SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (Belgium) • Formula One leader and defending champion Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth consecutive pole position yesterday when he dominated qualifying for today's Belgian Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old Briton clocked a stunning and flawless final lap in the closing seconds of the top 10 shootout in a time of 1min 47.197sec to outpace Mercedes team-mate German Nico Rosberg by nearly half a second.
It was the 48th pole of the Briton's career, his 10th this year in 11 sessions and also his third at the majestic Spa-Francorchamps circuit where he has suffered ill-fortune in the past.
He is the first driver to achieve six successive poles since seven-time champion German Michael Schumacher in 2000-01.
The Ferrari driver then reeled off seven in succession.
BELGIAN GRAND PRIX GRID
Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes
Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams
Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India
Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Lotus
Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus
Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) Toro Rosso
14 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
18 Max Verstappen (Ned) Toro Rosso
19 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren
20 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren
"I am really happy with the performance of the car and team," said Hamilton, who last won at Spa in a McLaren in 2010.
"They have been doing a fantastic job and the car has been feeling great and it is a circuit where, if you get the right balance, it is one of the most fun to drive."
Rosberg, recovered from a shocking high-speed tyre failure that sent him into a full spin during Friday's second free practice session, fought hard to end Hamilton's supremacy, but to no avail.
The 30-year-old German, whose wife Vivian is expecting their first child, is 21 points behind Hamilton in the title race with nine races remaining.
"For sure I'm disappointed," he said. "I lost it a bit this morning in free practice, but then I got the balance back for qualifying - thanks to the team - but Lewis was too quick in the end and he found a lot extra that I didn't have in my pocket."
Italian tyre supplier Pirelli had completed an overnight investigation into the cause of Rosberg's accident and concluded that there was nothing wrong with the integrity of its tyres.
The company said the failure was caused by a puncture created by unidentified external debris.
Valtteri Bottas was a surprise third fastest for Williams.
The Finn was ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus, who faces a grid penalty yet to be confirmed after a change of power unit parts, and Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India.
Bottas, who had been strongly linked with a move to Ferrari before fellow-Finn Kimi Raikkonen was re-signed, said: "It's good to be back in the top three.
"We knew after practice that there was so much more we could do if we put everything together.
"We got the balance finely tuned for qualifying and the car felt really good."
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for Red Bull ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa in the second Williams and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in the second Lotus.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was a disappointing ninth for Ferrari as they prepared for their 900th Grand Prix, ahead of Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso.
BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
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