Leclerc claims pole as Ferrari lock out front row

Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) (AFP) –


Charles Leclerc claimed pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix with a dazzling lap in a dramatic qualifying session on Saturday as Ferrari delivered a dominant front row lockout.

The Monegasque, who was quickest in two of the three practice sessions and is seeking his maiden victory in Formula One, clocked a fastest lap in one minute 42.519 seconds. He was 0.748sec clear of his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

It was Ferrari's first lockout since the Bahrain Grand Prix in March and the 63rd in the team's F1 history, one fewer than Mercedes.

Defending five-time world champion and series leader Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen, who was fifth for Red Bull, and Daniel Ricciardo of Renault.

"That felt good," said Leclerc. "We were struggling a little bit more for race pace and we need to work on that, but I am sure we will be strong."

Vettel was frustrated by traffic on his final run.

"At the end, it's good we secured the front row, but to fight for pole I was in the queue," he said

Referring to his crash in final practice in the morning, Hamilton said: "P3 was a terrible session for me and it's painful because I know how much it takes to build the part and put the car together.

"Ferrari have done a great job and I hope we can bring the fight to them."

Nico Hulkenberg was seventh in the second Renault ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo, Sergio Perez of Racing Point and Kevin Magnussen of Haas.

Hamilton has won eight of this year's 12 races to date to lead Bottas by 62 points in the championship while Leclerc is still hunting his first win.