What the teams said - Qualifying in Spain
With Red Bull getting the beating of both Mercedes drivers in FP3, it looked set for a titanic battle for pole. Hamilton seemed fractions behind his team mate through Q1 and Q2 but as he so often does, pulled a lap out of the bag when it mattered at the start of Q3. With the wind picking up and the track moving away from them, the top three didn’t improve on their second runs leaving the reigning world champion with his 100th pole position, an absolutely astonishing feat. Bottas had to make do with third, but starts on the clean side of the grid and could pick up a handy tow so is still very much in this one.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:16.741
"I was behind the whole way through qualifying and making small tweaks to find pace. I just can't believe we're at 100 - it's down to the women and men back at the factory who are continuously raising the bar and never giving up. It's a dream to work with them, what a journey! Who would have thought when we started out together at the end of 2012 that we'd be celebrating 100 poles!? I feel so humbled and very grateful for all their work. It feels just like my first! I'll always remember that one."
Valtteri Bottas, 3rd, 1:16.873
"That was close! It felt like I was there in the battle for the pole but I lost a tenth or so with a snap at Turn 10, and those are the fine margins this year. We've got a strong package and we'll be in the fight tomorrow no doubt - it will be another close one between us and Red Bull. If you can keep the tyres in good condition, you're going to be more competitive around the pit stops. There's the possibility to mix the strategy and try a one or a two-stop. We'll do lots of work tonight and you'll have to wait until tomorrow to know our strategy."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"I'm not one for statistics but 100 pole positions is a pretty impressive milestone! I told Lewis on the radio that it was quite an okay lap, but of course it was a little bit more than that. It looked like Max and Red Bull had a big advantage in Q2, but we kept chipping away at it and in the end, the top three drivers were covered by a tenth of a second; exactly how we want it to be in F1, battling for every thousandth of a second. Both Lewis and Valtteri did a fantastic job in those final laps, and when it's such tiny margins, every detail makes a difference. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we have the advantage of two cars on the clean side of the grid, and both drivers in the top three; that will provide us a strategic opportunity, and we need to make the most of it for the race."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"Well done to Lewis on his 100th pole position - it's a phenomenal achievement and the whole team is proud of him, and proud to have played a part in him reaching this milestone.
"As expected, it was a real scrap for pole and it was good to have both of our cars in the mix today. Having two cars at the front is very also useful from a strategic point of view for the race tomorrow. Tyre choice for the race start was quite straightforward; the hard tyre isn't working well so everyone in the top 10 opted for the soft and we'd expect most to only use soft and medium tomorrow.
"The hot sunny conditions today made it quite difficult to get the tyres to the final sector in good condition, it's really easy to overheat here and any little slide costs you with a build-up of temperature. Valtteri suffered with this in turn 10 where a snap ultimately dropped him out of the running for pole. The track seemed to peak before the end of the session so the order at the top didn't change in the final run and, as much as we'd have liked to have taken the front row, having both on the clean side of the grid is not too bad. The race will be interesting tomorrow; we'll see in the first stint if we have the pace to break away but there are a few options for strategy on the table. We're expecting it to be a tough fight but one that we are looking forward to."
Verstappen topped FP3 and looked to be the favourite heading into qualifying. He got through Q1 and Q2 on just one set of tyres, looking by far the most composed runner. But when it came to it, Hamilton was able to raise his game and the Dutchman had to do with being fractions behind for second on the grid. Perez had a much harder day – off the pace in FP3, he was chasing the times and wound up making a mistake on his first flying run. With the wind picking up, his second run just wasn’t quick enough to challenge and he wound up a disappointing eighth.
Max Verstappen, 2nd, 1:16.777
“From my side it was a good qualifying. I’m pleased with my lap with no mistakes and I feel like I extracted the most out of the car. It was very close, but it wasn’t quite enough and sometimes you have to accept that. Mercedes seem to be a little bit ahead of us over one lap but to be on the front row here, especially compared to last year where we really struggled, we can be very happy with that. We know that the start is very important here and it can impact the race result, so of course we are focused on it, but we want to keep it clean as well as it’s a long race. We will of course give it our best tomorrow and I think we have decent race pace, if it’s enough to beat them I don’t know but we will push them all the way.”
