Lewis Hamilton managed to get pole position for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix but only just. Saturday saw Sebastian Vettel have engine problems with his Ferrari but he so nearly grabbed pole and we are in for a great race tomorrow. Let’s take a look at the Saturday action.
Friday had seen Mercedes dominate both practice sessions but the tables were turned during the final practice session on Saturday. Kimi Raikkonen led a Ferrari 1-2 with the Finn 0.242 seconds ahead of his team-mate with Hamilton third, 0.381 seconds behind Raikkonen.
It wasn’t a great session for Valtteri Bottas, he finished fourth fastest but his Mercedes had a few engine problems and had to miss nearly 75% of the session. A water leak in the new engine was revealed to be the problem. The Red Bulls were in fifth and sixth but fifth placed Max Verstappen was only 0.157 seconds behind Bottas and 0.654 seconds adrift of Raikkonen so the gap is closing.
Engines could well have an influence on this race because Sebastian Vettel also had difficulties towards the end of the final practice session requiring his Ferrari to be pushed back to the garage and some parts having to be replaced before qualifying. As you’ll read though, they must have done a great job.
You can’t talk about engines without looking at the woes of McLaren-Honda and Fernando Alonso had a better final session finishing 10th. However, he wasn’t in the mood to chat to Honda F1 boss Yusuke Hasegawa. Not surprising after his comments declaring that it is the “career, ability, money and image” of Honda that is being damaged by the continual engine problems.
And so, to the all-important qualifying session and it was Lewis Hamilton who clinched pole position for Sunday’s race. However, he was only 0.051 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari. It could have been a totally different result if Vettel hadn’t made a mistake in the final corner. Vettel agreed that did cost him pole saying that “the last chicane is a tricky one for me. The second run was really good up to that final chicane.”
The Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas will be third on the grid and Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari fourth. Max Verstappen will start in fifth and Daniel Ricciardo in sixth but again they were closing the gap on the top two teams. Previous races have seen Verstappen over a second behind pole but this time it was only 0.557 seconds.
That narrower nose cone and major aerodynamic changes are certainly helping Mercedes this weekend. It’s a lot better than the rough time Lewis had in Russia and he will be hoping to close the gap on Sebastian Vettel this weekend.
He might also be hoping that the engine problems that Vettel has been having might continue. After the difficulties in final practice, Vettel was told to stop his Ferrari on track during his first lap in the qualifying session, not what you want to hear from an engineer and it didn’t delight Vettel one bit who replied, “Are you sure?” More changes were made and it seemed to work as he so nearly grabbed pole position.
The biggest cheer was saved for Fernando Alonso who will start seventh on the grid. Could McLaren-Honda finally be solving their engine problems? He finished ahead of the Force India and Williams cars despite the lack of engine power compared to his rivals.
What can we expect on Sunday? Mercedes have made big improvements this weekend and Hamilton appears to be in a much better frame of mind. Despite the upgrades though, Ferrari are only just behind them. Will that chicane cause Vettel more problems? What about the engine problems Vettel has had this weekend? Can McLaren-Honda finish a race? Lots of questions to be answered so it looks like being a fascinating race. Enjoy your racing till the next blog.