During the first session of qualifying, Nico Hülkenberg, Romain Grosjean, George Russell and Kevin Magnussen emerged first. They did this on the medium band, with the exception of Hülkenberg, who went out on a red band. Magnussen was the first to record a time. The Haas driver crossed the line with a lap of 1: 28.798, laying the foundation for Q1. Hülkenberg went – logically – under that with a time of 1: 27.279. In the meantime, the rest of the drivers also trickled onto the track. Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo stayed in the longest of all. With just under ten minutes left, Verstappen clocked the provisional fastest time with 1: 27.154 on the red belt.
In the closing stages of Q1, Alexander Albon, Magnussen, Kimi Räikkönen, Antonio Giovinazzi and Nicoholas Latifi were in the danger zone. With a few minutes left on the clock, they had to power up one more time in an attempt to reach Q2. Albon was the only one in this group who succeeded. The British-Thai driver recorded a 1: 27.153 and was one thousandth faster than Verstappen, who was left in the pit box after his first run. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton finished Q1 as the fastest. The Red Bulls were four tenths behind.
In the second session, both Mercedes went straight out, along with Ocon and Grosjean. Bottas immediately drove a very fast lap with a 1: 25.785, as he was ahead of teammate Hamilton by four tenths. Verstappen was the only driver out on the hard tire and he set the fourth fastest time in his first run, almost a second from Bottas’ Mercedes. Verstappen took the gamble on the hard tire, because then he can use a different strategy during the race. It was a risky choice, because on the hard tire he was visibly slower than the competition. Still, he finished the first runs in fifth place.
In the second part of Q2, the drivers sat down for one more time. It was an exciting moment for Verstappen, because he stopped going out and was fifth fastest on the hard tire. He could breathe a sigh of relief, however, as he eventually made it to Q3 as number nine. Ocon, Vettel, Sainz, Grosjean and Russell failed to do this. Hülkenberg scored the second fastest time, four tenths behind Bottas’s 1: 25.785.
In the first run of Q3, Mercedes immediately showed what they are capable of. Hamilton clocked the fastest time with 1: 25.284, leaving number three, Daniel Ricciardo, behind by more than a second. Verstappen did his first run on the medium band and clocked fifth time, 1.1 seconds behind Hamilton. Norris was the slowest of the ten drivers in the first run. He recorded a 1: 27.250 and was almost two seconds slower than Mercedes.
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In the second run, Verstappen did go out on the red belt. Mercedes did the opposite and went on the road with the yellow belt in its second run. It worked out well for Bottas, who managed to improve his time on this compound towards pole position. The Finn recorded a 1: 25.154 and was six hundredths faster than Hamilton. This time, Verstappen did not get further than fourth place, behind Hülkenberg. The German was almost a tenth faster.