Valtteri Bottas took pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix by over 0.6s from teammate Lewis Hamilton with a brilliant performance in qualifying.
The opening runs in Q3 proved crucial, as Bottas delivered a stunning lap to post a 1m15.406s to lead Hamilton — who looked ragged throughout — by over 0.6s. The Mercedes advantage was significant enough for Hamilton to still be 0.2s clear of Sebastian Vettel in third, and none of the trio were able to improve on their final attempts.
All the more impressive was the fact that Bottas missed out on some running due to a spin in FP3, going on to take his third consecutive pole position.
Charles Leclerc only got one run due to floor damage suffered running slightly wide at Turn 9 in Q2, and he was beaten to fourth place by Max Verstappen. Pierre Gasly will start alongside Leclerc in sixth, but both drivers were over a second off Bottas.
Haas secured row four with Romain Grosjean ahead of Kevin Magnussen by just 0.011s, and both a little over 0.2s adrift of Gasly in another strong qualifying performance. Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo round out the top 10, but Ricciardo will drop three places as a result of causing a collision with Kvyat during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where he inexplicably reversed into the Toro Rosso.
An extremely close second part of qualifying included four drivers covered by less than 0.2s, as Lando Norris was the last of that quartet and dropped out in 11th place. It was an impressive performance from Norris compared to teammate Carlos Sainz, who is usually so strong around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but ran wide out of Turn 12 on his final lap and missed the chicane completely after losing control in the gravel.
That mistake saw Sainz knocked out in 13th place with Alexander Albon splitting the two McLarens, while Alfa Romeo and Racing Point looked a little off the midfield pace as Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez – 14th and 15th respectively – were half a second adrift of the top ten.
Q1 immediately saw action as Nico Hulkenberg outbraked himself into Turn 4, locking up and going into the gravel. Trying to then keep enough momentum to get through to the grass on the edge of the track, Hulkenberg didn’t slow enough and damaged his front wing.
It proved costly, as Hulkenberg was able to return but had one run to try and advance and failed to do so, dropping out in 16th place. The gap to teammate Ricciardo was just 0.019s, with a final run from Perez pushing the German down into the drop zone.
Perez’s own teammate Lance Stroll was eliminated once again for Racing Point, continuing a run that has seen him fail to escape Q1 since joining the team. Antonio Giovinazzi’s struggles also continued as he was half a second slower than Raikkonen and ended up 18th.
George Russell will start from the back of the grid due to a gearbox penalty as a result of his crash at the end of FP3, but he delivered an encouraging lap time for Williams as he was just 0.4s off Giovinazzi and under 0.7s away from a place in Q2. The same couldn’t be said for Robert Kubica, who was 1.2s slower than Russell.