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As it happened: Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
Alonso11:50 Hello everyone and welcome back to AUTOSPORT Live as we continue the story of round 12 in this year's FIA Formula 1 world championship - the Belgian Grand Prix from the magnificent 7.004km Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Fernando Alonso's championship charge was boosted - before he had even turned a wheel this morning - following the news that his nearest challenger, Mark Webber, will take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Nico Rosberg joins Webber in the penalty box after he ground to a halt in the early stages of the 60-minute practice with a transmission problem. Mercedes has had little choice but to change his gearbox prior to this knockout session.

Alonso then duly posted an unbeatable lap of 1m48.542s in final practice, edging out Kimi Raikkonen by 0.141s. Sergio Perez was third, ahead of Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.

Alonso fastest in dry final practice

Now, the teams and drivers have one hour to secure the best grid slot possible ahead of tomorrow's 44-lap event.

11:52 Weather conditions remain dry and reasonably bright at Spa, although there is a little more cloud over the circuit than we had during final practice.

The teams will be thankful to get another dry session in this afternoon, as air temperature climbs markedly over yesterday's high to 15 degrees Celsius, while a light breeze continues from the north.

11:54 Here is how the qualifying battle stands as the season resumes:
Qualifying head-to-head

Vettel         6 - 5     Webber
Button         1 - 10    Hamilton
Alonso        11 - 0     Massa
Schumacher     5 - 6     Rosberg
Raikkonen      4 - 7     Grosjean
Di Resta       5 - 6     Hulkenberg
Kobayashi      6 - 5     Perez
Ricciardo      9 - 2     Vergne
Maldonado      9 - 2     Senna
Kovalainen     9 - 2     Petrov
De la Rosa    11 - 0     Karthikeyan
Glock          6 - 4     Pic
11:55 McLaren lacked pace this morning, with Hamilton tweeting that he has made "major changes" while reckoning his "car is not fast enough"

Tyres11:56 A busy morning for teams and drivers so far, with just one hour of dry practice to find a balance and determine race strategy on Pirelli's medium and hard compound tyres.

The hardest possible selection of rubber, on hand in Spa to combat blistering problems encountered last year, are proving tricky to get the best from, particularly in the cool conditions this weekend.

The medium rubber did deliver a speed boost over the harder choice earlier on, meaning some drivers may have to be wary in trying to escape the first segment without using the softer tyre.

The first few minutes of Q1 may become an extended test for some, with many drivers still to perfect their set-up.

11:56 Track temperature is up to 28 degrees with a few minutes to go until qualifying begins.

11:56 Ferrari looked strong in final practice, with Alonso topping the times after good straight-line speed in the first and final sectors.

11:57 Red Bull and Lotus traded fast sector times in the middle part of the lap, where the aerodynamic qualities of those cars are working well.

11:59 Hamilton's changes appear to be increased rear downforce to aid his McLaren through that twisting middle sector.

0 min: Qualifying begins at Spa.

0 min: Pic is the first out of the pits in the revised Marussia, which did seem to be closer to Caterham on pace this morning.

0 min: Rosberg and di Resta head out for an early run.

0 min: Glock is also on the move in his Marussia.

1 min: Maldonado joins them in the Williams.

1 min: Hulkenberg is next out onto the circuit in the Force India. He is followed by Bruno Senna and Jean-Eric Vergne.

2 min: The main players are content to wait for the time being. Webber does up his overalls and is slowly getting his crash helmet ready.

3 min: Rosberg, di Resta and Maldonado cross start-finish and launch into their first flying lap of the session.

3 min: Schumacher and Ricciardo have joined the circuit as the first hot laps are underway for others.

4 min: Pic completes the first lap against the clock at a 1m53.493s.

4 min: Glock beats his team-mate with an initial marker of 1m53.205s.

4 min: Hard tyres for Rosberg and he goes quicker than the Marussia drivers with a lap of 1m51.125s.

4 min: Di Resta tops the early list with a time of 1m50.033s.

