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As it happened: Spa qualifying


By Sarah Holt

1447: That brings me nicely to the end of the BBC's live coverage from the Belgian Grand Prix. The reliable Mike Henson will be back at the helm for Sunday's race, which begins at 1300BST. Cheerio for now!

1445: And FINALLY here is Pastor Maldonado's take on his incident with Hamilton: "It was a difficult moment, there was no reason from my side to have contact and from the side of Lewis. It wasn't rainy conditions and we need to understand what happened. There was no need for contact after the chequered flag." When asked if he agreed with Hamilton's claim he had deliberately moved into his McLaren, Maldonado responded: "No, no, I don't."

1440: And here's Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher on his early crash. "I've had some experience on three wheels before but to to lose a rear wheel is a bit more difficult to handle. Initially, I didn't know I'd lost a rear wheel. There is no reason to blame anybody, we all try our best but at the end of the day we are all humans. I've had some interesting races from the back so it's going to be entertaining."

1434: Just a few more final thoughts before we wave goodbye to the live until tomorrow. Here's McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh on the fate of his two drivers in qualifying in Spa. "We should have been more proactive," Whitmarsh said on Button's day. "Jenson backed out on a quickening track and on that last lap he should have been pushing. Jenson lifted, we should have been quicker to react and tell him to keep pushing. It's disappointing. We didn't communicate quickly enough." Whitmarsh described Hamilton's clash with Maldonado as "fairly extraordinary." He added: "Suddenly Maldonado chopped across him and he could easily have taken Lewis out of qualifying. We were lucky to be able to get Lewis back out there. We changed the front wing but I don't think we should be saying he would have been on pole. It was an inconvenient incident."

1425: Andrew Benson has written a full report on qualifying, which is steadily evolving. I would urge you to keep across the BBC Sport website for all the latest news from Spa.

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton on the Maldonado incident: "I'll have to look at it. The Williams was just sitting there, it was very slow. I had to try and get past, which I did. I saw Maldonado approaching quite quickly - he happened to swipe across me. My front wing was quite damaged. I'll sit here and wait for the stewards to call me up rather than going back to McLaren. Once the flag was out and the red light was on there is no need to be racing. There should never be an incident but unfortunately there was."

McLaren driver Jenson Button on the BBC: "It was a misunderstanding. I did my first lap and then cooled the tyres not knowing I didn't have any laps left. I was second quickest when I did my lap and then I didn't get another chance. Wow, that is massively disappointing and a huge shock. A big mistake on our part. In every practice session we've been in top three. Tough been back in 13th but we've got to deal with it."

1411: Another Vettel pole was about the only predictable element in a fascinating qualifying session in Spa. The Spa specialist Schumacher crashed out on his very first lap, a strategy error appears to have cost Button a place in the top 10 for the first time this season and Maldonado has sparked controversy by his move on Hamilton. Lots to mull over.

1411: Guess what? New Renault driver Senna has out-qualified Alonso but will join the Spaniard on the fourth row. Sergio Perez of Sauber and Vitaly Petrov's Renault complete the top 10.

1409: So after all that, Vettel comfortably takes his ninth pole of the season, denying Hamilton by 0.432secs. The McLaren man lines up alongside the world championship leader on the grid. Webber and Ferrari's Felipe Massa share the second row ahead of Rosberg and Alguersuari.


1404: Coulthard reckons it is a brave man who would bet against Webber taking pole. The Australian leads Vettel and Hamilton with just seconds to go. Hold on.

LiteralF1 on Twitter: " Maldonado swiped at Lewis! Front end damaged. Unacceptable and he really should be disqualified for that!"

1402: All 10 cars on track. Mark Webber fastest of them all - but still a way to go yet.

BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz: "Hamilton's car looks intact. They have changed the front wing. They've told Lewis to kill the engine. The car is bandaged up with gaffer tape and will survive the [final qualifying] session."

1344: Alonso has got the final phase of qualifying under way on a pair of soft tyres. The fight for pole position has begun.

BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard: "I hate that. If Maldonado has got a problem with Lewis, he should go face-to-face. He cannot do that on the racetrack."

BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle: "If they don't send Maldonado home for that that's not right. You cannot do that."

1355: I also want to tell you that Buemi (Toro Rosso), Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Sutil and Kovalainen are also out of qualifying. Senna is into the top-10 in his very first qualifying session of the year. That is good work.

1353: Problems at McLaren. TV replays show that Maldonado took a swipe at Hamilton and the 2008 champion tells his team on the radio that it was "done deliberately" and he suspects his front wing has been damaged. Hamilton and Maldonado have clashed before at the Monaco Grand Prix. Button - the race-winner last time out in Hungary - will not take part in final phase of qualifying as he was 13th.

1351: Hamilton has to battle his way through traffic to drag himself into the top 10. The McLaren man clashes with Pastor Maldonado's Williams as he closed in on the line and waved his hand in frustration. A big, deep breath and Hamilton goes top ahead of Webber and Vettel. A last dash takes Alonso to the top but there is bad news at McLaren HQ as Button goes out. Phew, drama

1346: Mission impossible complete. Alonso sets the fastest time as the track is warming to the drivers.

1344: Oh dear. There are unhappy utterances from the helmet of Alonso. Summing up his chances of finding the time he needs, the Spaniard tells his team: "People in front are closing the door and not letting me pass. It's impossible."

1341: The marshalls have swept up the debris and Sutil's prone car has been removed. The session is back underway but there are anxious faces at Ferrari HQ as Alonso is out of the top-10 and needs to put a fast lap together.

Force India F1 team on Twitter: "Adrian loses the back end at the top of eau rouge. End of his qualy. Mainly damage to the nose."

1336: The red flag is unfurled as Adrian Sutil takes his Force India into the wall coming out the top of the steep incline just after Eau Rouge.

1334: And when I said for now, you know I meant for just a nanosecond really. Vettel leads the way for Red Bull from Button's McLaren and Webber.

1332: Fernando Alonso is targeting his first pole of the season and he is out on track on the intermediate tyres trying to find his rhythm in Belgium. The Ferrari struggles for rear grip as it wends its way around the four-mile circuit but he still manages to set the fastest time - for now.

BBC F1 analyst Eddie Jordan: "It's just bizarre what happened Schumacher in the middle of the straight. It's not exactly how he wants to start his 20th anniversary race. We would like to see him fight for the podium here. Whether you're a fan of his or not you would want to see him up there but it's not going to happen now."

1327: Interestingly, just before Di Resta's exit, Force India reported that Di Resta was saying that "some parts of the track are dry and some sections are wet." That sums up the unique challenge of Spa and explains why it is so easy to slightly misjudge conditions. And to make matters worse, it's raining again.

1323: I have good and bad news for Team Lotus and Force India fans. The good news is that Heikki Kovalainen is into the second phase of qualifying. The bad news is that Di Resta is out. The Scot spun on track in the final phase of his hot lap and that cost him time. Jarno Trulli's Lotus joins the two Virgin Racing and HRT drivers in failing to advance.

TanjTwit on Twitter: "It's good to see Bruno Senna in a decent car, and I hope he makes the most of it! I've always had faith in Bruno!"

1318: Button cruises to the top now with a lap of two minutes 01.813 seconds. "We know Button loves these conditions. He seems to see and find grip that others just can't find," comments Martin Brundle.

1314: Hamilton takes his McLaren to the top of timings ahead of McLaren pal Button in the first phase of qualifying. What we do know is that Schumacher will line his patched-up Mercedes in last place.

1310: Webber is the fastest man at Spa as things stand. The Australian leads McLaren's Button in the timesheets ahead of Vettel and the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.

Mercedes F1 team on Twitter: "Michael is in the gravel. He's OK."

1306: Schumacher sounds very calm as he tries to explain to his Mercedes team the reasons behind the incident. "I do not know what happened," he says over the radio. "Something unexpected happened." Ahh, that is not the way the 42-year-old will have wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this F1 debut.

