Max Verstappen will start the Spanish Grand Prix from pole position while Sergio Perez is down in 11th place, Charles Leclerc P19 and the Mercedes team-mates collided.
The Red Bull driver laid down a 1:12.2 in Q3 to beat Carlos Sainz by almost half a second with Lando Norris third fastest.
The drivers queued up at the end of the pit lane with reports of a few drops of rain falling with Yuki Tsunoda caught out, sideways into the gravel at Turn 12.
Fernando Alonso was also off the track, his moment at Turn 14, while Valtteri Bottas also dropped it at Turn 12 with Race Control putting out the reds only for the Alfa Romeo to get going. They weren’t the only ones to have moments with Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant in the gravel and Nyck de Vries spinning.
Nico Hulkenberg was quickest at the time of the red flag, only to lose his time for exceeding track limits, promoting Pierre Gasly to P1. 12 drivers hadn’t set times with Race Control revealing the stoppage was because of the gravel on the track.
When the session restarted the Ferraris were near the front of the queue, as was Verstappen. While the Dutchman went quickest of all, Leclerc was slowest of all while Gasly got in Carlos Sainz’s way – “he should get a penalty for that” – and De Vries brought out the yellows as he spun. Gasly also impeded Verstappen, a clear “three-place” penalty said Alonso who was behind the two on the track.
Oscar Piastri went P2, and Lewis Hamilton was up to third. Leclerc upped his pace but was only good enough for P17, the Ferrari driver one place behind Sergio Perez with both in the drop zone. Bad timing as Leclerc was called into the weigh bridge as he came in for a change of tyres.
Hamilton topped the timesheet in Q1 with a 1:12.937 while Perez pulled himself out of the drop zone with a P15-worthy time, but Leclerc just didn’t have the pace to do so and finished P19. Out went Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, Albon, Leclerc and Sargeant.
Verstappen was the first driver to post a time in Q2, the reigning World Champion putting in a 1:12.760 with Perez on used tyres eight-tenths off the pace. Hamilton split the Red Bulls with Alonso and Esteban Ocon also leapfrogging the Mexican driver, who began to sink towards the drop zone.
Perez came back out on new soft tyres for his second run, the driver down in eighth place, while this time Verstappen went with used rubber. And then off went Perez, wrecking his brand new tyres. With Lando Norris jumping up to second, Perez fell into the drop zone and wasn’t able to work his way out.
He went out along with George Russell, who collided with Hamilton as the seven-time World Champ tried to pass him around the outside as Russell moved left to avoid a Ferrari, plus Zhou Guanyu, De Vries and Tsunoda.
Verstappen and Sainz, flying the flags alone for their teams, were the first out in Q3 with the Dutchman laying down a 1:12.272 with Hamilton – with a new front wing on his W14 – up to second but nine-tenths off the pace. Alonso was stuck in the pits as Aston Martin worked on the right of the Spaniard’s car.
Hulkenberg was the first to put in his final run, the Haas driver receiving a round of applause as he jumped up to third. The other nine drivers, though, had yet to venture out. As they did the crowd roared as Sainz moved up to second place behind Verstappen, 0.4s down on the P1 time.
Verstappen didn’t even complete his hot lap such was his advantage in first place, Sainz finishing qualifying P2 ahead of Norris and Gasly, the latter though dropping six places on the grid to P10 for a pair of impeding penalties.
Hamilton was fifth ahead of Lance Stroll, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Piastri.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:12.272
2 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.462
3 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.520
4 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.544
5 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.546
6 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.722
7 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.811
8 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +0.957
9 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +1.235
10 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.410
11 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing 1:13.334
12 George RUSSELL Mercedes 1:13.447
13 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo 1:13.521
14 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri 1:14.083
15 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri 1:14.477
16 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo 1:13.977
17 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team 1:14.042
18 Alexander ALBON Williams 1:14.063
19 Charles LECLERC Ferrari 1:14.079
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams 1:14.699