5 min: Hamilton, Alonso and Massa are now underway to bank a time.

5 min: Maldonado slots into second spot and Hulkenberg goes third, dropping Rosberg to fourth.

5 min: Kobayashi slots in second fastest in the early order with a lap of 1m50.063s.

5 min: Perez is the early man to beat now with a new best of 1m49.642s.

6 min: Vettel waits and watches from the Red Bull garage. Perez heads the early list from di Resta Kobayashi and Maldonado.

6 min: Hard tyres are the choice of the pack so far, with the Caterham and Marussia drivers already on softer rubber.

6 min: Ricciardo completes a lap and moves into sixth spot with a time of 1m50.641s.

7 min: Grosjean improves to a 1m50.126s lap to go fifth fastest.

7 min: Schumacher reports on the team radio that he can feel the rear tyres prone to locking up, as he circulates on his first run.

7 min: Hulkenberg goes on for a second effort and moves up to second spot, with a time of 1m50.016s.

8 min: Schumacher has backed off on his second effort as well, clearly unhappy either with traffic - or with the set-up.

8 min: Raikkonen is still waiting in the Lotus garage, joining the Red Bull pair on the sidelines for the moment.

8 min: Schumacher crosses start-finish and will go again.

8 min: Hamilton clocks a 1m49.803s effort on the hard tyres to go second fastest.

9 min: Hamilton's time was the best through the middle sector, suggesting an improvement from his increased downforce.

9 min: Schumacher has been advised over the radio that his problems may be as a result of him riding the throttle under braking, hence the request for him to stay out there.

9 min: Senna ran wide at the Bus Stop chicane, denting his latest effort.

9 min: Wobbles for Grosjean and Massa in the middle part of the lap, with both drivers escaping to continue on their way.

10 min: Still no move yet from either Red Bull driver.

10 min: Alonso finally clocks a representative time, going third in 1m49.876s.

10 min: Perez now leads the list from Hamilton, Alonso, Hulkenberg, di Resta and Kobayashi in sixth.

10 min: Button reports understeer in his McLaren, more than this morning.

10 min: Schumacher did complete a timed lap and is up to 15th with a time of 1m51.129s.

11 min: Raikkonen is finally heading out in his Lotus.

11 min: Webber is now on the circuit, leaving Vettel as the only driver yet to leave the pits.

11 min: Alonso shows his form as he beats Perez to the benchmark in 1m49.401s.

12 min: Drivers are clearly struggling with balance generally in the current track conditions. There could be some big stories through the latter stages of the first two qualifying segments.

12 min: Hamilton is faster than Alonso though the middle part of the lap, having lost out to the slippery Ferrari in the opening section.

12 min: Hamilton ends up on a 1m49.605s for second place as the title contenders try contrasting strategies.

13 min: Vettel is now on track, as Webber crosses start-finish to begin his first flying lap.

14 min: Button eases his way around in 1m49.250s on the hard tyres to take over at the top.

14 min: Raikkonen joins the order in third fastest as his Lotus sets a rapid middle sector time.

14 min: Webber goes sixth with his first attempt - 1m49.859s.

15 min: Vettel is now on his first flying lap, on hard compound tyres.

15 min: Massa has slipped to 15th and is forced out again on the soft tyres.

16 min: Vettel slots into sixth with a lap of 1m49.722s. This puts Schumacher down to 18th and into the dropzone.

16 min: Joining Schumacher down the order are Petrov, Glock, Pic, Kovalainen, de la Rosa and Karthikeyan.

16 min: Button is wheeled back into the McLaren garage and must be happy with his session-topping time.

17 min: Hulkenberg and Maldonado are being investigated by the stewards.

17 min: Maldonado does his best to head off any potential problem with the stewards, by surging to the front on soft tyres - 1m48.993s.

17 min: Movement now from those on the medium compound and that has forced Hamilton out on the softer rubber.

18 min: Rosberg moves up to 14th with a time of 1m50.181s.

18 min: Button has remained in the garage and looks to be gambling on his hard tyre time.

