Verstappen takes Spanish GP pole ahead of Sainz and Norris

Verstappen takes Spanish GP pole ahead of Sainz and Norris

Max Verstappen will start Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix race from the first row, with Carlos Sainz second and Lando Norris third.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen produced a blistering lap time to take the pole for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with a lap time of 1:12.272s, despite an early rain shower interfering with the qualifying session.

Local fans present at the track had something to celebrate as they gave Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz loud applause after he qualified second for the race, ahead of Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly. However, the Alpine driver is under investigation by the stewards on two counts of impeding other drivers.

A few top ranking drivers were eliminated early, including Sergio Perez and George Russell, who both failed to place in the top ten, and Charles Leclerc, who missed the first cut and ended up P19 on the grid due to handling issues.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who had just won back-to-back races in Miami and Monaco, was without a doubt the overwhelming favorite for the pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix going into qualifying. He had completely dominated this weekend’s practice sessions including this morning’s FP3, which was essentially a washout.

After the morning session the rain stopped leaving only a few puddles scattered around at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Even yet, there was still enough of a danger in the sky to make teams cautious of being surprised by more downpour at some point during the qualification. It turns out that moment didn’t take long to arrive.

There was no doubt which tire all the teams had chosen to begin their campaign on—the soft slick compound—despite some sprinkling rain. Yuki Tsunoda in his AlphaTauri demonstrated how risky this choice was by half-spinning on a tricky wet area at turn 11 and momentarily dipping into the gravel.

Russell, who had also encountered a wet section confirmed rain was coming as he yanked the Mercedes back into the track. Fernando Alonso, driving an Aston Martin, ran wide into the gravel coming out of the final curve and was fortunate to avoid a serious crash as he recovered. When he returned to the garage, the mechanics were prompted to take a look at the AMR23’s floor.

The red flag was instead brought by Valtteri Bottas at turn 11 after he lost control of his car. Despite the fact that the Alfa Romeo was able to advance further on its own, there were more incidents at the racetrack, with Alex Albon spinning out at turn five and Nyck de Vries losing control of his car at turn 11.

Race control decided that as a result of the volume of gravel being flung onto the racing line, the marshals required some time to begin sweeping the track clear before the rain briefly ramped up.

Only seven drivers had managed to complete a timed lap at the moment, with Pierre Gasly of Alpine posting the fastest time with a time of 1:14.618s, two tenths faster than his teammate Esteban Ocon, who was followed by Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen, and Lewis Hamilton, as well as Russell and Alonso’s noticeably slower compromised efforts.

For a brief while, Nico Hulkenberg had been ranked first, but the Haas time had been terminated after it was found to have violated track limits. When the cars rejoined to the track with 14 minutes remaining on the clock, the rain had stopped falling severely to allow for some laps.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in their Ferraris claimed the lead, eager to get to work before more downpours threatened to muddle things even more. Logan Sargeant had benefited somewhat from the delay as Williams mechanics had been hard at work repairing his car following its final practice crash. The FW45 was now finally prepared to take to the track.

Verstappen successfully regained control of the timesheets with a lap time of 1:13.660s, while McLaren’s Oscar Piastri only 0.0333 seconds behind. Sainz was in fifth place but had a close call with Gasly as the Alpine exited the pit lane. The stewards noted the close call and will look into it after the session is over.

De Vries went up to seventh place after he completed a trouble-free lap, ahead of drivers like Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso, and Bottas was in tenth after being given the all-clear to restart following his previous incident. Leclerc, who was stuck in P17, was the one who was really under pressure.

Russell’s most recent lap was only good enough for eighth place, as Lewis Hamilton was complaining about his tyres despite being third. Additionally, as he returned to pit lane, he was required to go to the weighbridge, which was a waste of time he could have done without.

The cost of waiting it out in the pit lane was too high for everyone. Lance Stroll moved up to third place and finished just 0.151s behind Verstappen, who having shaved a few hundredths off his pace with a lap of 1:13.615.

Sergio Perez, who had fallen to P16, was also rushing to make sufficient time, but the Red Bull found safety and finished fourth with his final effort. Verstappen was knocked off first place by Gasly in 1:13.471, however the stewards were informed of a potential impeding incident on Verstappen.