Sergio Perez, 8th, 1:17.701
“It was a tough qualifying out there and just a bad day in general. I didn’t get a good lap throughout today and I was not feeling 100% in qualifying with some shoulder pain so we did well to progress to Q3 which shows what a good car we have. In terms of pace, we have a very good race car so it’s a shame we are starting out of position as it’s a difficult place to overtake but I’m confident we will be able to fight for a very strong result. Tomorrow is a new opportunity, hopefully we are able to minimize the damage and take some steps forward. I’ll be aggressive as I need to come through the field and catch up to the leaders as early as possible. In general, it’s not been the best weekend from my side but looking at previous races this year, you can see things are coming together and I’m just getting to know the car better which is the key.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It was another very exciting qualifying and a fantastic performance by the Team. Our first front row start in Barcelona for 10 years and Max was once again so close to pole. Being on the front row is very encouraging and there are a lot of positives to take from today. Last year we were 0.7s off pole and this year Max has completed an almost identical lap time to Lewis, so it’s great progress. Checo recovered after having a spin on his first lap in Q3 and will start in P8, but we know how strong he is in the race and despite it being a difficult track to overtake on I’m confident he will make good progress. It will be important to get a good start, the margins are so tight between us and Mercedes at the moment that the small things make a big difference, so the start and that run down to the first corner is going to be important and very exciting to watch.”
There was nothing between the two Scuderia drivers in final practice, and little separated them in qualifying. Leclerc was one of very few to improve on his second run in Q3, grabbing a very impressive fourth on the grid. One tenth and two places back, Sainz will be targeting Ocon ahead before he starts to think about chasing down his team mate tomorrow.
Charles Leclerc, 4th, 1:17.510
"It was a good qualifying and I’m very happy with the result. Looking at the gap between us and the top three, P4 is a solid result today.
"My Q2 lap was very clean and that’s good for the tyres that I will use for the start. I am concentrating on this a lot because tomorrow it will be important to start on a tyre with little degradation.
"As a team, we start from P4 and P6, which is positive. Our race pace has been competitive and if we manage our tyres in the same way as we did yesterday, it should look good. Our target is to bring home as many points as possible. Overall it has been a good weekend so far and I hope that we finish it on a high."
Carlos Sainz, 6th, 1:17.620
"In general, today was a good qualifying session for the team, on a track where car balance and car performance in cornering are important and the SF21 is performing well. From my side I had a strong qualifying all the way through and I felt I could push the car.
"I managed to go through Q1 with only one set and a couple of strong laps in Q2 put us through to the top 10. After a decent first run in Q3, I was looking forward to improving my lap time in the last attempt but due to small details I didn’t quite manage to nail it. Despite that, there are lots of positives to take from today and we are in a good position to fight tomorrow in the race. Let’s go!"
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"A good qualifying which confirms our third place in the pecking order, at least on Saturdays. Now the priority is to repeat that performance on Sunday, something we’ve only managed to do intermittently. It's particularly significant therefore that our best team qualifying result from these first four rounds has come at this very challenging track. The gap to pole is half that of last year here, but it is still significant and even if we could have gone a fraction quicker, it would not have changed anything substantially.
"Charles and Carlos, the latter racing here in red in his home race for the first time, both did a good job behind the wheel and in working with the team to get the most out of the SF21.
"Tomorrow, we can expect a very tough race, given the very small gaps between ourselves and our closest rivals. If our strategy, reliability, teamwork and the drivers’ performance are all at their best, then we can aspire to a good result."
It was a bit of a mixed bag for Alpine today. They had looked so strong yesterday, but then were off the pace in FP3. Roll on qualifying, and fortunately their pace returned, with both cars making Q3. But while Ocon shone in grabbing a brilliant 5th place, Alonso was left to rue going out on used tyres at the beginning of Q3 when the track was at its best.
Esteban Ocon, 5th, 1:17.580
“It feels very good today and I’m happy with how we managed today’s qualifying session. I think this is the confirmation we were looking for, as we’ve repeated the speed we had in Portimao at this track, which is good. The car has been great this weekend and I’m feeling very good at the wheel with the team around me. The factories are working hard to keep finding improvements and their hard work is paying off. Tomorrow will be a hard race and strategy will be interesting.”
Fernando Alonso, 10th, 1:18.147
“It’s been a good weekend so far as we are in the top 10 again, the second time this season. It shows the progress of our car so that’s good. In terms of the session today I think my out-lap in Q3 was a little messy, so there was more time for me to find. It’s very tight and obviously very difficult to overtake in the race, but we’ll try to have a good first couple of laps and see where we end up tomorrow as anything can happen in a race.”
