Kimi Raikkonen: My decision to help Sebastian Vettel's final lap in Q3

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The 30-year-old German was almost half a second slower than his main title rival Lewis Hamilton who topped the times for Mercedes ahead of his 200th Grand Prix start.

In 2008, when he won his first title, the Briton was demoted from first to third after the race for cutting a chicane, with then Ferrari rival Felipe Massa savouring victory instead.

There was disappointment, however, for Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who was supported by a huge crowd of Dutch supporters, as a mechanical failure stopped his auto on track, giving him his sixth retirement in 12 races.

"I was expecting it", the Force India driver, still in negotiations with his team about next year, told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix when asked about Ferrari's announcement earlier in the week.

"Sure, they look very strong - so I need to give it my all".

The move ends speculation that the 30-year-old could be considering a move to Mercedes in the near future.

Vettel and Hamilton have won four races each this season heading into Sunday's race.

He said: "I can't believe it".

"I've been around in the paddock for a while so I know people; it's natural that you talk". Now I want to convert it into a win in the race. "But nothing more than chatting, mostly about other stuff to be honest", he said.

Schumacher, whose 91 race wins and seven championships will still take some beating, set his pole record at Magny-Cours in France in July 2006. "I've been talking for a while with Ferrari, my intention was to stay".

But Hamilton appeared unconvinced that Vettel, who enjoys clear number one status at Ferrari, will replace Bottas next season.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it", he said.

Crucially for Ferrari, Vettel and Raikkonen ran just 13 and 11 laps throughout qualifying, respectively, as opposed to the 18 and 19 laps that Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas ran in their effort to blitz the field.

The three-time F1 champion was already ahead when he went even faster with a final lap for Mercedes, but Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel limited the damage with a fine lap to join Hamilton on the front row.

The Finn was signed on a one-year deal to replace world champion Nico when after the German retired from F1 after winning the title last year.

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