Barcelona Qualifying: Verstappen on another planet, Alonso flops

Barcelona Qualifying: Verstappen on another planet, Alonso flops

Max Verstappen was in imperious form the minute his RB19 rolled on track in Barcelona and translated that with a dominant pole on Saturday afternoon.

The reigning Formula 1 Champion has lead all practice sessions around the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya and capped that off with pole position on Saturday afternoon, setting himself up nicely for achieving his second consecutive Spanish Grand Prix win.

The track in Barcelona was always going to be the best place for the RB19 to flex its muscles in the hands of Verstappen, and as expected, the Red Bull ace took pole by 0.462s, noting that he was on a faster flying lap at the dying moments of Q3, but opted to back off when pole was guaranteed.

On a day when Red Bull were in their top form, Sergio Perez messed up yet again, for the second weekend in a row, after spinning in Q2 compromising his Qualifying ending up 11th.

Carlos Sainz saved face for Ferrari after Charles Leclerc dropped out from Q1, the Spaniard taking second place in front of his home crowd.

Lando Norris, against the odds, was third fastest for McLaren, the Briton impressive and keeping it clean throughout Qualifying while other faltered.

Qualifying was under risk of being a wet session, but the rain never came, and the shootout ended out being a dry affair, but a tricky one a several drivers struggled to get their tyres up to temperature which was the name of the game on Saturday afternoon in Barcelona.

Verstappen: The car was on rails

Speaking in parc ferme after taking his fourth pole in 2023, is first in Barcelona, Verstappen said: “The car was really good. Qualifying was really tricky with the weather but once it started to dry out, and in Q3, the car was on rails. It was really enjoyable to drive today.

“I love coming to Barcelona, I love the track, I love the fans – they love racing. I have a lot of great memories here and hopefully tomorrow we can have another one,” the Dutchman added.

Second-placed Sainz said: “It was super tight, very tricky conditions out there today and even getting through Q1, Q2 without any issues.

“Probably one of the most tricky qualifying’s I’ve had here in Barcelona in terms of conditions, but we did it. I think we’re in the best possible position going into the race, and now we can focus on trying to get that pole tomorrow. I didn’t leave anything on the table. I was pushing flat out.

“It was very tight even with the McLaren, with Alpine, the Mercedes, Aston, we were all in the same group basically this weekend.

“So I think P2 is a as far as I could make it today and a pretty good lap,” the Spaniard concluded.

An elated Norris added, after qualifying third: “I’m surprised to be here. Amazing job. P3, almost P2. It’s a home race for Carlos so I thought I’d give him a couple of tenths.

“I’m very happy. To be in P3 was quite nice. The whole of qualifying we were quite quick, so all good. It was a difficult Qualifying, but always in these conditions we seem to do well. It seemed to suit me,” the Briton added.

Q3: Verstappen unchallenged

Verstappen’s fastest time around the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya was a 1:12.272. 0.462s faster the Sainz in second place and 0.520s faster than Norris in third.

Pierre Gasly took a superb fourth for Alpine, but might be at risk of a penalty for impeding Verstappen in Q1. The Frenchman set a lap time of 1:12.816.

Lewis Hamilton looked good for a top three result, but a mistake on his final lap in Q3 meant he was only good for fifth, 0.546s off the pace, but a decent result nonetheless given how Mercedes started their Spanish weekend.

Finally, Lance Stroll beat teammate and home hero Fernando Alonso for the first time in Qualifying this season, the Canadian sixth fastest albeit being 0.722s off the pace. Alonso was ninth.

Esteban Ocon ensure another strong weekend for Alpine, seventh fastest with a 1:13.083, with Nico Hulkenberg taking eighth, 0.146s behind the #31 Alpine.

Alonso…. After being second fastest behind Verstappen in FP3, the Aston Martin driver had an off in Q1, going through the gravel and damaging his floor. He never got into the groove after that and will start the race from ninth on the grid. His best Qualifying effort was a massive 1.235s off the pace.

Oscar Piastri made McLaren a happy bunch, making it into the top ten, despite being 0.890s off his teammate’s pace.


Q2: Perez is casualty #2

Dry conditions continued at the start of Q2, and Verstappen was the first car out of the pit, eager to set a lap time and secure a position into Q3. He set down a marker, a 1:12.760.

With the first round of qualifying laps done, and as the driver set out for their second runs, Perez had a huge moment at Turn 5 ending up in the gravel trap.

That meant that the Mexican could not deliver a second proper lap, and was the first driver to drop out in Q2, and will start the Grand Prix on Sunday from 11th.

The Mercedes drivers. Hamilton and George Russell had a huge moment, as the latter pulled over and blocked his teammate who barely kept it together but suffered front wing damage.

While Hamilton made it into Q3, Russell did not and will line up 12th on the race grid on Sunday, but the teammate will be under investigation after Qualifying.

Verstappen’s initial time remained and challenged and he lead the pack into Q3 with Norris second fastest 0.016s behind while while Sainz was third fastest 0.014s behind Norris.

Perez missed out on Q3 by a painful 0.051s and Hulkenberg beat him to tenth, and the Mexican was followed by Russell, 0.113s slower in 12th.

Zhou Guanyu was 13th fastest for Alfa Romeo, while Nyck de Vries took 14th in the AlphaTauri, 0.562s behind the Chinese driver.

Yuki Tsunoda lost out to De Vries this time around and was 15th fastest over three tenths slower than his teammate.


Q1: Leclerc an early casualty

Despite the chances of rain being 30%, Q1 started with a few drops in the paddock, as the drivers lined up at the pit exit to make sure they set a banker lap before the intensity of the rain increases.

“It’s spitting in the pit lane, but only very lightly” Russell informed his team.

Just after he hit the track, Tsunoda had a scary moment coming out of Turn 12, after driving over the wet kerbs. The Japanese driver kept it together though and got going.

Four minutes into Qualifying, Valtteri Bottas spun at Turn 12, while Alonso had a moment a Turn 14, with Albon also going off at Turn 5.

Despite all cars making it back to the pit, race control were quick to red flag the session for gravel on the track, according to the FIA.

The session was resumed almost 14 minutes remaining from Q1 with the track still dry enough for slicks, as drivers raced on track to set their times.

Alonso remained in the pit for a bit longer as Aston Marti mechanics were checking his AMR23 for any floor damage following his off-track excursion.

With ten minutes remaining, De Vries brought out a brief Yellow flag after spinning at Turn 12, but manages to return to the pits.

Sainz had a close moment with Gasly, the latter on the racing line as the former was on a flying lap.

Leclerc, with five minutes remaining from Q1 complained about his rear tyres while down in 17th, not a good start for the Monegasque.

In the end, Q1 was concluded in dry weather and the first of the losers was Leclerc who was 19th fastest, while Perez barely made it into Q2.

Hamilton was the fastest car in Q1 with a 1:12.937, with Norris second fastest in the McLaren, 0.358s behind his compatriot while Russell was third fastest in the other Mercedes, 0.031s behind the McLaren.

Verstappen who set one timed lap at the start of the session was ninth fastest, as other cars did more laps on new Soft tyres as the track improved, the Dutchman also impeded by Gasly while on his last flying lap.

First to miss out on Q2 was Bottas, 16th fastest and missing out by a tenth, with Kevin Magnussen in 17th, 0.065s behind the Finn.

Alex Albon was 18th fastest while Leclerc was a shocking 19th with a 1:14.079, with Logan Sargeant dead last.