Davide Brivio, Racing Director
“It was a very good qualifying today with Esteban fifth, the best result of the year for us so far and Fernando also inside the top 10. We’re happy to have both cars in Q3 for the first time this year. The drivers are working well with their engineers in setting up the car and finding a good balance and even finding some small, but important, improvements from FP3 to qualifying. It’s a credit to everyone in the team who has done a good job this weekend. We want to keep the momentum going and capitalise on these good starting positions in tomorrow’s race.”
Norris was in sensational form in practice, but his whole qualifying was compromised by one moment of traffic in Q1. He had to run again after his first flying lap was wrecked – meaning he used a second set of tyres. Roll on Q3, and the youngster was on used soft rubber when the track was at its best, which proved costly as he could only manage ninth. Ricciardo though seemed much happier than seven days ago, making Q3 and once there, grabbing a solid P7 on the grid. The harder work begins tomorrow for the Aussie, as he seeks to keep his team mate behind for the duration of the race.
Daniel Ricciardo, 7th, 1:17.622
“Overall, a positive day. We did really well to get through Q1 with one set of tyres, which gave us two sets for Q3, but obviously we missed it with the timing and, unfortunately, we couldn't use them. I do think there’s always a tenth on the table and that could’ve been a P4 if we’d got a really good lap together. But, I don’t want to focus on that.
“Ultimately, I’m still looking at myself and how I can improve, I’m not driving the car perfectly yet. Today was certainly better, but I’ll focus on myself and I know the team will address their part for the Q3 timing. Today was a much better day and we made a really good step from yesterday. So, I’m very happy and thankful that we found some answers and that the updates seem to be working.”
Lando Norris, 9th, 1:18.010
"Not a perfect qualifying today. We were quite unlucky with some traffic in Q1 run one, so that put us on the back foot as we needed to use a second set of tyres when we should've been safe.
"I picked up some damage after my first run in Q3, and the final run wasn't clean either, which was quite important in the end with how much the track was evolving and the wind was changing.
"I'm not too disappointed, but it is a bit frustrating to start from the position we're in as it’s a very difficult race to come through and overtake. We know we have a strong car on a Sunday, so we'll do our best to get some good points."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“We had a competitive car today, but unfortunately didn’t get everything out of Q3. Lando’s car was damaged after his first run in Q3, which he had to do on used tyres after losing one set of new tyres due to the incident in Q1. On Daniel’s side, we didn’t complete the lap before the flag, as cars bunched up at the end of the out-lap and he wasn’t able to get in his second attempt on new tyres. As always, we will analyse, look into the details and learn from it.
“The team here at the track, with support from home and the drivers, did a really good job overnight to understand the upgrades we brought here for this weekend and optimise the car. There was definitely more in it here for us today, but P7 and P9 with a competitive car will allow us to fight for good points tomorrow. Maximum focus now on getting back up the order in the race.”
Aston Martin hadn’t really looked like troubling the upper reaches of the top 10 all weekend, so it was no surprise when both drivers exited at the second time of asking. It was a surprise though that Stroll wound up the better placed of the two, having been out-performed by Vettel throughout practice. With free tyre choice for both drivers, all is not lost heading into tomorrow.
Sebastian Vettel, 13th, 1:18.079
“My final lap in Q2 was not entirely clean and, when the grid is so tight, those small things can make a real difference. I think we had a good chance of reaching Q3 today, but we just found ourselves at the wrong end of the midfield group. Because so many teams have similar pace, it will not be an easy race, but we will hang in there, push hard, and see what we can do. You never know what can happen in a long race and, if we can look after the tyres and use our race pace, we can race for some points.”
Lance Stroll, 11th, 1:17.974
“It is a shame to have missed out on Q3 by such a tiny margin – just a few thousandths of a second. The positive is that by starting in P11, we have the flexibility to choose our start tyre and that could be crucial because I think tyre wear is going to be a very important factor in the race. It is not easy to overtake here, but if we can have a good start and gain places on the long run into Turn One, we can give ourselves a good platform for points on Sunday.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Lance and Sebastian both progressed smoothly through Q1, duly booking their places in Q2 as they did so. We were therefore slightly disappointed that we were not able to make it through to Q3 with either driver – we will analyse why that was now. Having said that, Lance will start the race from P11, and Seb from P13, which means that both of them will have a free choice of tyres to start on and both of them will have the advantage of a grid slot on the clean side of the track. They should both be in decent shape to race for points tomorrow.”
