After a succession of poles for Sebastian Vettel, it was Lewis Hamilton who clinched pole for the Spanish Grand Prix, but only just ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Mercedes continued their impressive performances in practice for Sunday’s race with a 1-2 in final practice. Lewis Hamilton was again fastest as he bids to win the Spanish Grand Prix for the second year in a row and he set a track record to finish just 0.013 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
The Ferrari’s of Vettel and Raikkonen were in third and fourth respectively and not that far behind with Vettel 0.269 seconds behind Hamilton. Fifth fastest was Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull when finally getting around to using the super soft tyres. It wasn’t such a happy practice session for team-mate Max Verstappen who was down in 12th and didn’t make it till the end of the session due to his Red Bull having an electrical problem on his power unit. He also faced an investigation by the stewards after he failed to stay to the left of a bollard after he went wide at Turn One.
Sixth place went to Kevin Magnussen for the Haas team, just ahead of his team-mate Romain Grosjean with the Renault of Carlos Sainz in eighth. There was another top ten finish for McLaren with Fernando Alonso with the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly completing the top ten.
The session had to end early due to Brendon Hartley crashing his Toro Rosso at Turn Nine, completely destroying the rear of his car.
Lewis Hamilton clinched his second pole position of the year and it’ll be a Mercedes front row as he finished just 0.04 seconds ahead of Bottas. Third place went to the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel 0.132 seconds behind Hamilton with his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in fourth. The top three teams totally dominated with the Red Bull’s of Verstappen and Ricciardo fifth and sixth respectively, though there was only 0.002 seconds between the pair.
Kevin Magnussen finished seventh and there was encouragement for McLaren with Fernando Alonso in eighth, their first top ten grid position of the season with Stoffel Vandoorne 11th. The Renault of Carlos Sainz finished ninth with Romain Grosjean in tenth.
There were problems for Nico Hulkenberg as his Renault suffered a fuel-pressure problem and that left him down in 16th place on the grid. After his crash in final practice, there wasn’t enough time for Brendon Hartley’s Torro Rosso to be ready for qualifying. If he is going to crash in final practice, at least do it at the start not right at the end. It’ll be ready for the race tomorrow but will require a new engine and gearbox, so some grid penalties lie ahead. Williams continued their nightmare weekend with Sergey Sirotkin 18th and Lance Stroll finishing 19th.
Speaking after qualifying, Lewis Hamilton was relieved to have got pole saying: “Very close in qualifying but I’m very happy. I needed this pole, I haven’t had a pole for a while.” Sebastian Vettel was happy with his final run and he thinks tomorrow will be “an interesting race.”
He’s probably right in that assumption though Mercedes have been strong throughout practice and qualifying, which hasn’t always been the case this season. The start will be crucial, but Mercedes seem to have the edge going into the race. I’ll be back next weekend with a look at how the race progressed, till then enjoy your racing.
By Steve Ashfield for Pillow Motor Sports