What slim hopes Scuderia Ferrari had that its Spanish Grand Prix upgrades would bring it back into contention with rivals Mercedes-AMG were laid to waste after Valtteri Bottas’ commanding performance in qualifying at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The current championship leader put in one of the best one-lap displays of his career to claim pole position by a whopping 0.6 seconds – ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, no less – as the Finn sought to stamp his authority at the start of Formula 1’s ‘European’ leg of the 2019 season.
Two victories, two second place finishes and an all important bonus point for fastest lap means Bottas leads the Drivers’ Championsip standings by one point over Hamilton. Bottas is seemingly a transformed driver since a lacklustre 2018 campaign where he was roundly thrashed by his teammate, but this time it is Bottas who is turning the spotlight on Hamilton with his third pole position in a row. In Hamilton’s defence, his gap back to Bottas is attributed to a scruffy lap rather than a lack of pace.
Mercedes-AMG has enjoyed a comfortable margin to arch rivals Ferrari all weekend, and on the back of qualifying it would appear all but certain that the Silver Arrows’ unbeaten run of 1-2 finishes this season will extend to a fifth Grand Prix.
Ferrari will be reeling, with the best of its cars – third-placed Sebastian Vettel – languishing over eight-tenths of a second off Bottas’ staggering Q3 effort. His teammate Charles Leclerc had another untidy qualifying session, knocking bodywork loose by running wide at Turn 9 en route to qualifying fifth-fastest behind Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
The Italian team brought a plethora of upgrades to its cars, including a new engine, but they have failed to close the gap. If anything, Mercedes has extended its advantage with its own set of upgrades and while the Ferrari is quicker in a straight line the SF90’s failings were evident through the twistier corners that dominate the final sector of the lap.
If anything, the Ferraris could be looking in their mirrors after being run close by Red Bull Racing on Saturday afternoon. Max Verstappen managed to split their pair and secure fourth on the grid, while teammate Pierre Gasly showed he is steadily improving in his first year with the top Red Bull team by claiming sixth.
The Haas team claimed ‘best of the rest’ honours with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen locking out the fourth row of the grid ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
Daniel Ricciardo drove heroically to get his recalcitrant Renault into Q3 and qualify tenth-fastest, but the Australian will carry a three-place grid penalty for reversing into Kvyat in Azerbaijan. His teammate Nico Hülkenberg gave himself a long Sunday afternoon by crashing into the Turn 3 wall during Q1.
Neither McLaren was able to make the Q3 cut and for the first time in his career Carlos Sainz Jr. was outqualified on home soil by a teammate; Lando Norris managed a fine eleventh to beat the 13th-placed Spaniard. They were split by the second Toro Rosso of Alex Albon, while Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen and Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez were the slowest runners during Q2.
Joining Hülkenberg in the early bath known as the Q1 elimination zone were the grid’s usual four suspects. Predictably both Williams’ of George Russell and Robert Kubica will fill the back row of the grid, behind Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi in 17th and 18th respectively.
|FORMULA 1 EMIRATES GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2019 – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:15.406|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:16.040||+ 0.634|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:16.272||+ 0.866|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:16.357||+ 0.951|
|5.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:16.588||+ 1.182|
|6.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:16.708||+ 1.302|
|7.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:16.911||+ 1.505|
|8.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:16.922||+ 1.516|
|9.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:17.573||+ 2.167|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:18.106||+ 2.700|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:17.338||+ 1.464|
|12.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:17.445||+ 1.521|
|13.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:17.599||+ 1.675|
|14.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:17.788||+ 1.864|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:17.886||+ 1.962|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|16.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:18.404||+ 1.425|
|17.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:18.471||+ 1.492|
|18.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:18.664||+ 1.685|
|19.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:19.072||+ 2.093|
|20.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:20.254||+ 3.275|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:15.924 posted by Valtteri Bottas
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:16.979 posted by Valtteri Bottas
- Daniel Ricciardo – who provisionally qualified 10th-fastest – will serve a 3-place grid penalty for causing an avoidable collision at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
- George Russell – who provisionalled qualified 19th-fastest – will serve a 5-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Images via Mercedes-AMG F1 Team