Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton narrowly beat team-mate Valtteri Bottas to pole position at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to give Mercedes their first front-row lockout of the season.
The reigning world champion edged ahead of Bottas by just 0.04 of a second with his second flying lap and was able to nullify the threat from the Ferraris, who gambled on being able to extract more time from the soft tyres.
Changes to the tyres and the track surface have kept the drivers on their toes this weekend, with drivers struggling to eke out performance on the super soft tyre over an entire lap, some took a chance on being able to improve on the soft, a slightly harder compound.
Both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen improved their times by using the soft tyre to finish third and fourth, as did Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (6th), but none were able to challenge the Mercedes drivers.
Max Verstappen’s preferred to use the super soft tyre for his qualifying lap but, like almost all of the top ten, he will start the race on the soft tyre.
Speaking after the session, the Dutchman didn’t believe the super soft tyre would see much action in the race.
“At turn one I had a moment. The gap is maybe a little bit bigger than it should be, but the top three was not possible today,” summarised Verstappen.
“I still don’t know which is the fastest tyre to be honest. I chose super soft, Daniel went on the soft. It was tricky.
“I don’t think many people will choose the super soft because over one lap, you can maybe go a bit faster, but in the longer runs they will just fall apart. So, I think a lot of people will chose the soft and the medium.”
Qualifying Session 1
Brendon Hartley was out of qualifying before the session had even begun. In the final moments of the final free practice session, the Toro Rosso driver placed half-a-wheel onto grass on the approach to turn nine, spinning his car and crashing violently into the barrier.
Toro Rosso were unable to repair the car in time for qualifying, meaning Hartley will start the race from the back of the grid.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg did participate in the session but, thanks to a brief delay due to a fuel pressure issue, he was left with one final flying lap.
However, he was unable to convert his one chance to progress into Q2, finishing down in sixteenth place and ending his 59-race run without being eliminated in Q1, which was the longest streak on the grid until today.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson failed to make it through to the second part of qualifying, as did the Williams pair of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll, with the latter spinning into the gravel trap on the exit of turn twelve in the final moments of Q1.
Qualifying Session 2
With the soft tyre looking to be the much-preferred compound to start the race, many drivers elected to use it to set their Q2 time.
The Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers easily progressed on the soft tyre, whilst the two Haas drivers of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean also made it through to Q3 on softs, as did Renault’s Carlos Sainz.
Fernando Alonso was the only driver to make it through to Q3 whilst using the super soft tyre, meaning he will be the only driver in the top ten to start the race on that compound.
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne almost made the Q3 cut on the soft tyre, but fell agonisingly short in eleventh, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.
Force India didn’t properly threaten the top ten, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finishing thirteenth and fifteenth, separated by the Sauber of Charles Leclerc.
Qualifying Session 3
After all drivers set their first flying laps on the fastest tyre, many drivers were questioning the super soft tyre’s ability to last for an entire qualifying lap, so a few drivers chose to set their second flying lap on the soft compound tyre.
The switch to the soft tyre resulted in improvements for many, with Vettel, Raikkonen and Ricciardo all reducing their lap times.
However, the second flying laps for Hamilton and Bottas were set on the super soft tyres, with the Mercedes pair managing to keep enough life in the tyres over the course of their laps to secure a one-two result, with Hamilton edging Bottas by 0.04 of a second.
Vettel and Raikkonen took an all-Ferrari second row, whilst the two Red Bulls were separated by just two thousandths of a second, with Verstappen’s super soft tyre run marginally faster than Ricciardo’s soft tyre effort.
Magnussen ended the hour as the fastest of the midfield by taking seventh place for Haas, ahead of Alonso – who secured McLaren’s best qualifying result of the season – Sainz and Grosjean.
All images: Motorsport Images
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SPANISH GRAND PRIX, Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m16.173s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m16.213s 0.040s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m16.305s 0.132s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m16.612s 0.439s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m16.816s 0.643s
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m16.818s 0.645s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m17.676s 1.445s
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m17.721s 1.526s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m17.790s 1.548s
10 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m17.835s 1.617s
11 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m18.323s 2.150s
12 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m18.463s 2.290s
13 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m18.696s 2.523s
14 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m18.910s 2.737s
15 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m19.098s 2.925s
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m18.923s 2.750s
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m19.493s 3.320s
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m19.695s 3.522s
19 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m20.225s 4.052s
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda No Time