Nico Rosberg snatched pole for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, the 28th of the German Mercedes driver’s career. Red Bull's Max Verstappen was second-quickest and will become the youngest driver to start on the front row.
Rosberg lapped in one minute 46.744 seconds, 0.149 ahead of Verstappen. The 18-year-old Dutchman was given vociferous support by around 20,000 compatriots thronging the seven-kilometre Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were third and fourth respectively.
“We got the job done having made some changes to the car before qualifying, I’m pleased,” Rosberg said, but warned the heatwave in Belgium would be hard on the tyres during the race.
“I’m happy to be on pole,” he added. “The tyres are going to be difficult though. There will be a lot going on.”
Rosberg has a chance to trim the 19-point gap to team mate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who will start in last place after picking up grid penalties for new engine parts.
Hamilton’s penalties increased to 55 places after Mercedes made further engine changes following those during Friday’s practice.
With nothing to gain, Hamilton completed only four laps early in qualifying before rolling back into the team garage.
“I just drove on the super soft tyres and it lasted three laps,” Hamilton said. “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.”
Briton Hamilton, who has 49 career victories, has won six of the past seven races, while Rosberg took the opening four races as Hamilton struggled with mechanical problems.
Fernando Alonso’s troubled weekend continued when, having collected a 35-place penalty for taking a new power unit, he suffered car failure without clocking a lap time. The Spanish McLaren driver was already destined to join Hamilton at the back of the grid.