Winners and losers from the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying

Sam Cooper
Lando Norris, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz pose for a photo. Barcelona, Spanish Grand Prix June 2023.

Lando Norris, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz pose for a photo. Barcelona, Spain. June 2023.

Another action packed qualifying session as Max Verstappen rose above his competitors to take pole for the Spanish Grand Prix.

It may not have been the nail-biting drama of Monaco but there were plenty of incidents up and down the grid during a tricky session in Barcelona.

Charles Leclerc was an early casualty followed by Sergio Perez and George Russell in Q2 while Lando Norris will start from the second row for the first time since the 2022 Italian Grand Prix.

Here are your winners and losers for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying:


Max Verstappen

On a day when everyone struggled around him, Max Verstappen put in an effortless performance to secure pole yet again.

It was a result plenty had seen coming given his form throughout the practice sessions and perhaps the scariest thing from the view of his competitors was that was not even the Dutchman at his peak. Verstappen set what would be the pole lap early in Q3, giving him the opportunity to abort a later flying lap that looked on course to be even quicker.

Championship rival now seems too generous of a title to bestow upon Perez but Verstappen’s day will only have been made better by hearing the driver closest to him in the standings will be starting a long way behind him.

Lando Norris

A very impressive performance from Norris as he secured his best qualifying result of the season so far. On a track that gave the likes of Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez trouble, Norris was able to make it work to his benefit, in particular that modified last corner.

It was not just Norris who impressed in Payapa colours either with Oscar Piastri making it a double appearance in Q3 for McLaren.

As to how long Norris can hold on to his high position in the race proper remains to be seen but he has given himself a great chance of improving on his season best result of P6.

Pierre Gasly

It was very much a Jekyll and Hyde performance from Gasly for while he finished above the likes of Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and his team-mate Esteban Ocon, his starting position will be much further back due to a pair of penalties handed to him for impeding.

But in terms of the positives, there were plenty to be found for both Gasly and Alpine. Aside from Verstappen, there seems to be a genuine battle between the likes of the French constructor not just with McLaren but Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin as well.

Of the two Alpine drivers, Gasly was the quickest, making it 4-3 in Ocon’s favour so far, and his speed suggested he could have held on to a high position had the stewards not sent him down.

Nico Hülkenberg

It may be one of the lesser spotted stories but Nico Hülkenberg has quietly gone about his business since his return to Formula 1.

Many may have predicted it would be Kevin Magnussen who would be the dominant driver in the Haas pairing but, in qualifying at least, Hülkenberg is leading 5-2.

In Barcelona, he again squeaked into Q3 and his consistent lap times suggest he was pulling every inch of performance out of the VF-23.

In his previous three Q3 appearances this season, he has only once converted it into points but a P8 start, his best since the 2019 Russian Grand Prix, gives him his best opportunity yet of adding to his points tally.


Charles Leclerc

Truth be told, Leclerc has not really looked quick all weekend. No higher than sixth in any of the practice sessions, his speed woes continued into qualifying and a Q1 exit looked likely as soon as his first flying lap kept him in the elimination zone.

Leclerc complained of an issue with the rear but that was nothing Ferrari could do about it as they sent out the 25-year-old hoping his driving talent would be enough to make up for the car’s deficit. Ultimately it was not and Leclerc seemed resigned to his fate when his early exit was confirmed. recommends

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Sergio Perez

If the Monaco Grand Prix was the closing of the lid, qualifying in Spain was the final nail in the coffin of Sergio Perez’s title ambitions. The Mexican’s early season form has disappeared to leave Perez looking like a driver uncomfortable in a car that may as well be king sized bed for his team-mate.

An off during Q2 put the pressure on and even with enough time to get to the line and start another lap, Perez was unable to improve sufficiently enough to make it to Q3.

If Leclerc sounded resigned, the Mexican seemed a little more emotional over the team radio and it is a tough ask for him to cut through the field enough to see Verstappen let alone challenge him.

George Russell

If a team boss could make a list of things they do not want to happen in a qualifying session then ‘your drivers crashing into each other’ would be pretty high up there.

That is exactly what happened to Toto Wolff as he watched on to see Russell brake into the path of Lewis Hamilton, shredding some parts away from the latter’s front wing, and yet it would be the seven-time World Champion who would make it to Q3.

Russell appeared to be one of a number of drivers struggling with the difficulties of the track and the off and on again nature of the rain.

He finished P12 and received a formal warning for his actions during qualifying, so will be hoping for better on Sunday.

Pierre Gasly

We said it was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from Gasly, hence why he has achieved the rare achievement of being both a winner and a loser.

Away from the positives of the speed and his initial placement, a couple of schoolboy errors have cost Gasly dear.

In situations like this, it is often not the driver’s fault for, as was the case with Leclerc in Monaco, it was the team failing to inform their driver of upcoming traffic and Gasly looked unaware in both incidents.

The first time round, Gasly allowed Leclerc to pass but argued he did not have time to do similar with Sainz, something the stewards took a dim view of. Then later he held up Verstappen going into Turn 4 which the Dutchman’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase suspected came because Gasly was unaware his former team-mate was on an out lap, something that was later confirmed by Gasly to the stewards.