Big pressure was on the championship leader Charles Leclerc, when he spun on his first Q3 run at the chicane. The Ferrari driver was on the back foot without setting a lap time, but recovered to take an impressive pole position for Formula 1’s 2022 Spanish Grand Prix as Max Verstappen was hurt by a final-lap DRS issue.
The Ferrari driver had it all to do in the last part of qualifying after spinning at the penultimate corner during his banker lap in Q3 but then the points leader produced a magic lap on his second attempt.
A run to one minute, 18.750 seconds marked comfortably the fastest lap of the weekend as he seized his 13th Formula 1 pole position by three tenths over his title rival Verstappen.
The defending world champion, who held provisional pole after his first Q3 effort, was forced to abort his final flying lap after his Red Bull endured yet more unreliability.
Comfortable Q2 pacesetter Verstappen had not long delivered a crushing run through the final sector to extract a four tenth advantage on his first flying lap in the final part of qualifying to post a one minute, 19.073 seconds.
That threw him to the top of the timing screens as he ran a mighty 0.35 seconds ahead of provisional pacesetter Sainz, while Perez clocked third ahead of the Mercedes pair.
Leclerc was the major name missing from the top of the times after he threw away his first Q3 lap with a Turn 14 spin despite setting five session-best mini-sectors over the lap.
The rear axle of the Ferrari rotated into the left-handed part of the tight chicane when, like in Imola, he grabbed too much kerb. He then locked all four tyres bringing the car to a stop.
Leclerc was equipped with a fresh set of soft tyres and headed out comparatively early for the qualifying climax, leaving his garage with three and a half minutes left to play.
But he stitched together the fastest second and third sector to romp to pole.
After the DRS issue, Verstappen was able to record another front row slot ahead of Sainz, who fell a tenth adrift with his one minute, 19.166 seconds.
George Russell led the renewed effort from Mercedes with fourth position as he nipped ahead of Sergio Perez, while Lewis Hamilton ran to sixth after his first Q3 lap was hurt by oversteer out of the final corner.
Valtteri Bottas snared seventh for Alfa Romeo ahead of Kevin Magnussen, while Daniel Ricciardo was resigned to ninth after McLaren elected not to send him out for a second Q3 charge.
Mick Schumacher, meanwhile, completed the top ten. This was Mick’s first appearance in Q3 and the Haas driver will start in his best grid position.
Lando Norris failed to progress into the top ten by 0.035 seconds when the stewards deleted his final flying lap in the 15-minute session for marginally exceeding track limits at Turn 12.
The McLaren driver, who also clipped the Turn 14 bollard, had just prevented Mick Schumacher from squeezing into Q3 before his lap was binned and he was relegated.
Esteban Ocon aborted his second effort in Q2 to tether himself to P12, while Yuki Tsunoda nipped ahead of AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly.
The French racer had struggled with Turn 5 understeer on his final run, having sat out almost all of FP3 owing to a fire igniting on his installation lap.
Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou rounded out the top 15.
World champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were the major scalps to be claimed in the first part of qualifying as they were shuffled into the bottom five places.
Alpine driver Alonso, preparing for his home race, was forced to back out of his final flying lap thanks in part to early traffic from Norris, however the stewards did not to intervene. That left Alonso prey as the customary flurry of improved times landed late on.
The better laps from Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo secured their progression and subsequently dropped Vettel and Alonso to a final P16 and P17 on the leader board.
Vettel, having missed the Q2 cut-off by 0.07 seconds, did at least manage to out-qualify teammate Lance Stroll as the Canadian guided the heavily scrutinised and updated AMR22 to just P18.
Alex Albon pipped Williams stablemate Nicholas Latifi to round out the final row of the grid.
So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in rising to the challenge despite big pressure to set a lap time after spinning. The Ferrari driver did the job by securing pole position. Kudos Charles!
Spanish Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:18.750
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:19.073
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:19.166
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:19.393
5 Sergio Peérez Red Bull 1:19.420
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.512
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:19.608
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:19.682
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:20.297
10 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:20.368
11 Lando Norris McLaren 1:20.471
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:20.638
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:20.639
14 Pierre Gasly AlphaTaur 1:20.861
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:21.094
16 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:20.954
17 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:21.043
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:21.418
19 Alexander Albon Williams 1:21.645
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:21.915