16:05 Lewis Hamilton has achieved 92nd pole position of his Formula 1 career in Spain. The reigning world champion was slightly faster in qualifying than Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by driving a 1.15.584. The Finn was only six hundredths slower than the Briton with a 1.15.643. Max Verstappen maximized by qualifying third at the Barcelona circuit.
At the start of the sixth race weekend of the season, it was announced that the FIA intends to ban the so-called ‘party mode’ from the next race in Belgium. With that, it could just be agreed that in Spain a very aggressive engine mode was used for the last time in qualifying, something that especially drivers with Mercedes engines would have benefited greatly in recent years. Exactly how the scrapping of the ‘party mode’ will turn out will be revealed at Spa-Francorchamps in two weeks, but it is likely that the field will be closer together in qualifying.
Q1: Racing Point shows up
Mercedes dominated the free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix and there was no doubt whatsoever as to which drivers would compete for pole on the track at Barcelona on Saturday. Lewis Hamilton was the strongest in the first phase of qualifying with an 1.16.872, while Valtteri Bottas kicked off the action on Saturday afternoon with the fourth fastest time.
Racing Point hadn’t really shown themselves during the practice sessions – the team from Silverstone was mainly concerned with preparations for the race – but Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll caused a sensation by reporting to P2 and P3 at one point. The Canadian would drop to P6 in the last minutes, but was only one tenth away from Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc, who moved up to third, fourth and fifth position in the times table at the end of Q1.
Kimi Raikkonen stood out positively by bringing Alfa Romeo to Q2 for the first time this season. Team mate Antonio Giovinazzi did a lot less with the slowest time. Romain Grosjean was unable to continue his strong Friday – the Frenchman clocked sixth and fifth fastest in the first practice sessions – in qualifying: he got stuck at seventeenth time. His teammate Kevin Magnussen was also ready after the first session with the sixteenth time. For Williams driver George Russell, an excellent qualifying series came to an end in Spain. The Briton got no further than the eighteenth fastest time this time, with which he only stayed ahead of teammate Nicholas Latifi and Giovinazzi and did not advance to Q2 for the first time since the season opener.
Q2: New downer for Vettel
In the second session the pace went up considerably. Hamilton was fastest again by going to an 1.16.013 early, while Bottas clocked second fastest with an 1.16.152 in the opening phase of the session. Verstappen was third fastest in the first minutes of Q2 by half a second.
With a few minutes left on the clock, everyone in the top three returned to the track for another fast lap. Lance Stroll impressed by climbing to fourth fastest time, while Pierre Gasly went to P5 with an excellent lap. Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc, Alexander Albon and Lando Norris also forced promotion to Q3, while Sebastian Vettel ended up outside the top ten when waving the flag. The German was only two thousandths slower than Norris, while the difference with Albon was also only five thousandths, so it was close for the Ferrari driver. In addition to the four-time world champion, Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon were also eliminated in Q2.
Q3: Hamilton versus Bottas
Bottas went to a 1.15.643 at the start of the final qualifying segment. Hamilton then went down with 0.059 by recording a 1.15.584. Verstappen closed in third with a 1.16.292, putting the winner of the previous race to concede seven tenths to the Mercedes duo and three tenths faster than Racing Point drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll.
Bottas did not improve at the end of qualifying and with that pole was for Hamilton, who also no longer had a faster lap. Verstappen did not go any faster either, but kept the third position in the times list. The Dutchman will have Perez next to him on the grid on Sunday, while Lance Stroll and Alexander Albon share the third row in Spain. Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris reserved the entire fourth row for McLaren. Charles Leclerc was the fastest Ferrari driver in P9 and Pierre Gasly completes the top ten on the starting grid.
The Grand Prix of Spain starts on Sunday at 3.10 p.m. It is possible that Verstappen can make it a bit more difficult for the Mercedes drivers. In any case, the Dutchman had a good pace in the ‘long runs’ during the training sessions.