1303: A pack of cars - led by the Toro Rossos - head out to try and set a lap before the rain comes. They are all on the intermediate tyres. But there is trouble for Michael Schumacher, who appears to have lost a wheel coming down the hill and he is out of qualifying.

BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle "Qualifying hour on a wet track at Spa - it doesn't get much tougher than that."

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Spa "The prediction that the race is likely to be largely dry on Sunday leaves the teams with an agonising choice over set-up in qualifying. Do they go for a wet set-up, with more downforce, for ultimate performance this afternoon, which would potentially leave them very vulnerable in the race? Or do they set the cars up for the dry and take the hit in terms of pace in qualifying? The comments of McLaren and Red Bull team bosses Martin Whitmarsh and Christian Horner suggest both have gone for the second option - which is the traditional choice in such circumstances. The counter-argument is that a handful of laps on a wet set-up in the wet in the race when others are on dry settings can build an unbeatable advantage - as Michael Schumacher proved when he won brilliantly here in 1997, one of his best but most over-looked victories."

1252: For those of you suffering from Martin Whitmarsh withdrawal symptoms, fear not, here's the McLaren boss: "We would like to make it three wins in a row but there's no point making predictions as anything can happen in qualifying in the next hour. It will be about getting on the track at the right time in qualifying."

1248: Force India boss Vijay Mallya has a bit of experience in how to defy the odds at Spa as Giancarlo Fisichella conjured a surprise pole at the circuit in 2009. "The pole was like a dream come true - it was a big surprise and I hope we can repeat it some time," Mallya said wryly. There's also a word from Red Bull team boss Christian Horner who concedes the undulating track doesn't play to his car's strengths but he still hopes Red Bull can break their duck here this weekend.

StGeorge96 on Twitter: "Mclaren should be strong in the wet. Hope the weather remains unpredictable. Ingredients for a Spa classic."

1242: The weather radar in Spa has made its ominous prediction that it will chuck it down again five minutes before qualifying. Red Bull have stormed to every single pole position so far this season with Vettel grabbing eight of them and Webber scooping up the rest in Spain, Britain and Germany. Webber - who took pole in Spa last year - has been the fastest man all weekend but the fickle weather in Spa could still play a hand in upsetting the formbook.

1240: The weather radar in Spa has made its ominous prediction that it will chuck it down again five minutes before qualifying. Red Bull have stormed to every single pole position so far this season with Vettel grabbing eight of them and Webber scooping up the rest in Spain, Britain and Germany. Webber - who took pole in Spa last year - has been the fastest man all weekend but the fickle weather in Spa could still play a hand in upsetting the formbook.

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Spa "As some of you will be able to see from the telly, the sun is shining brightly now in this corner of the Ardennes forest, although there are still big black clouds in the sky, too. But if the weather continues like this, there will be a dry line by the end of qualifying. That could be bad news for Bruno Senna, making his debut for Renault here. The Brazilian has been impressive in the wet so far this weekend, outpacing team-mate Petrov, who has been in the car all season. But Senna himself admits he is a long way from being able to extract the maximum from the car in the dry."

1230: Bruno Senna is preparing for his first qualifying session of the season after being drafted in by Renault in place of Nick Heidfeld. It's been a good start for the cheery Brazilian as he's out-performed team-mate Vitaly Petrov in two practice sessions in Spa. Senna tells BBC Sport: "Apart from a small mistake on Friday everything has gone pretty smoothly. Mixing with the guys, being in front of Michael [Schumacher] was really good - I'm looking forward to qualifying."

Ali on Twitter: "JB to grab a cheeky pole in these testing conditions!"

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Spa "It seems that limited in-season testing may well return next year. After the intervention of FIA president Jean Todt, who thinks it is wrong to have no testing at all, the teams are looking at running one test before the start of the European season, as well as perhaps bringing the post-season young drivers test forward so it, too, is within the calendar. The key thing is to keep costs down and to prevent the creation of special test teams. No one has an appetite to return to the costly days of unlimited testing."