18 min: Schumacher moves well away from danger with a time of 1m49.742s. This drops Ricciardo into the dreaded 18th position.

18 min: Massa improves to sixth on his medium compound, despite setting the fastest first sector time.

19 min: Grosjean has slipped to 16th and just had a costly excursion at Pouhon.

19 min: Ricciardo is 18th and improving in the first sector. Rosberg is 17th and not on a lap. Could the German be eliminated right here?

19 min: Grosjean has managed to start another lap but does need to make it count.

20 min: The flag is out as the laps continue...

12:20 Ricciardo goes sixth and Rosberg is drop-kicked to 18th position.

12:20 Hamilton and Alonso head for the pits with limited improvements behind them.

12:20 Rosberg appears to have missed the clock by a couple of seconds and he will not get a final attempt. He is eliminated.

12:21 Grosjean is now 17th but pressure from behind is easing.

12:21 Kovalainen and Petrov have their usual late scrap, with the Finn coming out on top once again in 19th and 20th.

12:22 The first period of qualifying is complete and the following seven drivers have been eliminated:

18) Rosberg
19) Kovalainen
20) Petrov
21) Glock
22) de la Rosa
23) Pic
24) Karthikeyan.

12:22 Nervous times for Grosjean as he encountered Karthikeyan at Rivage on his last lap but he didn't need it in the end, finishing 17th.

12:23 Disaster for Nico Rosberg. The German was not quick enough on the run he did get, then missed the clock and didn't get a final lap in.

12:23 To compound Rosberg's woes, he carries a five place grid penalty forward into tomorrow's race. He will start the Belgian Grand Prix from 23rd.

12:25 On his way into the pitlane, Rosberg then missed the weighing area, stopped when he realised and was pushed back by the FIA officials. A miserable day is finally over for the Mercedes driver.

12:25 Inconclusive times up front, with it all to play for in what is sure to be a very tight battle in the second segment.

12:26 The remaining 17 drivers that have progressed now face the next challenge. They will have just 15 minutes to try and secure a slot in the top 10 shootout.

0 min: The sun shines down on Spa as Q2 gets underway.

0 min: Perez is the first man out with medium compound tyres on the Sauber.

1 min: After a brief pause, di Resta joins Perez on the circuit.

1 min: Kobayashi joins his team-mate on circuit to bank an early time.

1 min: Webber, Hulkenberg and Vergne join the circuit.

2 min: Perez gets the first flying lap underway and has some traffic to clear as more drivers head out of the pits.

2 min: Ricciardo and Maldonado are next out, with the first hot laps already underway.

3 min: The Ferrari pair are on track while McLaren is making some repairs to the rear wing on Button's car.

3 min: Perez gets things underway with a time of 1m48.880s.

4 min: Senna is one of the last out onto the track.

4 min: Di Resta exits the Bus Stop chicane and posts 1m49.753s - slower than Perez.

5 min: Kobayashi goes second to his team-mate with a 1m49.494s lap.

5 min: Webber is next over the line and he goes quickest with a time of 1m48.662s.

5 min: Hulkenberg slots into fourth with a lap of 1m49.551s.

6 min: Alonso is the fastest man in the first and final sectors as the tops the times in 1m48.598s.

6 min: Vergne and Ricciardo go sixth and seventh of the seven drivers to have posted a time so far in this segment.

6 min: Massa is 1.2 seconds slower than his team-mate and ends up seventh.

6 min: Vettel moves into a lowly seventh spot, with a lap of 1m49.711s after his first effort.

6 min: Schumacher pops up into seventh spot, demoting Vettel further down the list.

7 min: Hamilton is challenging the leading time with a quick run through the middle part of the lap. He goes fastest in 1m48.563s.

7 min: Raikkonen is quicker still - 1m48.414s - as Lotus finally takes control.

7 min: Improvements for others means that Schumacher is ninth and Vettel is on the bubble - with Button still to come.

7 min: Button is now the fastest man in the first sector as he takes advantage of the low-downforce McLaren.

