Lewis Hamilton took pole for the Spanish Grand Prix with a qualifying performance that proved to be untouchable across every session. He beat his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas into second place as the team demonstrated once more they are completely dominant in the single-lap discipline this season.
Max Verstappen was in third for Red Bull, seven-tenths back, but will be optimistic he can compete strongly on race day as he did to win the last round at Silverstone. Sergio Pérez was in fourth for Racing Point with his teammate Lance Stroll in fifth.
Having led every session, on his first hot run in Q3, Hamilton set the benchmark with a time of 1min 15.584sec, five-hundredths of a second in front of Bottas. Hamilton had nailed the final sector with a precision that made the difference. On their final laps Bottas looked for every inch but could not find enough to match his teammate and with neither driver improving, Hamilton had done enough again. He had been pushed and yet, as has been the case so often this season, had a tiny margin that Bottas could not bridge.
The gap to Verstappen’s was a chasm and this week however there will be no counter tyre strategy for Red Bull to run as they did at Silverstone, with all the leading teams setting their best times on the same soft tyres.
For Hamilton it was an immediate comeback after being beaten to the top spot by Bottas at the last round at Silverstone. With his fifth pole at the Spanish GP he has extended his career record to 92 and once more demonstrated his superiority in qualifying this year. He has four poles to Bottas’s two, while Mercedes remain unbeaten over the single lap this year. He has also laid claim to another F1 record as the first driver to reach 150 front row starts.
Last week both Mercedes drivers looked to have a comfortable pace advantage in qualifying but during the race suffered with severe tyre blistering on the softer compound of tyres and in the heat of Silverstone. Verstappen went on to win there and although the harder rubber is being used in Barcelona, the temperatures remain high.
Hamilton pointedly noted that there was no sign of tyre problems before the race at Silverstone and was cautious as to how they might yet perform here on Sunday. Red Bull also once more looked very strong on long-run pace in practice, focussing once more on maximising their chances to challenge over the distance rather the single lap, where Mercedes still retain a clear advantage.
This is 30th GP to be held in Barcelona and the 50th Spanish Grand Prix. With the teams testing here pre-season the circuit is well known and Mercedes were very much on top back in February. Certainly on practice form that remains the case, they held the top two spots in all three practice sessions with Hamilton quickest on Saturday morning. However it was much cooler during testing and certainly Red Bull have made steps in the development of their car.
Verstappen’s win at Silverstone relaunched his title challenge. He now trails Hamilton by 30 points and is four ahead of Bottas. The margin of Hamilton’s lead would be much smaller had Verstappen not failed to finish at the first round in Austria. The title fight remains open for all three drivers but Hamilton will want to establish as big a buffer a possible, with a run from pole to the flag. Bottas as the main challenger cannot allow the six-times world champion to extend his lead any further or lose points to Verstappen.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was ninth, while his teammate Sebastian Vettel’s travails continued however knocked out again in Q2 in 11th. Alexander Albon was sixth for Red Bull. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were in seventh and eighth, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in 10th.
Renault’s Esteban Ocon took a heavy crash in the last minutes of final practice. The driver was unhurt and the team managed to repair the car and he finished in 15th. Kimi Raikkonen made it into Q2 for the first time this season finishing in 14th. Daniil Kvyat was in 12th for AlphaTauri with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in 13th.
Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were in 16th and 17th for Haas. George Russell was in 18th in front of his Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi, with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi in 20th.