Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff both believe that they still had a good chance of taking pole for the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, even if it had stayed dry through to the end of qualifying.
Ferrari had earlier swept all three practice sessions at Spa-Francorchamps. Kimi Raikkonen was then also fastest in the first round of qualifying, with Sebastian Vettel quickest in Q2.
Even so, Hamilton didn’t agree that it had necessarily heading to a Ferrari 1-2 lock-out on the front row for Sunday’s race.
“I don’t know if they definitely had it, we were very, very close,” he insisted after the end of qualifying. “You saw it in Q2, we were split by maybe half a tenth.
I was hopeful that I could make up that slight distance. But I knew it was going to be very close. They were very quick on the straights.”
Wolff also doubt on whether Ferrari had really held the necessary advantage over Mercedes to take pole if it had stayed dry.
“I don’t know. We were split by a couple of hundredths when it was dry, not sure what they [Ferrari] would have had left for Q3. We had a little bit. So it would have been quite tight.”
Instead it started to rain just before the final round, and that had appeared to tip the balance in Mercedes’ favour.
“It seems to be the right package when it gets a bit slippy,” agreed Wolff, referring to the formidable combination of ‘wet weather master’ Hamilton and the current W09 chassis.
The team have done a great job and the rain is always a friend of mine,” Hamilton acknowledged. I knew I had the pace.
“It was just about trying to find the balance of not pushing too much but not backing off too much and it’s different in every single corner and at no point you can be complacent.”
Even so, he struggled to stay on the track in his first flying laps and looked to be struggling to match the pace of the Ferraris even when the rain picked up.