Tsunoda was the surprise faller in Q1, and made his feelings about the car very clear on the radio. But his exit became less of a surprise when Gasly also failed to make the top 10 in qualifying for the first time this season. Having been right up there in FP3 and Q1, it was a shock to see the Frenchman exit in 12th but with a car that is highly susceptible to windy conditions, perhaps that made all the difference in a very tight midfield.
Pierre Gasly, 12th, 1:17.982
“I’m obviously disappointed with the final result, that’s the first time we’ve not made it through to Q3 this year and we missed it by just two hundredths, which is nothing. That being said, I’m happy with the car balance this weekend but we’ve really struggled with grip, we just seem to slide around, then overheat the tyres and on this track you really pay the price for that. I think we were slightly more competitive at the start of the year, so we need to go away and understand how we can regain that lead again in the midfield battle. Nevertheless, tomorrow is where we score points and we’ll be starting in P12 with a free tyre choice, which will hopefully give us a slight advantage in the race.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 16th, 1:18.556
“It’s frustrating for me, the performance in the car is definitely there and I think we should easily be making it through to Q2, but I just couldn’t find the grip today. Pierre and I have very different feedback about the car, even when we have the same set up, so I need to understand whether this is due to the characteristics of it or our different driving styles and then I can look closer at the data with my engineers. I think if I find this reason then I can really start to harness the full potential of the car.”
Claudio Balestri, Chief Engineer – Vehicle Performance
“Today’s sessions have highlighted just how tight the midfield is this year and how a small difference in lap time can make such a big difference to a driver’s final position. In FP3 both drivers showed good lap times and we found that the changes to the car set up that we’d made overnight were positive. To be fast on this track you need to find a good compromise between the sectors, so this was our main focus before qualifying. In Q1 Pierre completed just one lap on the option tyre and easily made it through to Q2. On other side of the garage, Yuki was struggling bit more with his car and he wasn’t able to enter Q2, missing out by just one hundredth. We had a similar situation in Q2 with Pierre, who narrowly missed reaching Q3 by a few hundredths. Our focus now turns to tomorrow’s race – we believe our long-run pace on Friday appeared competitive, so we hope that we can finish the race in the points.”
Raikkonen suffered a bizarre puncture in FP3 when he ran over a kerb, but fortunately no lasting harm was done and he was able to take part in qualifying. The Finn fell at the first hurdle, never looking like he had the pace to proceed. That left Giovinazzi to fly the flag in Q2, which he did on both the medium and soft compound tyres. Neither helped him to go any further, the Italian winding up in P14.
Kimi Raikkonen, 17th, 1:18.917
“It was disappointing to go out in Q1, especially after looking good in the morning. The car still felt good and the lap was not bad, but I lost it in the final sector. I got a bit too close to the car in front at the end of the lap and that was it – it’s so close out there, if you don’t get it right you pay the price. We’ll see what we can do to get back in the fight tomorrow. It’s not an easy place to overtake but we will give everything.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 14th, 1:18.356
“It was a good session and I think we got the maximum we could out of the car. My Q2 lap was good, maybe I could have improved a little more but Q3 was still a bit too far. However, we keep improving, and to be in Q2 again is good for the team. I am happy with my performance, we’re still not where we would like to be – in the top 10 – but we are making progress. Let’s see how our race pace is tomorrow: the first lap will be important, as overtaking can be difficult here, but we’re ready to make the most of every opportunity.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Today was a demonstration of how close and competitive the field is: the margins were unbelievably small, P1 and P17 are separated by one second and P2 and P16 by little more than half a second in the first part of qualifying. In this scenario, anything short of a perfect lap will cost you and that is what happened today with Kimi. Fortunately, Antonio managed to make it to Q2 and qualify in front of Russell: starting in 14th, he has a good chance of being in the fight for the points from the start of the race. As always, you never know what’s going to happen on Sunday, but so long as we’re in a good position we can take advantage of how the situation unfolds.”
The good news for Williams is that Russell once again made Q2, although he couldn’t go any further. With no fresh tyres at his disposal, the Briton actually went slower in Q2 than he had in Q1. As for Latifi, he slid wide over the high kerbs and sustained some car damage which hampered his chances. Starting from towards the back, they might need a chaotic race if they are to proceed forward tomorrow.