8 min: Maldonado comes round again but he is only 15th with a best lap so far of 1m50.733s.

8 min: Button is remarkably quickest through the middle part of the lap and seems much happier with his McLaren now.

8 min: Vettel continues on for a second hot lap and only moves up one spot, ahead of Schumacher to ninth with 1m49.594s.

8 min: Button tops the times with a rapid 1m47.654s.

9 min: Senna completes a neat high-speed half-spin through the fast Pouhon section. He did very well to regain control of the Williams.

9 min: That's a huge lap from Button, putting him over three-quarters of a second clear at the top of the order.

9 min: Button's segment-topping effort drops Schumacher into 11th place.

10 min: Vettel is now the man on the bubble, with Hulkenberg ninth and Kobayashi in eighth spot.

10 min: Track temperature is up to 29c, which may be helping McLaren overcome its struggles in the cooler practice this morning.

10 min: Schumacher is joined by di Resta, Massa, Vergne, Ricciardo, Maldonado and Senna in 17th.

11 min: Raikkonen is told his Lotus team don't plan to run again.

11 min: That was Senna's first timed lap when he spun at Pouhon. He came straight back to the pits.

11 min: Massa has slipped to 13th and is sent out on fresh rubber.

11 min: Di Resta is 12th in the classification. He leaves the pits for a final effort.

11 min: Hulkenberg in ninth leaves the pitlane to defend his current shootout slot.

12 min: Hamilton is opting for another run, despite being up in third. Alonso is also on the move in his Ferrari.

13 min: Button and Raikkonen are staying in the garage while this final scramble kicks off.

13 min: Schumacher is last of those with something to gain to leave the pits. His will be the lap to watch carefully in the dying moments.

14 min: Di Resta is struggling in the first sector. He is slower than Massa and Vergne on the circuit.

14 min: Grosjean is now on the softer compound having used harder rubber to bank his sixth-place time.

14 min: Kobayashi improves to fourth fastest.

14 min: The Scot has really pulled it out in the second sector. He crosses the line and goes eighth with a lap of 1m48.729s.

14 min: Massa can only manage ninth and that is quickly demoted to 10th.

14 min: Vettel is down to 12th now.

15 min: The flag is out, but it isn't over...

12:42 Vergne moves up to 11th with a lap of 1m49.354s and Maldonado improves to ninth. All eyes on Vettel and Schumacher.

12:42 Massa is forced out of the top 10 by Maldonado's improvement.

12:43 Perez springs up to second fastest in his Sauber.

12:43 Vettel goes only 11th. He is eliminated!

12:43 Schumacher can only manage 13th with 1m49.081s - he is also out.

12:44 Grosjean has abandoned his attempt but goes through in eighth.

12:44 The second period of qualifying is complete and the following seven drivers have been eliminated:

11) Vettel
12) Hulkenberg
13) Schumacher
14) Massa
15) Vergne
16) Ricciardo
17) Senna.

12:46 Shocks all round as the world champion is sensationally bumped out of the action. His lap of 1m48.792s falls short by 0.013s.

12:47 Schumacher also fails to make the cut, ending up in 13th spot. Now he really does have the freedom of Spa - for the rest of the afternoon.

12:47 Another elimination for Massa in his Ferrari, ending up 14th and almost 1.5 seconds off the leading pace.

12:48 Paul di Resta deserves a note after a difficult start to his final attempt. He put in a really solid middle section to bring himself back into play, ending up eighth and safely into the top 10 shootout.

12:49 Up front, Button appears to have unlocked a balance in his McLaren, comfortably topping the times with speed all around the lap.

12:49 But it is all to play for, with several drivers surely heading into the shootout with eyes on the pole.

12:50 So these are the 10 that have made it through to the final segment:

Mark Webber
Jenson Button
Lewis Hamilton
Fernando Alonso
Kimi Raikkonen
Romain Grosjean
Paul di Resta
Kamui Kobayashi
Sergio Perez
Pastor Maldonado.

