Max Verstappen took pole for the Spanish Grand Prix with a crushing lap for Red Bull, beating the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz into second place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Lando Norris was an excellent third for McLaren with Pierre Gasly in fourth for Alpine. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were in fifth and 12th. There was a shock exit in Q1 for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who finished in 19th after only having time to complete one quick lap on a drying track.
There will be some hard questions asked at Mercedes after Hamilton clipped Russell as he came up behind him on the straight. Hamilton accused his teammate of unexpectedly backing off, causing the pair to touch during Q2 and damaging Hamilton’s front wing in the process. It is the first time the pair have clashed on track since Russell joined Mercedes in 2022. The team described the incident as a “miscommunication” but both drivers have been summoned to the stewards with Russell facing the charge of “abnormally changing direction” causing an impact.
The track was damp from earlier rain but suitable for slick tyres, although the conditions were still somewhat treacherous in certain sectors when the session began, with a number of cars spinning off and the red flag delaying proceedings.
By the business end of Q3 Verstappen was once more flying out front, setting the pace with a 1minute 12.272second lap on his first hot run. It was almost a second clear of the rest of the field, an enormous advantage.
For the second flying laps the world champion had done enough. No one could come close and Verstappen was up again in the opening two sectors before he backed off with the pole already secure. In the end he was half a second clear of the field and would have been even further ahead had he completed his final run. “The car was on rails,” he said and it truly was.
Verstappen has four wins from six races this season, with Red Bull still unbeaten. Indeed in Barcelona he conceded for the first time that the team’s advantage in pace was such that it was at least conceivable that they could manage the unprecedented feat of taking a clean sweep of wins across all 22 meetings. On this form, it looked achievable.
Verstappen, who leads the world championship by 39 points from his teammate, Sergio Pérez, and has taken pole-to-flag victories in Bahrain, Australia and Monaco, looks in every position to repeat the feat on Sunday. This is his 24th pole but is also his first in Spain, where he took his first F1 win on his debut for Red Bull in 2016 and where he also took the flag last year on his way to a dominant second championship.
Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso were in sixth and ninth for Aston Martin, Esteban Ocon in seventh for Alpine, Nico Hülkenberg in eighth for Haas and Oscar Piastri in 10th for McLaren.
Pérez made another error going off in qualifying and went out in 11th place, further compromising his title hopes. Guanyu Zhou was in 13th for Alfa Romeo, with Nyck de Vries and Yuki Tsunoda in 14th and 15th.
Valtteri Bottas was in 16th for Alfa Romeo. Kevin Magnussen was 17th for Haas, and Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant 18th and 19th for Williams.
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