What the teams said – Qualifying in Spain
They had looked the cars to beat all through practice and so it proved, with Hamilton grabbing pole by half a tenth from his team mate for his 150th front-row start. In truth neither driver nailed their last flying lap but they had already done enough to secure another front row lock-out. It was the reigning world champion’s fifth pole here and he will be confident of turning that into a fifth win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – but he’ll have to keep an eye on Bottas down to Turn 1, with every chance that the Finn could use the slipstream to get past…
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:15.584
"This is a great result for the team and I'm grateful for everyone continuing to push. It was very hot and quite gusty out there which made for a tricky session. We changed a few things overnight, made a good step forward and I was pretty happy with my first laps in each Qualifying session. The first Q3 lap was really solid but there was still a bit of room for improvement. But my second lap wasn't particularly great and I just couldn't go quicker. In the end, it was very close with Valtteri out there, he's keeping me on my toes and every millisecond counts. Tomorrow is going to be challenging, as the race scenario is completely different. Over a single lap, we seem to have the edge, but Red Bull's race pace looks strong and the run down to Turn 1 is very long, so I'm expecting a tough battle."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:15.643
"I knew it was going to be close with Lewis, but he did a really nice and clean lap on that first run in Q3. Particularly in sector three, where I've been struggling a bit all through today. The balance of the car wasn't quite right for me in that sector, but it kept getting better and better through Qualifying. In the end, it just wasn't quite good enough, which is a little annoying. Lewis did a good job and it's been another really strong performance as a team that we can be proud of. Looking to tomorrow, my long runs have been competitive but the person at the front always has the best chance, so that long run down to Turn 1 at the start will be my best opportunity and I'll try to get there first. The Red Bull looked very strong in the long runs, so I'm sure they'll be quick tomorrow as well."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"It was a good day in the office, and we can be pleased with today's result. Again, we were able to put in a strong Qualifying performance, but we know that tomorrow is what counts. It's expected to be as hot here as it was at Silverstone last weekend, and we saw what happened there - the Red Bull was clearly the fastest in race trim. Looking at the long runs on Friday, they're expected to be the benchmark tomorrow, so we need to have a clever race, manage it from the front, knowing the quickest car on track will likely be behind us with Verstappen. We'll be pushing hard to get the most points we can and take the win, but if that's not possible then it will be focusing on the best damage limitation in these tricky conditions."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"Well done to the drivers and the team on a very solid front row lockout. Whilst it's nice to have both cars at the front, the last race was a stark reminder that the points are handed out on Sunday and it doesn't matter how much you are on pole by, if you haven't got race pace you are in for a difficult afternoon. We collected good data from Friday and as far as we can tell, we looked pretty similar to Max on the long runs. The drivers were both happy with the car balance on a long run, but it's still tricky to keep the tyre temperatures in a good window with the track hovering around 50°C. We're under no illusion that tomorrow will be a long and hot race, but we'll work hard tonight on the strategy plans and understanding how to get the most out of the tyres, to put ourselves in the best possible position to turn today's front row into a strong result."
Verstappen had looked nailed on for P3 in qualifying having occupied that slot in every session. Comfortably ahead of the chasing pack, but without the raw pace to chase down the Mercedes out front, third was his, and he too could use the slipstream at the start to his advantage. With a car that looks better in race trim, don’t discount him from springing another surprise tomorrow. As for Albon, he made Q3 and was one of very few drivers to improve on his second flying run, climbing from P8 up to sixth. But he was ultimately seven-tenths behind his team mate, a gap he needs to close if he wants to compete for podiums in the near future.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:16.292
“I think we did a good job in qualifying, extracting everything we could from the car. We know that over one lap we struggle a bit compared to Mercedes but on the long runs it is all closer and we can extract a bit more from our car. It seems like I have a subscription to P3 at the moment as I have been there for the whole weekend but we will try to improve on that tomorrow! I felt very happy on the long runs yesterday, with the balance of the car and the wear of the tyres so I hope that will be the same for tomorrow when it will still be warm but not as warm as today. We will try to stay as close to Mercedes as possible, put pressure on them and hopefully we can have a good fight. I am confident that we can do a good job. It will be hard to beat Mercedes as they still look very fast but we don’t give up.”
