Lewis Hamilton has narrowly claimed qualifying honours for the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona by mere fractions – just 0.051 seconds, to be precise – from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Fastest in Saturday afternoon’s two knockout qualifying stages, Hamilton set an ultimately unbeatable benchmark on his first Q3 run with a time of 1:19.149. His lap time was a full 2.851 seconds faster than his pole-winning time from last year, underscoring the impact of the sport’s new aerodynamic regulations.
Pole position marked the 64th of the three-time World Champion’s illustrious career, putting him one short of drawing level with the record of his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna and five short of breaking Michael Schumacher’s tally of 68 to become the sport’s greatest one-lap specialist.
If anything was going to overshadow Hamilton’s own achievement, however, it would be that of crowd favourite Fernando Alonso for hauling his stubborn McLaren Honda into Q3 for the first time this season. The Spaniard ultimately qualified a sensational seventh-fastest, ahead of the Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon, who sandwiched Williams’ Felipe Massa.
The result was roundly celebrated by the team and by many fans, but if anything that only served to reflect just how far the team’s fortunes – and those of the entire paddock – have plummeted. With Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne unable to get off the back row of the grid, the result further cemented Alonso’s credentials at being able to drive above and beyond his car’s limited potential.
Vettel’s second place on the grid was itself something of a surprise, given the German hadn’t looked like he would take part in qualifying after his Ferrari had to have a complete power unit change after final practice when his team discovered the motor he’d run until that point had sprung a water leak.
With his mechanics having done a sterling job in the two-hour gap between sessions, Vettel was instructed over the pit-to-car radio to pull off the circuit at the start of Q1. The problem turned out to be little more than a software programming issue, and Vettel was able to successfully reboot his settings and continue.
The second row of the grid was an all-Finnish affair, with Russian Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas sneaking ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen. The top four on the grid were covered by less than three-tenths of a second.
The grid’s third row was, as expected, a Red Bull Racing lockout. Max Verstappen, the winner of last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, was fifth-fastest ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Verstappen’s time was a tick over half-a-second off pole, marking the most competitive showing in qualifying from the RB13 all season.
A number of drivers could consider themselves unlucky not to have sneaked into the final qualifying round at the end of a closely-fought Q2 session. Alonso’s miracle run to snatch the final place knocked Haas’ Kevin Magnussen into eleventh. The Dane finished less than one-tenth of a second clear of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr and Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, neither of whom was able to replicate their practice pace.
Magnussen’s teammate Romain Grosjean was fourteenth-fastest, while an impressive Pascal Wehrlein hustled his Sauber into Q2 although proved to be the slowest runner of that session.
With the Ferrari-powered C36 proving more competitive thanks to its latest upgrades, Wehrlein’s teammate Marcus Ericsson just missed out on his first Q2 showing by a scant five-thousandths of a second and will start sixteenth.
Jolyon Palmer was bumped out at the first hurdle for the fourth time in five races as the Renault driver continued his struggle in comparison to his teammate.
Experiencing a similar dilemma was Williams rookie Lance Stroll, who was only a quarter of a second off teammate Massa’s pace in Q1. The deficit proved enough for the Canadian teenager to qualify a lowly 18th-fastest ahead of fellow rookie Stoffel Vandoorne, who is yet to make it beyond the first session.
A year from his demotion to Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat marked the anniversary in the worst possible way by qualifying slowest of all. Suffering balance problems the entire weekend so far, the Russian was almost a second off teammate Sainz Jr’s pace and declared his STR12 ‘undriveable’.
Sunday’s 66-lap Spanish Grand Prix will start at 14:00 local time (GMT +2).
|FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA PIRELLI 2017 – FINAL QUALIFYING RESULTS|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Tyre|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:19.149|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||1:19.200||+ 0.051|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:19.373||+ 0.224|
|4.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||1:19.439||+ 0.290|
|5.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||1:19.706||+ 0.557|
|6.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||1:20.175||+ 1.026|
|7.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Honda MCL32||1:21.048||+ 1.899|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||1:21.070||+ 1.921|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||1:21.232||+ 2.083|
|10.||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||1:21.272||+ 2.123|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Tyre|
|11.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||1:21.329||+ 1.119|
|12.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||1:21.371||+ 1.161|
|13.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||1:21.397||+ 1.187|
|14.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||1:21.517||+ 1.307|
|15.||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||1:21.803||+ 1.593|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*||Tyre|
|16.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||1:22.332||+ 1.821|
|17.||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||1:22.401||+ 1.890|
|18.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||1:22.411||+ 1.900|
|19.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren-Honda MCL32||1:22.532||+ 2.021|
|20.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||1:22.746||+ 2.235|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:20.511 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:20.210 posted by Lewis Hamilton
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team