Max Verstappen has taken his maiden pole at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as several pre-race favourites ran into difficulty to set a mixed grid for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Verstappen never looked challenged in Q3, a 1:12.272, set on his first run, pipping hometown hero Carlos Sainz by nearly half a second on his march to his fourth pole of 2023.
Sainz will start off the front row, salvaging some hope for Ferrari after Charles Leclerc was knocked out in Q1, the Monegasque driver complaining of setup difficulties which sees him start a lowly 19th.
The front three rows are made up of six different teams, with Lando Norris taking third for McLaren and Pierre Gasly taking fourth for Alpine. Gasly is, however, under investigation for impeding both Sainz and Verstappen in Q1, both appearing as slam dunk offences.
Lewis Hamilton was the best of the Mercedes drivers in fifth despite taking contact from teammate George Russell in Q2. The seven-time champion was able to progress to Q3, however Russell was eliminated and starts tomorrow’s race from 12th, investigation pending.
Sergio Perez was the other shock elimination in Q2, the Mexican forced to settle for 11th having run onto the gravel on his final flyer.
Lance Stroll bounced back to form following a difficult Monaco Grand Prix to qualify sixth, outperforming his teammate, another hometown hero, Fernando Alonso, who starts ninth.
Alonso was one of several drivers to run into early trouble in Q1 as a slick track, from recent rain, caused problems. The Spaniard ran through the gravel exiting Turn 14, with Alpine indicating his floor may have been damaged as a result.
Esteban Ocon backed up his shock Monaco podium to qualify seventh, ahead of Niko Hulkenberg who gets the nod at eighth. Oscar Piastri rounds out the top 10.
Tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix begins at 1.00 am and will be shown live on Sky Sport,
As it Happened
Rain had threatened qualifying from the outset, but a gap in the clouds saw the session begin in the dry with dark clouds continuing to loom.
Light drizzle began to fall in the paddock as the lights went green, teams quickly taking to the track for a banker lap on slick tyres.
Yuki Tsunoda was an immediate victim of the damp surface, spinning on his out lap and having to box for a fresh set of tyres.
Valtteri Bottas was the next driver off, almost beaching in the gravel but able to resume. Several other competitors were also immediately in the wars, Fernando Alonso, Nyck De Vries, Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon all experiencing off-track ventures, bringing out an early red flag.
De Vries had another spin when running resumed but was quick to respond to go seventh fastest next time around.
Gasly may find himself in trouble following the session, the French driver impeding Sainz’s first flying lap while on a cool down, before giving Verstappen the same treatment just minutes later.
With 5 minutes to run in Q1 both Perez and Leclerc sat in the bottom five, setting up a dramatic final showdown to see who would progress to Q2.
Times tumbled on the final runs, Perez escaping in 15th but Leclerc knocked out in 19th and struggling for pace. The other drivers eliminated in Q1 were Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant.
Conditions remained clear and track conditions continued to evolve which saw Verstappen immediately set the benchmark in Q2.
Perez’s hard day would continue in Q2, the Mexican ruining a fresh set of soft tyres and running through the Turn 5 gravel on his flyer.
He had time for one more run and was able to set a second time, however fell short of Q3 and will start 11th. Russell also failed to progress, the Brit also making contact with Hamilton entering Turn 1 as he swerved to avoid a slower car, damaging his teammate’s wing in an incident which would be investigated after the session.
Russell will start 12th, with Guanyu Zhou, De Vries and Tsunoda the other drivers eliminated.
With two sets of tyres up his sleeve Verstappen immediately set the benchmark in Q3, a 1:12.272 nearly 1 second faster than the pack.
That time would be enough for the defending champion to take pole, no one able to knock him off his perch on the final lap.
Sainz managed to salvage a miserable day to go second quickest, while Norris and Gasly lockout the second row. Hamilton will start fifth next to Stroll, with Ocon, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Piastri rounding out the top 10.
Spanish Grand Prix Starting Grid
Header Image: Planet F1