Alex Albon, 6th, 1:17.029
“I’m not entirely happy with my qualifying as I wanted more but we can have a good race from P6 and it was an improvement over the last two weekends. Overtaking at this track is very difficult so it was important to qualify further up the field but there’s still work to do and I still need to find some more pace on Saturdays. The car felt a bit edgy throughout the session and I actually felt better on used tyres during my first Q3 run compared with the second run, so we’ll need to look at that and understand why. Hopefully we can have a good race tomorrow and with the challenge here being overtaking we will also need to use strategy. This weekend there has been a lot of talk about tyre degradation so hopefully we can look after our tyres and bring home some good points for the team.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“We can be pleased with today’s qualifying efforts from both Max and Alex as track position is key here in Barcelona. Max has consistently extracted everything from his RB16 on Saturdays and lines up third on the grid, his best ever start position at this track. Alex meanwhile continues to show signs of progress as he begins to get more comfortable with the car over one lap and starting sixth on the grid gives us plenty of options in the race tomorrow. We will take the momentum from last week’s win and try to use it to our advantage tomorrow as we look to keep the pressure on Mercedes and have a good fight with both cars. The high temperatures we’ve seen today look set to continue and Pirelli have said this will be one of the toughest races this season for the tyres, so hopefully we can give everyone at home a good on track battle.”
Perez certainly doesn’t look any worse for wear after his spell on the sidelines, and he had the beating of his team mate in every session. It was close between the two though, a small mistake on his final flying lap costing Stroll the one-tenth difference that separated the two. Lining up fourth and fifth, the podium might be a tough ask but their challenge will be to keep Albon in the Red Bull behind – a feat they couldn’t manage last weekend.
Sergio Perez, 4th, 1:16.482
“That was a challenging qualifying, but I’m really happy with P4. It was extremely hot out there and there were changes in wind direction in the final sector throughout the session. We had to be very careful preparing the tyres on the out lap, not pushing too hard because the track was so hot. It was also a physical challenge having missed the last two weekends. The key tomorrow will be getting a strong start, so that we have the track position to make our strategy work. Overtaking will be difficult and tyre management will be a real challenge. I’m very pleased that – once again – we’ve been able to show the strengths of the car in different conditions and on a different circuit.”
Lance Stroll, 5th, 1:16.589
“That was a hot one! Canadians aren’t made for this heat. I prefer the snow! I’m really happy for the team: P4 and P5 is a great result. It was challenging out there with the heat and the strong wind into the final sector. My Q3 lap was good, although I think I lost a tenth into Turn 10 – but I gave it everything and the car was strong today. It’s clear that tyre management will be very important in the race, but it’s also difficult to overtake here. We’re definitely in a great position to fight for good points tomorrow.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“P4 and P5 on the grid is an excellent effort by the team and sets us up nicely for a strong race tomorrow. We’ve spent the sessions so far making sure that we understand the hot conditions, how to manage the tyres, and especially how to set the car up for Sunday. Hopefully, all that hard work pays off tomorrow and we can be in the fight for a podium finish. Both drivers did a great job and don’t forget Checo has only recently recovered from the virus. It was good to see them both equally matched out there.”
McLaren seem to have solved Sainz’s cooling issues, with a new chassis and PU doing the trick at his home race. The Spaniard wound up seventh in the end for his best qualifying here since 2015, albeit ahead of his team mate by just 0.040s. Those two had been talking down their chances but with both cars into Q3 and their Renault rivals outside the top 10, they must be confident of a decent haul of points tomorrow.
Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:17.044
“A positive Saturday for the team. I was happy with the car balance and could push the car to the limit, especially in Sectors One and Two. Yesterday we decided to change my engine and that seems to have solved the issues from last weekend, so also happy on that side.
“The lap wasn’t perfect though. I lost a bit in Sector Three compared to my best time in that same sector and maybe that would’ve put us P6 in front of Albon – but in general it was a strong quali. I was feeling good in the first part of the lap, and we’ll keep investigating the last sector because I wasn’t happy with the rear end. So, let’s see what we can do to improve for tomorrow – but overall a more positive day and looking forward to a tough race due to the high temperatures.”
Lando Norris, 8th, 1:17.084
"Not a bad qualifying, but there was still some room for improvement. I was kind of happy all the way through qualifying but just on the final run in Q3 I locked up – just over-pushed a small amount into Turn 10 and locked my fronts – so I lost around a tenth, which could’ve been a couple of positions. I’m a little bit frustrated about that, but otherwise I'm happy we got into Q3. I think it was very close and we just about did a good enough job to get into Q3 in the first place. We can be very happy about being ahead of both Ferraris as well, who are definitely quicker than us. We should be in for an exciting race tomorrow.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“It’s good to have both cars back in Q3. We made some set-up changes to the cars ahead of FP3, and instantly we could see they were more competitive, and this carried through into qualifying. Well done to the entire team, both drivers and our colleagues from Renault for good analysis overnight and good execution this afternoon.
