Provisional grid for the Belgian Grand Prix

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After a tense qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps yesterday, the scene is set for a close race as Red Bull and Mercedes renew battle following the summer break. The top two teams in the constructors’ championship duly locked out the front two rows of the grid in Belgium, but it was only thanks to a late charge and a dramatic change in the weather. Provisionally, Paul di Resta looked set to claim a shock pole position for Force India after he gambled on dry tires early on. However, Nico Rosberg managed to just squeeze the Scot out before Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton all went quicker, with the Briton taking his fourth pole position in a row.

Following qualifying, there have been no changes to the grid via penalties or pre-existing grid drops. The only minor penalty was a €5000 fine for Lotus after an unsafe release during qualifying.

As the final qualifying session was wet, all twenty-two drivers will have a free choice of starting tire for the race today.

Provisional grid for the Belgian Grand Prix

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
3 Mark Webber Red Bull
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
5 Paul di Resta Force India
6 Jenson Button McLaren
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus
8 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus
9 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
10 Felipe Massa Ferrari
11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber
12 Adrian Sutil Force India
13 Sergio Perez McLaren
14 Giedo van der Garde Caterham
15 Jules Bianchi Marussia
16 Max Chilton Marussia
17 Pastor Maldonado Williams
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
19 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso
20 Valtteri Bottas Williams
21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
22 Charles Pic Caterham

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

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Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.