Rosberg on pole as Verstappen becomes youngest front-row starter

Nico Rosberg edged Dutch teenager Max Verstappen to capture pole position Saturday in qualifying for Sunday's Formula One Belgian Grand Prix.

Rosberg was 0.149 seconds up on Red Bull's Verstappen for the Mercedes driver's 28th career pole. At 18, Verstappen is the youngest driver to qualify on the first row of an F1 grid.

The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were third and fourth to start in the second row.

Rosberg has an opportunity to reduce a 19-point gap in the standings over teammate Lewis Hamilton, the championship leader, who will start last after taking grid penalties for new engine parts.

"We got the job done, having made some changes to the car before qualifying. I'm pleased," Rosberg said but warned that the current heatwave in Belgium would be hard on the tyres.

"I'm happy to be on pole, the tyres are going to be difficult, though. There will be a lot going on," he said.

Hamilton, who won six of the last seven races, went out in the first qualifying session without attempting a fast lap.

"I just drove on the super soft tyre and it lasted three laps," he told Sky Sports.

"We're not the quickest here and because of the temperature it's probably one of the worst times to have this penalty.

"It won't be an easy day tomorrow, but we'll be prepared."

Rosberg took advantage of Hamilton's absence to set the fastest lap of 1 minute 46.744 seconds on the 7.004-kilometre Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

In temperatures of above 30 degrees Celsius, a strong Dutch contingent were in the stands in neighbouring Belgium to see Verstappen claim another success ahead of his ninth race for the Red Bull team after switching from Toro Rosso in May.

Verstappen, who immediately won the Spanish GP on his Red Bull debut, kept out the Ferraris, while teammate Daniel Ricciardo was fifth ahead of Force India duo Sergio Perez and Nico Huelkenberg.

"To be so close to Nico on a track with long straights - we can be very pleased with that. I'm very pleased to be second in front of my fans - it's such a great motivation," Verstappen said.

Valterri Bottas in a Williams, McLaren's Jenson Button and Bottas' teammate Felipe Massa completed the top 10.

Felipe Nasr (Sauber), Esteban Ocon (Manor), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) and Fernando Alonso (McLaren) also went out in Q1.

Romain Grosjean (Haas), Kevin Magnussen (Renault), Esteban Gutierrez (Haas), Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) and Pascal Wehrlein (Manor) failed to get through Q2.

Other drivers with grid penalties Sunday are Alonso, Gutierrez and Ericsson. Alonso will start 21st, one place ahead of Hamilton, while Ericsson is 20th, Kvyat 19th and Gutierrez drops from 13th to 18th.

Last update: Sat, 27/08/2016 - 15:56
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