Lewis Hamilton booked his 150th front row Formula 1 start with a fifth Spanish GP pole position while Sebastian Vettel’s new chassis couldn’t get him out of Q2.
50’C track temperature, a blustering tailwind into Turn 4 and 13 that picked up prior to qualifying and soft tyres that required management. Those were just some of the challenges that awaited the drivers in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.
With the tyres expected to cause havoc with the traffic, the heavy hitters were quickly into the Q1 action with Lewis Hamilton setting the pace ahead of the two Racing Point drivers, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen.
Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat found themselves under investigation for a Turn 2 incident noted by the stewards while Antonio Giovinazzi asked Alfa Romeo to check his “floor” following a wild ride over the kerbs.
With the top 15 separated by a second 18 of the 20 cars, the Racing Points excluded, headed out for the final three minutes of Q1.
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Hamilton upped his pace to a 1:16.8 with Perez staying second ahead of Verstappen.
Out went: Magnussen, Romain Grosjean, George Russell, Nicholas Latifi and Giovinazzi. For the first time this season Kimi Raikkonen made it through to Q2.
Mercedes were first on the board in Q2, a 1:16.0 for Hamilton putting him a tenth up on Bottas with Verstappen half a second down. Perez briefly looked to be on course to beat the Mercedes drivers only to have a huge moment that cost him time.
Charles Leclerc went P5 with a “horrible lap, really horrible” but it was worse for Sebastian Vettel who was down in 11th and in the drop zone with five minutes to go.
Everyone except the two Mercs and Verstappen headed out again, the entire Q2 field opting for soft tyres, and creating traffic galore as one by one they backed off to make space.
Out went: Vettel, Kvyat, Daniel Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon. Vettel missed out by 0.002s.
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Q3 was all about Hamilton versus Bottas, which of the two Mercedes drivers would take the coveted pole position.
The six-time World Champion laid down a 1:15.584 to sit on provisional pole by 0.059s while Verstappen held off Perez and Stroll for third.
Tip-toeing out of the pits to save their tyres for a final hot lap, Hamilton wasn’t able to improve his time but neither could Bottas. They still, however, held on for a front row lock out in what could be the final weekend that Mercedes gets to use its qualy party mode.
Verstappen was third, his first top three slot at Barcelona.
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Perez, returning to the grid after two weeks in self-isolation following a positive coronavirus test, was fourth ahead of Stroll.
Alex Albon, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Leclerc and Pierre Gasly completed the top ten.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:15.584
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.059s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.708s
4 Sergio Perez Racing Point 0.898s
5 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1.005s
6 Alex Albon Red Bull 1.445s
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1.460s
8 Lando Norris McLaren 1.500s
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1.713s
10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.552s
11 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:17.166
12 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 1:17.192
13 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:17.198
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1:17.386
15 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:17.567
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:17.908
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:18.089
18 George Russell Williams 1:18.099
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:18.532
20 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1:18.697
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