Hamilton topped the field with a time of 1:12.937s, beating Norris, Russell, Sainz, and Hulkenberg. Gasly and de Vries were passed by Ocon, dropping Verstappen to ninth place. But by this point, it was obvious that Leclerc was actually battling to stay in the race and that something was wrong with the Ferrari. He remained in 19th place after the last laps were completed, squeezed between the two Williams cars, which signaled an early end to his qualifying session.

Leclerc, Albon, and Sargeant were not able to make to the next round, along with Bottas and Magnussen. Perez had just eked out a victory by ranking 15th, but it was important to note that he had survived to battle again.

There was no rush for the cars to get back on the track when it turned green again given no further rain was anticipated and most sections had already mostly dried off. Verstappen led Perez back into action as the Red Bulls were eager to avoid any gridlock and start to work. He completed the quickest lap so far this weekend with a time of 1:12.760s, more than eight tenths faster than his teammate.

Everyone else needed to start performing as there were only a little more than ten minutes left. Despite tyre and bouncing issues, Russell made enough progress to temporarily pass Hamilton for second, but Hamilton was forced to retreat. Russell was overtaken by the Aston Martins of Alonso and Stroll.

Ocon then overtook the racing green pair for third place, and it wasn’t until Hamilton completed a flawless lap that he moved up to second place, behind Verstappen by just 0.239 seconds. After the initial Q2 runs were finished, the five drivers who faced elimination were Norris and Piastri of McLaren, de Vries and Tsunoda of AlphaTauri, and Hulkenberg of the surviving Haas following Magnussen’s early Q1 retirement.

The cars proceeded to the track with four minutes left for their final runs in order to advance to the final round of the pole shoot-out. Hulkenberg made a quick ascent into the top ten, but Perez faced more difficulties when his car ran off the track at turn five after dipping a wheel onto the grass.

Everything depended on his final run, and even though it was close enough to Verstappen’s time to get him within six tenths, it wasn’t fast enough to get him in.

Russell, who was only 12th after clumsily colliding with his teammate at turn 1, was equally frustrated and unable to get a clean run. He had not been informed by the Mercedes pit wall that there was a car on the inside, much less that it was his own teammate, and as a result, chopped the endplate off Hamilton’s front wing. The stewards are going to address that incident and any potential punishment for Russell this evening.

Fortunately, Hamilton was already securely through in fourth and didn’t need to make another move. Zhou Guanyu and the AlphaTauri twins de Vries and Tsunoda were those less fortunate and joined Perez and Russell on the bench for the remainder of the day.

Surprisingly, those that passed included Hulkenberg in P10 together with the two McLarens, the two Alpines, and a pair of Astons.

2023 F1 SPANISH GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING RESULTS

POS.DRIVERNAT.TEAMQ1Q2Q3
1Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing1m13.615s1m12.760s1m12.272s
2Carlos SainzESPScuderia Ferrari1m13.411s1m12.790s1m12.734s
3Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1m13.295s1m12.776s1m12.792s
4Pierre GaslyFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1m13.471s1m14.185s1m12.816s
5Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team1m12.937s1m12.999s1m12.818s
6Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team1m13.766s1m14.038s1m12.994s
7Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1m13.433s1m13.001s1m13.083s
8Nico HulkenbergGERMoneyGram Haas F1 Team1m13.420s1m13.283s1m13.229s
9Fernando AlonsoESPAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team1m13.747s1m13.098s1m13.507s
10Oscar PiastriAUSMcLaren F1 Team1m13.691s1m13.772s1m13.682s
11Sergio PerezMEXOracle Bull Racing1m13.874s1m13.334s 
12George RussellGBRMercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team1m13.326s1m13.447s 
13Zhou GuanyuCHNAlfa Romeo F1 Team Stake1m13.677s1m13.521s 
14Nyck de VriesNEDScuderia AlphaTauri1m13.581s1m14.083s 
15Yuki TsunodaJPNScuderia AlphaTauri 1m13.862s1m14.477s 
16Valtteri BottasFINAlfa Romeo F1 Team Stake1m13.977s  
17Kevin MagnussenDENMoneyGram Haas F1 Team1m14.042s  
18Alex AlbonTHAWilliams Racing1m14.063s  
19Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1m14.079s  
20Logan SargeantUSAWilliams Racing1m14.699s

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