after Massa on the road and beat the Brazilian's time sector by sector, posting a fabulous pole position time of 1:47.338. Around the world motorsport enthusiasts will be wondering tonight just how much fuel is on board that McLaren MP4-23 and Felipe Massa will start alongside Hamilton on the front row for tomorrow's race.

McLaren and Ferrari on row one is followed by McLaren and Ferrari on row two. Heikki Kovalainen got the better of Finnish World Champion Kimi Raikkonen with the very last lap of the session.

Tomorrow, the fab four will duke it out for victory on one of the world's classic Grand Prix circuits, but which one of them will leave the Ardennes with the victory spoils? Our raceday coverage begins from 08:00 GMT on Sunday. Please join us then to find out.

  OVERVIEW QUALIFYING  
Session Length: 60 minutes
 View official live timing
  CURRENT WEATHER
Overcast High Temp: 18°C / 64°F
Track: Dry
  INFOBOX
Loading info ...
  LIVE COVERAGE NAVIGATOR
Monday 01 Sep Start GMT
 Weather Forecasts and Reports 15:00
Friday 05 Sep
 Friday Practice 07:30
Saturday 06 Sep
 Final Practice and Qualifying 08:30
Sunday 07 Sep
 Raceday at Spa 08:00
  ABOUT
Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Creighton are autosport.com's live commentary team. The dynamic duo have developed an inimitable style and a reputation for fast, accurate and insightful commentary. With unrivaled access to events unfolding at the circuit, they bring you the very latest, as it happens.

Bugs and Feedback