That shouldn’t have happened! Max Verstappen and George Russell shine as Lewis Hamilton is forced to settle for P3 in wet Spa ahead of Belgian Grand Prix
- Lewis Hamilton was picked not only to pole but to the front row in Belgium
- Max Verstappen returned to P1 as the Red Bull star looks to claw his way back
- George Russell took P2 in a sensational result for the Williams youngster
- Russell looks at a Mercedes seat and made his best claim yet in Spa
Lewis Hamilton glimpsed the future as he sat two chairs next to him and he didn’t like it much, judging by how his voice became as deep and lifeless as Henry Kissinger’s.
There was George Russell at the press conference, the 23-year-old Englishman who had just completed a millionaire qualifying lap in Belgium to place him between the two title contenders, pole sitter Max Verstappen and Hamilton, who was third fastest.
Master George wasn’t meant to be just three tenths off pole in a ramshackle Williams, but his apparent talent in the erratic wet conditions in the Ardennes Forest allowed him to rise above his equipment again yesterday.
Lewis Hamilton had to settle for P3 because the Formula 1 star rarely missed the front row
For a moment it looked like Russell would take pole himself before Verstappen raced sweetly through the last few corners to put himself on top.
No wonder Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff appeared later in the evening to indicate that Russell will be teaming up with Hamilton next season instead of underperforming Valtteri Bottas, who was eighth yesterday but was sentenced to start thirteenth for taking four weeks ago when a bowling ball crashed in Hungary.
When asked whether the decision on next year’s lineup has already been made, Wolff replied: ‘Yes.’
He did not disclose in which direction his favor has fallen. An announcement is expected in the coming weeks.
The Mercedes man and world championship leader failed to put his car on pole in Spa
Russell’s net worth was as apparent to Hamilton here under the low clouds hovering over the tall trees as it was when he watched from his Covid bed in Dubai as Russell jumped into his car and ripped the seat off at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain. last year.
On that occasion, Hamilton responded by flying into the final race in Abu Dhabi at 11am, despite barely being well enough to travel, to wring his handlebars from the stand-in’s grip.
Hamilton was asked if Russell’s performance here had influenced his lukewarm endorsement of the younger man’s claims that he was his team-mate, and now his voice grew hoarse.
Max Verstappen recaptured pole position as he looks to make his way back for Hamilton
The Red Bull star had a rough couple of weeks before the break but is charged up en route to Spa
“I don’t feel any different,” sang the seven-time world champion, who is eight points ahead of Verstappen with 11 laps to go. George is doing great all year round and this doesn’t change a thing. I’m sure he put pressure on him as did Valtteri and it’s great to see him perform. I can’t blame him.’
The only potential impediment for Russell to land the Mercedes seat after blossoming at Williams while still linked to the championship team as part of their academy program is the complication his speed represents.
The memory of difficult relations between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg still haunts the minds of some Mercedes. Wolff said: “There are pros and cons as with any driver lineup. We have to manage the situation internally as we have always done with Nico, and with George.”
But the surprise of the day came when George Russell put his Williams car in the front row
The Brit has been eyeing a Mercedes seat and is playing all the right notes this season
With George!? Was that a slip of the tongue? It sounded like this. “Today makes no difference to our thinking,” Wolff added. “We know what we have with George. He did very well in the juniors. He was excellent at Williams and he was excellent to us in Bahrain.
“If I needed this ultimate proof, something would have gone wrong.”
More rain is expected today. Minute by minute, the wet weather is blowing in and out here, though there hasn’t been a moment since Thursday when the sky hasn’t carried a frown.
Russell can be counted on to give everything to stop Hamilton and attack Verstappen in the short run from the starting line to La Source. “That’s the plan,” he said.
What can Hamilton do about the thorn between the two title roses?