“P7 and P8 are strong starting positions and we’re looking forward to a race in which we can fight for good points. It is going to be tough: the competition in the midfield is very close and, with high temperatures expected once again, there will be a lot of degradation. It should be a very interesting Sunday afternoon!”
The Scuderia dropped back today after a promising Friday. Leclerc made Q3 but once there could only manage ninth after complaining of understeer and that his fresh soft compound tyres felt worse than used ones. As for Vettel, he was knocked out in Q2 by the narrowest of margins, just 0.002s separating him from Lando Norris in the McLaren. But with free tyre choice for the race, starting in 11th might actually prove to be a stroke of luck for the German.
Sebastian Vettel, 11th, 1:17.168
"I was very close to making the cut to Q3, as two thousands of a second is a very small gap. I tried everything and for sure it is a shame to be that close and not get through. I’ve been struggling all weekend to find the right balance. However, we have to look at the positives and with a free choice of tyres for tomorrow, hopefully we can do something different. We have tonight to think about that. Overall today, the first sector was ok, but then in the middle one the car started to be more and more nervous, I struggled in particular in turn 7, but also turn 5 was very tricky. The final sector was better, but there too, it wasn’t easy to find the right balance. Now we have to study the data in order to find some answers that could be helpful for the race."
Charles Leclerc, 9th, 1:17.087
"I am disappointed with our quali result. I was not very happy with the car today. At the beginning of quali it was not too bad but then I had a lot of understeer, which was getting worse and worse after every session and I just could not drive around this issue. We need to look into it and understand how we can fix it, because in the end P9 is disappointing. We were just not fast enough on our quick lap. Tomorrow we will be starting on Softs, which is not the best tyre here, and people behind us will start on Medium and Hard, probably the best strategy, so it won’t be easy."
Laurent Mekies, Sporting Director
"It was a difficult qualifying, with Charles’ ninth place and Sebastian’s eleventh pretty similar to last week’s performance. We were unable to optimise the car performance as the track evolved and we paid a high price for that with our grid positions. If you look at by how little Sebastian missed the cut to Q3 and then Charles’ performance in the final part, it’s clear that a very small improvement would have delivered a better result. Having said that, we have to work out why the car balance was far from ideal this afternoon.
"It will be a difficult race tomorrow with high temperatures giving the drivers, cars and tyres a hard time. In fact, tyre management will be one of the key factors, with several strategy options available. It will be up to us to make the best of it. In the last two races, we managed it and we’d like to do the same again tomorrow. Our aim is for both our drivers to finish as high up the order as possible in the points, trying to defend our third place in the Constructors’ Championship, which has to be our minimum target for the season."
Gasly managed another of his special laps to jump up to fifth in Q2 and thus make the top 10 shootout for the fourth time in five races. Q3 didn’t go his way but starting P10, he is right in the thick of the action. Kvyat ducked out in Q2 and wound up 12th but free tyre choice might just make his afternoon that bit simpler than his team mate’s, with the Russian set to line up directly behind Gasly.
Pierre Gasly, 10th, 1:17.136
“I think we can be pleased as a team to get another Q3 this weekend, especially because it was a difficult Friday yesterday and I didn’t feel so comfortable in the car. We made a good step forward for quali; I had a good result in Q2 and we decided to keep one more prime tyre for the race. We had only four sets of softs which meant we had to run with the used tyres at the start of Q2, which wasn't easy, but we made it so I’m quite happy with that. Q3 was very tight and even if at the end I’m happy, inside myself I’m also a bit disappointed because you always feel like you could have done slightly better and maybe get a few more hundredths out of the car. As for the race, it’s not going to be an easy one tomorrow, but I hope we can score a few points to catch up from the missed opportunity last week.”
Daniil Kvyat, 12th, 1:17.192
“This morning I struggled with the car which was not behaving well, so we definitely made good steps going into qualifying. I’m quite satisfied today as it was a solid session. I think it was a strong lap and P12 is a good position to start the race from, and fight for points starting on fresher tyres. I just hope we’ll have good pace tomorrow and that we can make it work so we can finish in the top 10 again.”
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance
“We had a productive third practice session, during which we validated the changes we made overnight. Pierre was able to extract good lap times from the package, on a track that was definitely more difficult than yesterday due to the very hot track conditions. Daniil struggled more with the balance of his car, so we had a bit of work to do before qualifying to give him a car that he could feel more comfortable with.
