Spanish Grand Prix: Max Verstappen on pole after dramatic qualifying session

Formula 1
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took pole position in a Spanish Grand Prix qualifying full of incident and drama, including a collision between the Mercedes drivers.

George Russell is under investigation after moving over on Lewis Hamilton at close to 200mph on the straight in the second session and damaging Hamilton’s front wing.

Hamilton made it through to the final session but could manage only fifth place.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was second ahead of a remarkable performance from McLaren’s Lando Norris in third on a grid that has six different teams in the top six places.

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly was fourth fastest but is under investigation and likely to receive penalties for two separate impeding incidents, while Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was sixth.

Sainz’s team-mate Charles Leclerc was down in 19th place complaining of car problems.

Russell joined Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, compromised by a spin, in being knocked out in the second session and they will start 11th and 12th.

And Fernando Alonso was another to suffer for an off-track moment. He damaged his floor with an off in the fast final corner at the very start of qualifying and could manage only ninth fastest time, three places behind team-mate Lance Stroll who he had out-qualified at every race this season until now.

Behind Stroll, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was seventh ahead of the surprisingly quick Haas of Nico Hulkenberg in eighth.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri completed the top 10 behind Alonso.

Max Verstappen on track in Spain

The session started with rain falling and a big puddle at Turn 12, which caught out first Alpha Tauri’s Nyck de Vries and then Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, incidents which dragged gravel on to the track and caused a red flag to stop the session.

Before that happened, though, Alonso lost control through the final corner and skipped through the gravel, damaging the floor of his car and requiring his mechanics into makeshift repairs.

Aston Martin said there was “significant” damage to the car and the incident may have cost him a chance of being on the front row for his home race, given his lack of pace compared to Stroll.

Sainz was left to cheer up the home fans and he delivered with a strong performance for his best qualifying session of the year.

But despite the upgrades on the Ferrari this weekend, Sainz could do nothing about Verstappen, who was in a league of his own all weekend.

His final advantage was 0.462secs and it could have been much more – his engineer told him to abort his final lap when he was set to make a substantial improvement.

What did the drivers say?

Charles Leclerc walks in the Barcelona pit lane

Verstappen said: “The car has been really nice since the beginning of the weekend and I have only made small adjustments.

“It has just been really enjoyable to drive and when you have that you can really push it to the limit.”

Sainz said he was encouraged by the performance of Ferrari with their revised side pods and floor introduced this weekend.

But there are Ferraris at either end of the grid after Leclerc had a dire time.

He complained that the car felt odd from the start of qualifying, and said: “I was completely sure I was out after the feeling I had in Q1. We will check the car tonight but I would be very surprised if the car was fine. It is the left-hand side. It was a disaster. The balance was extremely difficult.

“The feeling was really good this morning but there is something strange. There was just something off for this session and we need to understand what was it.”

Norris admitted he was “shocked” to be so high up on the grid. This is a track that should not suit the McLaren’s characteristics but he and Piastri were up at the sharp end all session.

“It feels a bit odd,” Norris said. “I definitely wasn’t thinking of being here in the top three today. I think the cool conditions helped us.”

Perez, who needed a good weekend after a terrible error-strewn time in Monaco, had exactly the qualifying session he didn’t need.

He lost control going into Turn Five on his final run in the second session, spinning into the gravel, and his final lap was not good enough to make it into the final top-10 shootout.

What happened between the Mercedes?

Hamilton was starting a flying lap in the second session when Russell ahead of him appeared to be leaving space on the outside, only to move over and crash into the other Mercedes as it passed him.

The incident damaged Hamilton’s front wing but his earlier lap was good enough to make it into the shootout.

Hamilton was only just over 0.2secs behind Verstappen into the second session but the Mercedes did not show the same pace in the final shootout and he ended up 0.546secs off the pace.

Russell complained of problems with tyres and did not have Hamilton’s pace.

He also explained that it was a “communication error” and he did not know Hamilton was there.

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