0 min: Q3 begins in Belgium.

0 min: Di Resta is first out onto the circuit.

0 min: Button, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Grosjean are quickly on track to get a pair of runs in on this lengthy circuit.

1 min: Maldonado is also on track in the Williams, while the two Sauber drivers hold off for now.

2 min: Di Resta comes back into the pits at the end of one lap.

2 min: Raikkonen and Button both saved rubber in Q2 and begin laps against the clock.

2 min: Webber and the Sauber pair remain in the pits with seven minutes to go.

2 min: Button is the fastest man through the first part of the lap.

3 min: Maldonado crosses start-finish and begins a timed lap.

3 min: Raikkonen is quick in the middle part of the lap while Hamilton is on a poor lap.

3 min: Raikkonen starts us off with a 1m48.205s.

4 min: Button is over half a second quicker with a rapid 1m47.686s.

4 min: Replays show Hamilton ran wide at Rivage, spoiling his first attempt.

4 min: Maldonado also aborts his lap and comes into the pits. No time set.

5 min: So we have two times up on the board and the other eight drivers currently in the pits.

5 min: Button and Raikkonen tour back to the pits as the rest prepare for a make or break run at the end of the segment.

6 min: Four minutes to go and still no move from the others yet. Webber, Alonso and the Sauber pair have yet to leave the pits at all.

6 min: Kobayashi leaves the lane with 3m20s left on the clock.

6 min: Di Resta and Maldonado join the fray.

7 min: All 10 drivers are on track now, but Perez was very slow down the pitlane as he joined the track.

8 min: Hamilton is one of the last out of the pits, passing a slow Perez on his way out of the garage.

8 min: The drivers are making their way round to the end of the lap. Let's see who goes for a time and who aborts.

9 min: Button's advantage looks significant here but there is plenty to gun for as they jockey for position to start a final flying lap.

9 min: Maldonado and di Resta begin a timed lap. This will be their only attempt at a grid slot.

9 min: All 10 drivers are on a timed lap.

9 min: Everyone across the line and into a lap as the flag comes out.

13:00 Button is the fastest man through the first sector on his second attempt.

13:00 Kobayashi moves into second spot with 1m47.871s.

13:00 Maldonado goes third with 1m47.893s, dropping Raikkonen to fourth.

13:01 It's not a great middle sector for Raikkonen and he doesn't improve on fourth.

13:01 Di Resta goes fifth with a time of 1m48.890s.

13:01 1m47.573s for Button and surely that is unbeatable...

13:01 Webber is only seventh with 1m48.392s.

13:01 Jenson Button takes pole for the Belgian Grand Prix!

13:01 The 2009 champion has been on fine form this afternoon to secure his first pole for McLaren.

13:02 But it's disaster for Hamilton, who ends up down in eighth.

13:02 Not a great attempt from Alonso either as he ends up down in sixth.

13:02 A fantastic run from the Briton to claim pole position at Spa. Kobayashi grabs a spot on the front row and Monisha Kaltenborn is delighted.

13:03 Maldonado is third for Williams with Raikkonen fourth, Perez fifth on a great day for Sauber and Alonso in sixth spot for Ferrari.

13:04 Webber is seventh on the timesheet but will drop outside the top 10 once his gearbox penalty takes effect. Hamilton was a lowly eighth.

13:05 Grosjean placed ninth in the classification and di Resta rounds out the top 10 after an action-packed qualifying session.

13:06 Jenson Button secures a brilliant pole, but with Kobayashi and Maldonado right on his tail, the Briton will surely be having nightmares tonight about the start.

13:07 A wonderful qualifying session and we are set for an interesting race. Join us tomorrow for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Session length: 60 minutes
Mainly cloudy High Temp: 15°C / 59°F
Track: Dry
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Friday 31 Aug Start GMT
 Friday practice one 07:55
 Friday practice two 11:55
Saturday 01 Sep
 Saturday practice 08:55
 Qualifying 11:50
Sunday 02 Sep
 The Belgian Grand Prix 11:45