“The qualifying session started well with both cars making it through to Q2 with some margin. Pierre was the last car on track at the end of Q1 and he managed to find space in the traffic jam in the last sector. In Q2, there was huge traffic again in the last sector, but both cars could find a decent window. By going out very late, Pierre had better out lap preparation and still some margin to the chequered flag, and he closed a very strong lap which put him comfortably in Q3. Unfortunately for Daniil, he missed the last qualifying session by 24 milliseconds! This is frustrating, but it was positive that together with his engineers he could make a very good step forward in comparison to FP3. Q3 went pretty well, however, we failed to extract the full potential out of our package. Pierre was driving a solid lap until he had big wheelspin at the exit of Turn 10, overheated his rear tyres, and affected the performance of the car in the entire third sector. We need to understand the reason for this mistake and if we could have done anything to avoid it.
“Nevertheless, we had a pretty strong qualifying today and we are in a good position to fight for points tomorrow. We will review the various strategies overnight and get ready for what should be an interesting fight in the race.”
Ocon suffered a heavy crash in FP3 as he swerved to avoid a slow-moving Magnussen and hit the wall as a result, the first to fall foul of traffic this weekend. The team did well to rebuild his car in time for qualifying, but unsurprisingly he wound up off the pace after complaining about a long brake pedal. Ricciardo likewise also exited in Q2 in his worst qualifying of the year. That one was surprising, with the Aussie looking like a decent bet for the ‘best of the rest’ slots. The R.S.20 does look to have better race pace than qualifying pace though, so watch out for those two scything their way back through the field.
Daniel Ricciardo, 13th, 1:17.198
“It was a shame that it was so close out there and we only have thirteenth place to show for it. When you miss out by such a little margin, it’s a shame as it could be the difference between four spots on the grid. It was a clean lap in Q2, but other teams were able to find a little bit more. We have to find a way tomorrow and we’ll be pushing as best as we can. It will be hard for overtaking, but we’ll try. It’s going to be hot, the tyres are going to have a workout and there could be some opportunities on strategy for the race. I’m still optimistic for points.”
Esteban Ocon, 15th, 1:17.567
“On a positive note, the mechanics were incredible. After the unfortunate incident in FP3, the car was badly damaged and, in under two hours, they managed to put it back together. It was a fantastic effort so a big thanks to all of them. Unfortunately, the negative is that we didn’t have the pace to get into Q3 today. It’s something we need to keep looking at as we know the importance of reaching the top 10. Last week we were fourteenth on the grid and scored points, so I’ll give it my best tomorrow to do the same.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It was not a good day and certainly not where we expected to be in qualifying after a strong showing at the last couple of races. We have got a lot of work and thinking to do overnight to try and understand our pace deficit. Having said that, it’s a tough race here and it’s going to be very hot. We generally manage our tyres quite well in the race, so we’re not ruling anything out for tomorrow. As always, we’ll be aiming to do everything we can to get both cars in the points.”
Raikkonen became the first Alfa Romeo driver to make Q2 this season, with his first appearance in that segment since Brazil last season. He ran the medium tyres to boot, and wound up an encouraging 14th. Giovinazzi though ran wide on his flying lap and damaged the floor of his C39, which put paid to his chances of progressing. The Italian lines up last and could have a long afternoon of it tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen, 14th, 1:17.386
“It was definitely a positive day: the car felt a lot better and it gave me the confidence to drive it how I wanted. We made it to Q2 and we could have achieved even more, but we didn’t have any more sets of soft tyres so we had to use the mediums. Perhaps we could have been in the fight for Q3 but for now we have to be happy. We had the speed and hopefully we can take it from here. We are moving in the right direction and we know what we have to do to be in the points tomorrow – be faster than the guys in front of us.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 20th, 1:18.697
“Not the easiest qualifying session for me. At the end of the first lap I went on a kerb and I think the floor may have got damaged. We’ll need to check what happened, but after that it was difficult to do a second lap as the handling was off. That was today, now we have to think about the race. It will be difficult to recover a good result from P20, even with a good strategy, but we’ll give everything we have.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“It was an encouraging session for the team, something to build on. Kimi did an excellent job to climb out of Q1 and give us a good chance to be in the fight for the points tomorrow. It was a pity to lose Antonio so early: unfortunately he may have suffered some damage during his first run and he wasn’t able to improve on his second one. Overall, though, we seem to be going in the direction we want so we need to keep pushing to improve.”
