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Nico Rosberg takes third straight pole as Max Verstappen breaks new ground in Belgium

Max Verstappen became the youngest driver to qualify on the F1 front row, but the 18-year-old was unable to beat Nico Rosberg to pole.

Nico Rosberg is 19 points behind Lewis Hamilton at the top of the driver standings.
Nico Rosberg is 19 points behind Lewis Hamilton at the top of the driver standings.

NICO ROSBERG WILL start his third successive grand prix from pole position after qualifying first in on Saturday, pipping Max Verstappen, who became the youngest front-row qualifier in Formula One history.

Rosberg outstripped his opponents on soft tyres in Q2 and was fastest again in the final round after switching to the supersoft compound, setting a time of one minute 46.744 seconds.

The German will be joined on the front row by Red Bull’s 18-year-old driver Verstappen, whose best ever qualifying performance saw him come in 0.149secs slower than Rosberg, but ahead of Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in third and fourth respectively.

The weekend has been dominated by the mounting engine penalties inflicted on world championship leader Hamilton which resulted in a 55-place demotion and he set the slowest time in Q1.

He will be joined at the back of the grid on Sunday by another world champion in Fernando Alonso, whose McLaren received a new power unit this weekend – costing him 35 places – but broke down shortly after leaving the pits.

Williams’ Felipe Massa was fastest in Q1, but will start from 10th, with Jenson Button joining him on the fifth row after an impressive session.

Rosberg assumed control in the second and third rounds, however, surpassing the pole time from 2015, though he only gained a quarter of a second on his Q2 time in Q3.

Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez qualified 13th, but was handed a five-place grid penalty for impeding the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein during FP3, while Marcus Ericsson’s 10-place demotion for a sixth turbocharger of the season is unlikely to affect him having qualified 20th.

Provisional classification:

1.    Nico Rosberg (Mercedes): 1:46.744secs
2.    Max Verstappen (Red Bull): 1:46.893s
3.    Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari): 1:46.910s
4.    Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): 1:47.108s
5.    Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull): 1:47.216s
6.    Sergio Perez (Force India): 1:47.407s
7.    Nico Hulkenberg (Force India): 1:47.543s
8.    Valtteri Bottas (Williams): 1:47.612s
9.    Jenson Button (McLaren): 1:48.114s
10.  Felipe Massa (Williams): 1:48.263s

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