1220: BBC One coverage is now go and David Coulthard has been talking about how he spent some of the summer break in Los Angeles to teach Hollywood star Tom Cruise how to drive an F1 car. The BBC co-commentator also went to check on the progress of the new F1 circuit being built in Texas and he has this little report on that for you. "During the mid-season break, I went to Austin, Texas, with Red Bull and I got to drive the layout of the new track that will host the return of the US Grand Prix next year. I was in an old Red Bull on what was effectively a dirt track - the asphalt has not been laid. But not only was it fascinating to see that an F1 car can be driven on dirt, but I also discovered that the layout looks really good. There is a 160m elevation change from the pit straight into the first corner, and as you go around the lap, there is a copy of the Becketts section at Silverstone, a 1.2km straight and a mirror image of Turkey's famous quadruple apex Turn Eight - except as a right-hander rather than a left-hander."

Force India on Twitter: "Sun coming out now but a lot of water still on the track. Probably a drying track for start of qualy."

1210: Hello again. I, for one, reckon we have an intriguing qualifying session ahead of us at Spa. Drop me a line on on Twitter with your thoughts.

1122: Our man in the Ardennes Andrew Benson has the full report of final practice in Spa. I will be back for qualifying, which should be very interesting indeed. See you in a bit.

BBC Sport's Jake Humphrey on Twitter: " Cars slip-sliding all over the place so make sure you join us at 1210 on BBC1 for a wet Spa quali show...before #ncfc then beat Chelsea."

1109: Fernando Alonso completed five laps for Ferrari but did not show his hand in the wet conditions as he was the only man not to set a time. BBC 5 live analyst Anthony Davidson suggests the Spaniard must be extremely confident of his ability to simply turn on the car when he needs to. Alonso has never won at Spa's classic track and he is also hunting his first pole of the season.

1104: A late run by Hamilton takes him up to second in the timesheets, 0.058secs behind the fastest man in Spa, Mark Webber. Alguersuari is third for Toro Rosso ahead of Button's McLaren and Vettel's Red Bull. Buemi (Toro Rosso), Rosberg (Mercedes), Sutil (Force India), Senna (Renault) and Schumacher (Mercedes) fill out the rest of the top-10 times.

BBC 5 live commentator David Croft:"Jobs you don't want at Red Bull today - front car jack man because there is a blue logo painted on the tarmac in the pit lane a few yards short of their garage, just where Sebastian Vettel will be applying the brakes."

Dave on Twitter: "Let's keep that rain. Lewis for podium finish if we keep the rain."

1057: Hamilton and Button have ventured out of the McLaren garage on used sets of intermediate tyres. Button moves up to third in the standings with Hamilton fifth. The team ask Button how he is feeling in these conditions and he reports a "few balance issues".

1052: Radio Mercedes tells Nico Rosberg that he has a puncture in his front right wheel. The German trundles back to the pits where eagle-eyed Ted Kravitz also spots a bit of damage to the floor. Meanwhile, Buemi and Alguersuari top the timings for Toro Rosso.

1050: The McLaren drivers are hunkering down in the garage. McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh gives us a clue as to why they are limited their running. "It's frustrating because we've got limited number of tyres so we have to be careful how we consume them," he says. "I don't think the track is going to dry and I expect we can go out on intermediates for qualifying but we only have four sets."

1045: Di Resta heads the timesheets for Force India with 15 minutes to go. Some drivers are out on the intermediate tyres now to try and eke out some extra pace.

Tom G on Twitter: " The onboard cameras in the soaking wet makes you realise what complete nutters #F1 drivers are!."

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Spa "I spoke to Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost this morning about the team's plans to give Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne a chance in Friday practice sessions, as we revealed on Friday. Tost said the move was 'not confirmation' that there was a vacancy at Toro Rosso next season, but he said the fact they can choose between current race drivers Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi and HRT's Daniel Ricciardo as 'a lovely situation'. He said they'd had plenty of time to judge the potential of Alguersuari and Buemi and 'theoretically we can continue with both drivers but this is not a decision for today or the next few weeks'."

1038: Paul di Resta runs wide at the entrance to Pouhon and spins on track. After a couple of excursions on Friday, new Renault driver Bruno Senna cuts the chicane at Les Combes. Our man in the pits, Ted Kravitz, reports that the sun is coming out but the track remains wet and slippery.