Not the Saturday the American team had hoped for after a late night changing Grosjean's Power Unit. Magnussen was involved in Ocon’s crash, although was later cleared by the stewards of any blame in what they dubbed ‘an unfortunate accident’. But when attention turned to qualifying, the team found themselves lagging behind their rivals and after such a strong Friday, plunged down the order today with both cars exiting in Q1. It was a disappointing result but they could still make headway tomorrow if they manage their tyres well.
Romain Grosjean, 17th, 1:18.089
“The car just didn’t feel the same from this morning, I could feel it coming sadly. It’s a shame as I had really wanted to keep the car exactly the same from Friday. We had to change a lot of parts on the car like the engine and so on. The guys had worked until 4 a.m. and I really wanted to give them something good today, but the good front-end that I had has gone. I can’t drive with understeer and I didn’t have any confidence – it’s killing us. We need to analyse and understand what happened.”
Kevin Magnussen, 16th, 1:17.908
“It was close in terms of getting through, it wouldn’t have taken a lot to get further up and into Q2. We were compromised quite a bit on the out lap of my second run with all the traffic. It was a pretty hectic and slow out lap from a lot of people. The last few corners I was basically stopped on track, I was just rolling the wheels slightly, it was walking speed. The tyres cooled down a lot. The car’s been there all weekend though, it was back to normal. I just haven’t been able to put together a lap to show it. It’s a little bit of a missed opportunity I feel. I was confident coming into qualifying that I’d have a good car, and I felt like I did. Our race pace looks pretty good though, much better than our qualifying pace – which we didn’t really get to show this afternoon.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was a very disappointing qualifying today, we expected more out of it following yesterday’s pace. We lost all our pace – we need to look into that and see where we lost it and why we lost it. The only positive now is that our race pace simulation was good on Friday. Hopefully we can save that one over into Sunday and have a good race. It would have been nice to start a little further ahead, but nevertheless, if the predicted race pace is there, we can hopefully make moves. Everybody’s pushing hard so we get some points, hopefully we get a good start and keep out of trouble. We’ll just keep on working hard.”
Williams struggled for pace today, this track not appearing to suit their car as much as those earlier in the season which was a surprise to the team. Russell in particular was off the pace of his team mate, but managed a decent last flying lap to pip Latifi by half a second when it mattered. Starting ahead of Giovinazzi, the first task will be keeping that Alfa in their rear-view mirrors – the next task will be chasing down the Haas boys ahead…
George Russell, 18th, 1:18.099
"I was pretty pleased with the qualifying session, as we were a long way off our competitors in Free Practice. I was happy with our performance step but nevertheless, we need to understand where our Saturday pace has gone. With these hot track conditions we are struggling to get the tyres in the right window. It’s a bit strange as on paper, this circuit should suit us better than the last two weekends at Silverstone. We need to look deep into it, understand where our good pace has gone, and rectify it."
Nicholas Latifi, 19th, 1:18.532
"We closed the gap from yesterday after making some sizeable changes, but clearly it still wasn’t enough. On my final lap, there was probably another two-and-a-half tenths to find, but it obviously wouldn’t have changed my position. We didn’t have the potential to get into Q2 as we have shown at previous races with the hot track conditions not suiting our car as much. We now have to focus on the race tomorrow to see what we can salvage."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"We have had a tough day today and we need to understand how we could have got more out of the tyres. We made some decent improvements overnight but even so, we struggled more than we expected in FP3 and had to make a few more adjustments going into qualifying. In the circumstances, qualifying went reasonably well and both drivers were able to deliver some good laps. Unfortunately, Nicholas’s final lap was hurt a little by traffic in the final chicane, and George’s tyre preparation was compromised by the inevitable traffic jam in the last sector. However, the reality is that these things happen during qualifying sessions and the best defence is basic car pace, and we didn’t have enough of that today.
"We need to work on the overall pace of the FW43 so that we are better positioned going into the next sequence of races. In the meantime, we will prepare for the race tomorrow where we hope to be in a battle with Haas and Alfa Romeo. The long runs on Friday were tough for most and it will be interesting to see people’s tyre choices tomorrow."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"All the drivers concentrated on the soft in qualifying, which was a slight surprise, perhaps because of the established performance gap to the medium and the pace of the frontrunners. This means that we can almost certainly expect two stops during the race tomorrow, and we’re unlikely to see much use of the hard, as there’s a big gap to the medium too. Key to tomorrow’s race in these very warm conditions will be managing wear and degradation on the soft. There’s plenty of scope for those starting lower down the grid to try something a bit different, so hopefully we’ll see another interesting race tomorrow with lots of variations in strategy."