George Russell, 15th, 1:19.154
"I think getting into Q2 today was the maximum. We knew the car has never really worked perfectly around this circuit, relative to our performance elsewhere. We struggled a bit in FP2, but the conditions calmed down today. The car was in a much better window and we managed to out qualify cars like Tsunoda and Räikkönen, so overall, we really maximised today. It will be an interesting race with the warm conditions, and there is a bit of rain in the area tomorrow. I don’t know if it will come before or after the race but fingers it arrives and spices things up a little."
Nicholas Latifi, 19th, 1:19.219
"It’s been a difficult weekend for us so far. I did collect some damage going wide on my second run and that didn’t help for the rest of my flying laps. There was a bit of traffic too, with everyone bunching up ahead of their lap, but it’s the same for everyone. In terms of the race, it can be difficult around here when the tyres aren’t new, so I think that will be the challenge tomorrow."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"The changes made overnight improved the car in FP3 with both drivers happier than in FP2. George in particular was happy with his changes to set up, and overall, we made good progress from yesterday.
"Qualifying was difficult, with the usual fighting for track space at the end of outlaps. We were expecting Q1 to be tight and so opted to use three sets of new tyres on each car. George did well to qualify for Q2, but he had no new tyres left to use in that session. His single run on scrubbed tyres was good in the circumstances and he was able to put some pressure on Giovinazzi to complete a good lap in his final run.
"Unfortunately, Nicholas’s car suffered some damage at the high-speed T9, and this hurt his performance in the final stages of Q1. We will repair his car ahead of the race.
"As we saw last week, qualifying is only a small part of the weekend and so we now turn our attention to the race and will look to move forwards tomorrow."
The Haas drivers managed to squeeze in three runs in Q1, but it was to no avail and both exited at the first time of asking. Schumacher did at least pip Latifi in the Williams, and will hope to stay ahead of the Canadian come race day. Mazepin couldn’t quite get on the pace of his team mate and had to settle for propping up the field, and to add to his woes he was issued with a three-place grid drop for impeding Norris in Q1.
Mick Schumacher, 18th, 1:19.117
“We’re really happy, it’s been one of our best Saturdays and qualifying sessions. We managed to put the car where we wanted to, we made a big change overnight from Friday to Saturday. It was definitely the right one to do. I feel that the team and I have taken all the right steps to bring the car to where we are now. The predictions said we’d be behind Williams and here we are in front of one. We have to aim a bit higher though and try and get close to Q2, I think we’re on the right path to try and do that. I think it’s going to be tough in the race though. We’re probably looking at a bit of rear degradation in the race – I think everybody is. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
Nikita Mazepin, 20th, 1:19.807
“The target temperatures were there for both my first and last run on the softs, the second one was a bit difficult. But when the time was there the temperatures really came towards us. It’s our second, clean qualifying, so I’m pretty satisfied about it. On the other side of the coin, I’m not happy with the balance yet. I feel like the car is not really doing what I want it to do at the moment. It’s quite difficult to drive it – it’s a big task to keep it on the circuit while trying to maintain the best lap time possible. Loads for me to find but a clean qualifying is a good step forward as well.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“From where we were yesterday, after FP1 and FP2, I think the whole team – the engineers, the crew, the drivers, they all did a good job. We’ve ended up in front of a Williams and that’s what we’re fighting for at the moment. We didn’t get it done in Portugal, but we got it done here with one car with Mick (Schumacher). Nikita (Mazepin) made good progress today as well, as yesterday he obviously didn’t have his best day. We just need to keep on bettering ourselves and climb forward – it’s an on-going learning curve. Everybody is putting a lot of effort into it.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton for his 100th pole position: a landmark achievement. Unlike Portugal, we didn't see widespread use of the medium tyre in Q2, which means that the top 10 will all start on the soft tyre tomorrow. This indicates that the soft will form a key part of the race plan, with many drivers set to run a 'sprint' strategy that could take in two stints on the soft compound. That's not to say that a one-stopper is impossible here with the right tyre management. Only some drivers have two sets of mediums available: either new or used. If the other drivers, without two sets of mediums, want to focus on a two-stop strategy, they have to use one set of medium and two sets of soft. Alternatively they can target a one-stopper, using the hard."