Max Verstappen stormed to pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix by a margin of half-a-second as a series of big names faltered, unable to make the top ten.
Verstappen’s time of 1:12.272 saw him outqualify Carlos Sainz by 0.462s. McLaren’s Lando Norris will line up in third while Pierre Gasly qualified fourth but is facing an investigation from the stewards having impeded a number of drivers during the session.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was a shock elimination in Q1 while Sergio Perez narrowly avoided consecutive Q1 eliminations by just one tenth of a second. Leclerc will start tomorrow’s race from 19th.
Despite scraping through into Q2, Perez was unable to do the same for Q3. The Mexican qualified 11th and has now failed to make Q3 since Miami.
George Russell was also unable to make it through to the top ten shootout. The Briton had struggled in Q1, but he reported bouncing and an inability to get the tyres in the right window in Q2. Adding to his woes, he made contact with teammate Lewis Hamilton on the main straight, causing damage to the front wing of Lewis Hamilton.
A queue formed at the end of the pitlane as Q1 got underway, with drivers keen to get onto the track quickly as the first drops of rain started to fall.
A red flag was thrown early in Q1 after spins for Yuki Tsunoda, Nyck de Vries and Valtteri Bottas at Turns 11 and 12. The track was evidently damper than expected as Fernando Alonso and Alex Albon also had excursions off circuit.
The FIA confirmed that the stoppage was for “gravel on track that needed to be cleaned up”.
Nyck de Vries spun again between Turns 11 and 12 where water draining off the track was causing drivers difficulty.
Leclerc was facing elimination with five minutes left on the clock. The Monegasque reported an issue with the rear of his Ferrari, and, when returning to the pitlane for a new set of tyres, was called to the weighbridge adding further pressure.
The track ramped up in the dying moments of Q1, with lap times dropping by over half a second. Leclerc managed to jump from 17th to 11th fastest, but last years pole sitter was promptly demoted to 19th as the track improved drastically.
Sergio Perez narrowly avoided consecutive Q1 eliminations, scraping through to the second phase of the session by 0.1s.
Max Verstappen dropped from P1 to 9th amongst the late improvements, leaving Hamilton, Norris and Russell as the top three from Q1.
Eliminated from Q1 were Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc and Logan Sargeant.
In the second stage of qualifying, Verstappen was fastest once again, but was closely matched by Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz who were both within 0.030s of Verstappen’s benchmark of 1:12.760.
Perez continued to be adrift of teammate Verstappen and looked at risk of elimination again. The Mexican made a mistake at Turn 5 on what would have been his final run, but instead ended running through the gravel. He was forced to try again on dirty tyres but was only fast enough for 11th, missing out on Q3 by 0.051.
George Russell also failed to make Q3, qualifying 12th. Replays showed that the two Mercedes drivers had made contact on the main straight when passing a slow Carlos Sainz three-wide.
The incident had caused some major damage to the front wing of Hamilton’s W14, but unlike Russell, he was safely through to Q3 in 4th. The team replaced the front wing before Q3, and were happy that there was no further damage to the car.
The two high profile eliminations allowed Oscar Piastri and Nico Hulkenberg to progress onto the top ten shootout. Both Alpine’s and Aston Martin’s also made it through.
Eliminated from Q2 were Perez, Russell, Guanyu Zhou, Nyck de Vries and Yuki Tsunoda.
After the first runs in Q3, Verstappen was once again the class of the field. His provisional pole time of 1:12.272 saw him sit over nine-tenths of a second ahead of closest rival Lewis Hamilton.
Haas had sent Hulkenberg out on an empty track for his one and only run. The German had managed to drag his VF-23 to a provisional P3, aided by a host of high profile exits.
Again, the track ramped up for the final lap but no-one was able to threaten Verstappen’s benchmark.
Verstappen didn’t need to improve on his 1:12.272 as Carlos Sainz, the next fastest driver, could only manage to get within 0.5 seconds of the Dutchman.
Lando Norris managed to claim P3 ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman is facing a steward’s investigation for various incidents of impeding throughout the session.
Hamilton qualified 5th fastest ahead of Stroll, Ocon and Hulkenberg. Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri complete the top ten.