Barcelona Qualifying: Hamilton leads Mercedes black-wash

It will be an all-black front row for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas unbeatable in qualifying and looking imperious at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya os Saturday.

Mercedes hit the ground running from day one in Spain, the black cars setting the pace throughout and Hamilton having the edge. It was obvious that row one would be theirs long before they annexed it as expected.

Once again Sunday’s race is theirs to lose and anything less than a one-two will be an upset.

Hamilton’s first Q3 effort of 1:16.872 was good enough to claim his 92 top sport start tomorrow, with Bottas 0.059 of a second shy on his first run and unable to improve with his second effort, lining up beside him for Mercedes’ 68th front row lock up.

The Briton said afterwards, “Physically it’s tough. It’s the fastest we’ve ever been round here so the forces through your body are pretty intense. Then you’re just trying to manage the tyres on your laps.

“The first lap was decent, which did the job thankfully. I was here with the guys until 10pm last night just looking through the details, and seeing where we can get better for the race. These Red Bulls are super fast,” added Hamilton.

Bottas was again stumped, “All day today I’ve been struggling in sector three. Of course it is annoying but Lewis did a good job. I saw my long runs on Friday were competitive so I will have the pace but the start will be the best chance.”

Max Verstappen was best of the rest, the Red Bull driver seven-tenths down on the top time; teammate Alex Albon was seven-tenths behind his teammate and will start sixth.

The Dutchman gave it his best shot as usual and is sure to do the same on Sunday, “It’s the maximum we can do at the moment. I just hope we can be a bit closer in the race. In the long runs we didn’t look so bad. I know it’s very hard to overtake around here but we’re going to do everything we can to be close to them and make it difficult.”

Surprise package of the weekend were the Racing Point duo, the pair perhaps sandbagging until they turned it up for qualifying and were frequently at the sharp end with Sergio Perez, impressive after his recent ordeal, a tenth faster than Lance Stroll. The pair will line up fourth and fifth respectively.

McLaren were easily better than their engine supplier Renault, with Carlos Sainz in seventh and Lando Norris eighth, while the French cars failed to make it out of Q2, with Daniel Ricciardo 13th and Estean Ocon 15th. His team doing a good job to repair his car after a bizarre wreck during FP3 earlier in the day.

Ferrari woes continued their drivers in the absolute heart of the midfield with no apparent way out. The cumbersome SF1000 doing them no favours at all. Charles Leclerc wrestled it to ninth place beating teammate Sebastian Vettel in 11th, again the German missing out on Q3, ending a couple of tenths down on the sister car.

Leclerc’s best effort was 1.5 seconds off Hamilton’s prime time.

At AlphaTauri, Pierre Gasly again out-performed Daniil Kvyat, the Frenchman again impressing, this time ending tenth fastest while the Russian stumbled in Q2 and will start 12th. The difference three-tenths between the two in the second stanza.

Renault will be licking their wounds after a below-par showing, neither driver making it out of Q2; Daniel Ricciardo was 13th and Esteban Ocon 15th. The pair about three tenths shy of their similarly-powered customer team, McLaren, in Q2.

While qualifying was predictable, even with the pace advantage Mercedes can be vulnerable and beatable when put under pressure as Max and Red Bull proved last weekend. The stage is similarly set, albeit in Spain.

Qualifying Q2

Qualifying Q1