We look set for another Hamilton v Bottas contest in tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix after Mercedes again dominated final practice and qualifying. Bottas will start on pole for the third time this season.
After the success his team-mate had yesterday, it was Lewis Hamilton who was fastest in final practice. He finished 0.531 seconds ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc as Mercedes again showed their superiority over the Italian team.
Bottas was third fastest just 0.024 seconds behind Leclerc. It wasn’t the smoothest of sessions for him though. Earlier in the session he’d caused the red flag to come out for seven minutes as he ended up in the gravel after spinning at Turn 5.
Sebastian Vettel finished in fourth, 0.604 seconds off the pace and it was a good session for Haas. They filled fifth and sixth spots with Romain Grosjean ahead of Kevin Magnussen with the former just 0.2 seconds behind Vettel.
Max Verstappen was seventh but 0.99 seconds behind Hamilton. Team-mate Pierre Gasly could only manage 14h position. He was unable to complete his final run, more about that in a moment. The top ten was completed by Alexander Albon, Kimi Raikkonen and Carlos Sainz.
The session ended early after George Russell had problems at Turn 4. The Williams driver lost the rear of his car, went through the gravel and then ended up in the wall backwards. The incident prevented Gasly, Hulkenburg and Norris from completing their final runs.
Norris has been given a five-place grid penalty after a gearbox change to his car was made prior to qualifying.
Valtteri Bottas will start the Spanish Grand Prix on pole as his challenge for a first world title grows ever stronger. He finished 0.634 seconds of Lewis Hamilton for another Mercedes 1-2.
Hamilton made plenty of errors on his first lap in the final part of qualifying. That lap included going wide out of Turn Seven, bouncing over the kerbs on the exit and then going wide at both Turns 12 and 13. By the time he got back out the slower track (mainly caused by the gravel Hamilton had caused to end up on it) meant he was never going to get pole off his team-mate.
Sebastian Vettel will start in third, but he was 0.866 seconds behind Bottas. Red Bull snatched fourth place on the grid as Max Verstappen finished ahead of Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari driver was restricted in the final session due to being short of new tyres.
Pierre Gasly finished sixth fastest in the other Red Bull and they could well give Ferrari a fight tomorrow. Haas filled both seventh and eighth spots with Grosjean just ahead of Magnussen. Daniil Kvyat was ninth in his Toro Rosso with Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault in tenth. However, Ricciardo has a three-place grid penalty after reversing into Daniil Kvyat’s car in Azerbaijan, so will start in 13th taking McLaren’s Lando Norris into 10th.
Renault have a new engine this weekend, but it’s been a struggle for them. Nico Hulkenburg didn’t make it out of Q3 and will start in 16th place. He also broke the front wing of his car during Q3 and will have to use an old-spec one tomorrow.
Valtteri Bottas was delighted with securing pole and said, “I feel better and better in the car.” Lewis Hamilton was happy for his team-mate but not so pleased with his own performance. “I just didn’t put the laps together,” he said and added that “it just wasn’t a good enough job.”
Sebastian Vettel wasn’t in the best of moods with his car saying that on his second run in the final part of qualifying, “I had to try something a bit different and it didn’t work.” He admitted that his car just isn’t quick enough.
Those of us hoping there won’t be a fifth straight Mercedes 1-2 tomorrow could well be disappointed. Their aerodynamic upgrade has kept them well ahead of Ferrari despite their upgraded engine. I’ll be back later in the month with more news from the F1 season, till then enjoy your racing.