Defending drivers world champion Sebastian Vettel defied his doubters when he powered his Red Bull to pole position for today’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old leader of this year’s title race demonstrated no lack of pace or form as he outpaced nearest rival Lewis Hamilton in the closing second of a dramatic qualifying session. Hamilton suffered damage to his car when he was smashed into deliberately by Pastor Maldonado’s Williams at the end of Q2.
Michael Schumacher was eliminated in the opening seconds of Q1 when he suffered a mechanical failure on his Mercedes. For Schumacher, it was a setback in his bid to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his F1 debut with a flourish in today’s 44-lap race, as he lost his rear right wheel and control of his Mercedes car as he descended the hill at the top of the circuit.
“I don’t know what happened,” said the veteran. “Something unexpected happened.”
Webber signs extension
Webber, who celebrated turning 35 yesterday by signing a one year extension to his Red Bull contract for the 2012 season, finished third nearly a full second behind Hamilton. Two times champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was eighth ahead of Sergio Perez of Sauber and Vitaly Petrov in the second Renault.
Vettel’s pole was his ninth this year and the 24th of his career and brought him his best starting position to date in Belgium.
‘Senna not in for the money’
Meanwhile away from the races, Renault team chief Eric Boullier rejected all suggestions that he had promoted Bruno Senna for financial reasons.
As Heidfeld’s management confirmed they were preparing to take legal action against Renault for breach of contract at a High Court hearing in London, due to be heard on September 19, Boullier went on the attack.
“His leadership didn’t work in the team,” said Boullier. “When you are sometimes slower than [team-mate] Vitaly Petrov it is difficult for him to push the team and to settle himself as the team leader.”
He added that Renault hope Senna would complete the season with them, but nothing can be made certain until next month’s High Court hearing.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2011.