1035: Just a few timed laps to report. Webber is the fastest man on track for Red Bull in two minutes 14.143 seconds ahead of Sebastian Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari and Vettel.

1030: As Vettel makes some noise out on track for Red Bull, his boss Christian Horner has been commenting on Webber's new one-year deal with the Milton Keynes-based team. "It was clear there was a desire on both sides to continue so it was a straightforward conversation to say yep lets do another year," said Horner. "We had a lot of pressure to look at a driver called Tom Cruise but because he wasn't available, we were happy to reconfirm with Mark."

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Spa: "Did you know Lewis Hamilton has a sweet tooth? I once saw him putting sugar on a bowl of Sugar Puffs, and last night, at a dinner to celebrate the launch of a new McLaren book, he nipped off to get himself a bowl of coke-bottle sweets - you know, the ones you get in pick 'n' mix - and proceeded to munch his way through them as he chatted to journalists."

McLaren on Twitter: " The weather means there will be no action for the forseeable future for our guys.."

1020: No times to report yet but Australian Daniel Ricciardo is kicking up some spray as he is out on track for HRT.

Ferrari on Twitter: "According to the weather forecast, there is an high chance of showers for this afternoon, during qualifying."

1014: McLaren's Jenson Button reports on his pit-to-car radio that the conditions are "worse than Canada" when the race was delayed because of heavy rain. There is also a wardrobe malfunction for Button too as he asks for a fresh racesuit and gloves.

1012: Red Bull team boss Christian Horner is predicting that qualifying will now be "a lottery" because of the changeable weather conditions in Spa. But he adds that his cars will fight for pole position in a dry set-up because rain is not forecast for Sunday's grand prix.

1006: McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is out on the full wet tyres and there are a couple of twitchy moments for the 2008 world champion. There is an awful lot of water on the track. Hamilton comes on the radio to tell his team it's "massively wet" and that there's "lots of aquaplaning out there". So that's definitive.

1003: Right we're off and Jerome D'Ambrosio is the first man out for Virgin Racing. Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull appears tentatively through the spray on a set of intermediate tyres. The world champion didn't manage to set a fast time on the soft tyres on Friday so he has yet to get a feel for how fast he can really go as he chases his ninth pole of the season.

0957: Uh-oh, puddles of rain are forming in the Spa pit lane and I'm also hearing that it is much cooler - and that won't help the drivers get into the groove for qualifying in final practice.

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Spa: "While Sebastian Vettel clearly already has 'one hand on the championship trophy', as Martin Brundle put it this weekend, rivals Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are still stretching every sinew to stop him. Which of them does Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn - architect of Michael Schumacher's seven titles - feel is best placed to put Vettel under pressure? 'I think Alonso is probably the strongest of that group who can give him a hard time. He's a driver I would have loved to have worked with in the past.'"

0952: Red Bull have given Mark Webber one of the strangest birthday cakes I've ever seen, and I consider myself an expert on all things cake. Webber was presented with an Australia-shaped gateau complete with figures of kangaroos. Still, let's hope a slice of that doesn't put him off when he gets back in the car because he looks on form here, setting the fastest time in Friday practice.

Virgin Racing on Twitter: "Would be nice to get some dry running in FP3. We only got one run on dry tyres yesterday and the race looks set to be dry."

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Spa: "Morning. Its Spa, so I have to start with a weather forecast, right? Well, it's been raining overnight, but it has not actually rained this morning, and I've actually seen the sun poke through once. Predictions are for a repeat of Friday - which means showers and, inevitably, an interesting day. It's been a good few hours for Mark Webber, who was fastest on Friday and has celebrated his 35th birthday on Saturday with a 2012 Red Bull contract. But Red Bull face stiff opposition from McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who Team Lotus reserve Karun Chandhok told me he fancies to be on pole for the first time this season."

0934: Hello again. After Friday practice was interrupted by some traditional Spa downpours the 12 Formula 1 teams have plenty to do in third practice. And so do I after some of my own technical problems, so let's get cracking.

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