Valtteri Bottas will start a Grand Prix from pole position for the third time in a row on Sunday after a stunning performance in Barcelona qualifying saw him beat Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton by over half a second, with Sebastian Vettel third for Ferrari.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took fourth to split the scarlet cars, beating Charles Leclerc, who was carrying suspected floor damage on his SF90 after heavy contact with the kerbs in Q2. Verstappen’s team mate Pierre Gasly was sixth, ahead of the Haas duo of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, and the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.
It was another mixed session for Renault. Daniel Ricciardo – carrying a three-place grid penalty for his collision with Daniil Kvyat in Baku – rounded out the top 10, but team mate Nico Hulkenberg made a shock Q1 exit after limping back to the pits with a damaged car following an early off at Turn 4. His crew made swift repairs and got him back out, but it was too little too late for the German.
QUALIFYING HIGHLIGHTS: 2019 Spanish Grand Prix
AS IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Hulkenberg falls out after early shunt, as Stroll misses Q2 for ninth straight race
With just a few minutes of qualifying gone, Nico Hulkenberg got badly out of shape going through Turn 4. As he tried to correct a slide, his R.S.19 pushed through the gravel and nerfed the barriers, the soft impact still enough to take off the German’s front wing.
As Hulkenberg made his way slowly back to the pits, he was forced to avoid the spinning Williams of George Russell, who was pushing hard despite the five-place grid penalty he received after his own Turn 4 off during Free Practice 3 forced a change of gearbox.
Hulkenberg’s incident left him on the back foot and saw him fail to make it out of Q1 for the second time this year – despite finishing just 0.019s behind 15th placed team mate Daniel Ricciardo – while Russell recovered to end the segment in a pre-penalty P19.
Out with that pair went the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi, whose team mate Kimi Raikkonen made it through to Q2 in P13, the Racing Point of Lance Stroll – out in Q1 for the ninth consecutive weekend – and the second Williams of Robert Kubica, who was slowest of all.
The first segment, meanwhile, saw Lando Norris finish an impressive P6, a mere 0.632s back from Valtteri Bottas’ Q1-leading time, with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen close at hand too.
Q2 – McLaren fail to convert pace, as Ricciardo squeezes through
As the teams began to turn their wicks up, first Lewis Hamilton then Valtteri Bottas established new track records for the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Bottas ending the segment P1 having posted a 1m 15.924s lap – over seven-tenths faster than Sebastian Vettel could manage in the leading Ferrari in P3.
Having looked rapido all weekend, it was a disappointing Q2 for McLaren, with both Lando Norris and local hero Carlos Sainz failing to make it through to the final part of qualifying. Alexander Albon will have been similarly annoyed not to have joined Toro Rosso team mate Daniil Kvyat in Q3, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez – whose Alfa Romeo and Racing Point cars have looked unhappy so far this weekend – also not making the cut.
And while it may have looked a slightly doubtful statement yesterday, Daniel Ricciardo made good on his belief that he could make it through the Q3, ending the second segment in 10th place in the sole remaining Renault, as the Haas of Romain Grosjean led the midfield challenge in P7.
Q3 – Bottas takes ninth pole with new track record
Valtteri Bottas has looked a man on a mission all through the Spanish Grand Prix weekend – and as the Finn stopped the clocks on a 1m 15. 406s on his first flying lap in Q3, an audible set of “Oooos” rippled through the press room, as a new track record was established.
That first run left him 0.634s clear of team mate Lewis Hamilton as the second runs approached. Ultimately, neither driver would improve, with Bottas claiming his third pole position in a row – and by far the most dominant of his career.
Sebastian Vettel was similarly unable to go faster than his own first effort in Q3, and he finished qualifying third on the grid, a full 0.866s away despite claiming that the car “doesn’t feel bad”.
Max Verstappen did a fine job to split the Ferraris, finishing fourth ahead of Charles Leclerc – the top five incidentally the same as they finished in Baku – while Pierre Gasly was sixth in the second Red Bull.
Haas converted their pace to sit in a midfield class of one, Grosjean ahead of Magnussen, while Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10, Kvyat’s time a full 0.662s back from Grosjean’s.
So, Mercedes maintain their seven Grand Prix streak of poles at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, having put rivals Ferrari well and truly in the shade. But unlike for the last two years it’s a seemingly indomitable Valtteri Bottas, and not Lewis Hamilton, who’ll start the race P1. A fascinating battle awaits.
The key quote
“By the time of Quali 3, it was getting better and better. Really enjoyed that, enjoy the adrenaline rush we get from those laps.
It started well this season and the way I’ve, I feel better and better in the car, so I look forward to tomorrow.” – Valtteri Bottas
Sunday’s race is set to start 1510 local time (that’s 1310 UTC). And while qualifying saw patchy cloud hovering over the track, bright sunshine is forecast for the race itself, with temperatures set to be around the 18 degree Celsius mark.
So after yet another day of Mercedes domination, can Ferrari do anything to stop their rivals driving off into the Spanish sunset? And can Lewis Hamilton get back on terms with his increasingly impressive team mate? You don’t want to miss this one.