Spanish Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the race at Circuit de Catalunya. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel will start alongside, having encountered an early technical problem with his car. Valtteri Bottas claimed P3 in the other Mercedes.
Spanish Grand Prix qualifying got started with a minimal threat of rain, but the clouds immediately gathered for the championship leader, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Setting off on his first flying lap at the very start of Q1, he slowed down and received a radio message to pull over and stop. Realising the disastrous consequence stopping on track would have for his weekend, he questioned “Are you sure?” and instead drove slowly back around the track in an attempt to make it back to the pits. Whatever the issue was, it appeared to rectify itself as he drove around and he set off on another flyer. This he completed, and went fastest with a 1:20.939 on the Soft tyres, seemingly comfortably through into Q2, and he withdrew to the pits to get the car looked at.
This was quite a bit faster than any other early lappers, putting him ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Pascal Wehrlein, and the Haas drivers of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. Grosjean had an early spin into the final chicane, seeming to be caught out by wind on corner entry.
Lewis Hamilton then went fastest in his Mercedes, putting in a 1:20.511, with Valtteri Bottas slotting into P3 in the other Mercedes, just 0.052 slower than Vettel’s time. The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo went P4 & P5 with their first laps, with the Spanish duo Carlos Sainz for Toro Rosso and Fernando Alonso for McLaren settling into P6 & P7 respectively. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was the last of the big name drivers to put in a flyer, and he managed P4, 0.6 down on Hamilton’s leading time.
The dropzone was made up of Marcus Ericsson, Vandoorne, Williams’ Lance Stroll, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat with two minutes to go. None of these five managed to rise up the order with their final runs, although they did shuffle around themselves. Kvyat’s lap was particularly disappointing, with teammate Carlos Sainz in the top ten by comparison.
Marcus Ericsson Sauber
Jolyon Palmer Renault
Lance Stroll Williams
Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
The Mercedes and Ferrari drivers didn’t dilly-dally, and went straight out on track to set their first times. Valtteri Bottas aborted his first lap after a little lock up into the first corner, but recovered to go P2 behind Hamilton. Raikkonen went P3 behind the two Mercs, 0.4 down on the same tyres. Daniel Ricciardo went P4 in his Red Bull, before being outstripped by Verstappen.
Sebastian Vettel then underlined Ferrari’s pace, putting in a 1:20.3 go to 0.085 behind Lewis Hamilton to set up a good Q3 showdown, with Bottas and Raikkonen not far behind either. Behind the Red Bulls in P5 & P6, Carlos Sainz continued his strong home showing by placing P7, Force India’s Esteban Ocon P8, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen P9 & McLaren’s Fernando Alonso threatening Q3 by going P10 with his first run.
The drop zone was Grosjean, Massa, Hulkenberg, Perez & Wehrlein with four minutes remaining. Last minute attempts to improve saw Hulkenberg rise to P8 in his Renault, but Romain Grosjean blew his final lap by making an error at the chicane. Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso also both improved on their final laps to demote Carlos Sainz out of the top ten. Joining Sainz on the sidelines were Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean and Pascal Wehrlein.
Kevin Magnussen Haas
Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso
Nico Hulkenberg Renault
Romain Grosjean Haas
Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
With the session looking as though it was going to become another Vettel vs. Hamilton head to head, both were straight out on track ready to battle. Valtteri Bottas was the first Mercedes to put in a lap, putting in a 1:19.4 with a major slide coming out of the final chicane. This was immediately beaten by Lewis Hamilton by 0.3 seconds to put the former Champion on provisional pole position. The two Ferraris were next, with Vettel having to settle for P4 behind Raikkonen. The Finn put in the fastest first sector to go 0.290 seconds slower than Hamilton’s time, while Vettel returned to the pits, requesting that the team look into his energy deployment onto the main straight.
Behind the top four, it was the two Red Bulls, with Verstappen ahead of Ricciardo, with no sign of the bottom four coming out on track. This changed with three minutes to go, with everyone coming out on track for the last runs.
The two Mercedes drivers started their final flyers having had to circulate slowly due to traffic on their outlaps. This didn’t appear to stymie Bottas’ lap, as he was quicker through the first sector than Hamilton, but fell short overall to claim P2. Vettel and Raikkonen both looked as though they might snatch it away from the Mercs right at the chequered flag, but Vettel couldn’t quite manage to match Hamilton and took P2 away from Bottas. It’s an all Finnish second row, with Bottas ahead of Raikkonen.
The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen & Daniel Ricciardo will start from their seemingly now customary P5 & P6, with Fernando Alonso starting from a heroic P7 in the McLaren. Sergio Perez will start from P8 in the first of the Force Indias, while Williams’ Felipe Massa was P9 for Williams. Slowest in Q3 and starting from P10 was Esteban Ocon.