Lewis Hamilton beat his Formula 1 championship rival Sebastian Vettel to pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix by less than one tenth of a second after a thrilling qualifying duel.
Ferrari had set the pace in final practice at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, but Hamilton’s Mercedes held the advantage in qualifying after the first runs in Q3, setting a time of one minute, 19.149 seconds that would eventually became pole when Hamilton failed to improve on his second run.
Vettel suffered from a de-rating of his Ferrari’s energy recovery system during his first Q3 run, and was a distant fourth quickest as a result, but he was lapping comfortably faster than Hamilton’s pole time on his final run before locking up at the final chicane.
Vettel eventually cut the timing beam in one minute, 19.200 seconds, half a tenth down on Hamilton, apologising to Ferrari on the radio for the mistake.
Russian Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas was third fastest, recovering from a wild slide exiting the chicane on his first Q3 run to ultimately lap 0.173 seconds slower than Vettel with a small improvement on his second run.
Bottas described his performance as “not good enough”, but it was enough to beat his fellow countryman, Kimi Raikkonen to fourth.
The Ferrari driver suffered an oversteer moment at Turn 12 on his first Q3 run and lost time in sector two on his final effort.
Max Verstappen was well clear of Daniel Ricciardo in the private battle between Red Bulls to be fifth, while Fernando Alonso produced an awesome performance to haul McLaren-Honda into Q3 for the first time this season and qualify seventh fastest.
The home crowd favourite had a difficult start in practice with an oil leak. Alonso was so fed up with this McLaren-Honda technical issue that he returned back to hotel to play tennis! Come qualifying, Fernando produced miracles to qualify in seventh place.
Force India got both its cars into the top ten again, sandwiching Felipe Massa’s ninth placed Williams.
Sergio Perez was eighth and Esteban Ocon tenth, Ocon feeling his lost two tenths after failing to engage DRS at a crucial moment.
Kevin Magnussen missed out on making the top ten by less than a tenth, while Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean wound up down in P14 after losing the rear end of his car and going off at Turn 13 and the chicane on his final Q2 lap.
Carlos Sainz looked in excellent shape through Q1 and the initial runs in Q2, where he was always inside the top ten, but he only found 0.015 seconds on his final Q2 run so ended up P12.
The Toro Rosso driver felt he extracted the maximum from the heavily updated car, finishing just ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault, which failed to make Q3 for the first time since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, provoking an angry response from Hulkenberg on team radio.
Pascal Wehrlein’s Sauber was P15, having done very well to win a tight scrap to escape Q1.
Less than a second covered 14 cars in that fight, with Perez’s Force India the only car outside the top six not required to make a second run.
Wehrlein edged out Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson by just 0.005 seconds to make the cut, while Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, Lance Stroll’s Williams, Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren and Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso all missed out.
Congratulations to Lewis Hamiltonn in recording pole position but the star of qualifying is Fernando Alonso. Seventh position in the McLaren-Honda is remarkable and fingers crossed the car stays reliable in the race.
Qualifying positions, Spanish Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m19.149s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m19.200s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m19.373s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m19.439s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m19.706s
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m20.175s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1m21.048s
8 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m21.070s
9 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m21.232s
10 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m21.272s
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m21.329s
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Renault 1m21.371s
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m21.397s
14 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m21.517s
15 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber-Ferrari 1m21.803s
16 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m22.332s
17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m22.401s
18 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m22.411s
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda 1m22.532s
20 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m22.746s