Qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix was going to be one car short as the Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley was broken in half after a FP3 crash so the team decided to rebuild the tub and all the work offered an opportunity to kick the rumor down the road about Hartley’s impending departure from the team.
The Spanish Grand Prix is the first race of the European leg of the calendar and it generally is when the team bring significant upgrades to their cars. Who has the best upgrades? Could McLaren have made significant progress? Will Mercedes claw back some performance against Ferrari? It was all to play for in the first qualifying session of the European portion of the year.
It seems easy. Seven left, nine right and a few straights on a track the drivers know better than any other due to the amount of testing they do at Barcelona but a new surface and some threat of rain and a stiff tailwind might add some complexity to the event.
Sebastian Vettel set the early time of 1:17.806 on his first run followed by his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen. On second run, the role was reversed with Kimi leading and Vettel falling behind two Mercedes cars. Vettel reclaimed his lead on his next run with a 1:17.031 and it did lend credence to Lewis Hamilton’s comment that Ferrari may have been sandbagging on Friday.
Nico Hulkenberg began his hot lap with the sound of crunching metal—or at least that’s what it sounded like—and he slowed to trundle back to the garage. After a quick stop, Nico rejoined with just two minutes left in order to make his bid for Q2. The last time he was knocked out in Q1 was Spain in 2009 so he had a lot to play for and with a ho-hum lap, Force India’s Esteban Ocon punted the German out.
The Haas duo of Roman Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both thrust their way into the top 10. Lance Stroll took his Williams into the gravel at turn 12 on the last lap leaving both he and his teammate, Sergey Sirotkin out for Q1. Sauber’s Charles Leclerc made it into Q2.
Out in Q1: Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Sirotkin, Stroll, Hartley
The teams sent their cars out for their first runs on the soft tire, having used the super softs for Q1. The Soft compound seemed to be the tire of choice to start the race on. Hass set the early times with Magnussen ahead of Grosjean. They were eclipsed by Lewis Hamilton’s first run that was over .879s faster.
Hamilton was eclipsed by his teammate, Bottas and both were moved backwards by the Ferraris with Vettel leading with a 1:16.802. The Red Bull’s were 5tha nd 6th on this first runs.
Carlos Sainz set his first time on the super soft tire as did Fernando Alonso and the two slotted 10th and 9th respectively. Charles Leclerc also went out on super soft tires and managed to slot into the 13th. Must be said that it was great to see Peter Sauber at the race.
The humorous moment was Christian Horner speaking with Crofty and Martin and asking Brundle what he would do with Daniel Ricciardo who was sitting 6th with just four minutes left in the session. As it turns out, Horner agreed with Brundle and Ricciardo went out again. Interestingly, Ricciardo went out on super soft tires but he didn’t go faster than his previous lap so he will start on the soft compound.
Out: Perez, Leclerc, Ocon, Gasly, Vandoorne (outqualified by Alonso in last 10 races)
Intriguingly, Sebastian Vettel had not been on pole in the Spanish Grand Prix so he had a reason to be motivated to make Q3 the best he could. Could Vettel claim his fourth pole position in 2018? Renault was first out with Carlos Sainz followed by the rest of the teams.
Lewis Hamilton set a brilliant opening effort taking top time at 1:16.491 followed by the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo. Bottas 4th with both Ferrari’s behind him.
Ricciardo went out on the soft tire in the second phase of Q3 which was an intriguing move and the Ferrari’s also went out on the yellow tire as well. Verstappen was out on the super soft. Ricciardo set a marginally quicker time that he did on the super soft suggesting the delta between these compounds was marginal.
The talk from Lewis about the Ferrari’s sandbagging seemed to quite the opposite in reality. Ferrari looked quick in Q1 and Q3 but when it came time to go for pole, Hamilton and Bottas claimed the front row.
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m16.816s||0.643s|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m16.818s||0.645s|
|12||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m18.463s||2.290s|
|13||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m18.696s||2.523s|
|15||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m19.098s||2.925s|
|20||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||–||–|