F1 – Spanish GP – Qualifying
Hola, MiniDrivers! We landed in Spain with the whole grid back in their cars, as Sergio Pérez has been cleared to race again. Tyres will be key once again, as softs can’t clearly last just one flying lap and the hard compound has been reported to be like driving on pure ice, which begs the question of whether Verstappen will once again try to go against the grain and fight for the win with a different strategy for the race.
Williams were the first ones on track in Q1, as they were among the teams that would need two runs to try and get to the next session. They briefly topped the session but promptly went down to their usual places when times started pouring in. Despite this, Russell flirted with 15th place, just as he’s been doing for the whole season. An incident in turn 2 between Kvyat and Magnussen was noted to be investigated, which became the second time stewards would look at something in which the Danish driver was involved. Things got settled almost since everyone got their first laps in, with one major surprise coming at the end in the shape of Raikkonen saving himself and making it to Q2 and both Haas overtaking Russell, who wouldn’t make it to the following session for the first time in the season. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Magnussen (P16), Grosjean (P17), Russell (P18), Latifi (P19) and Giovinazzi (P20).
Q2 is when things would get interesting. Despite what seemed like hatred for softs due to the tyres almost self-destructing after one lap, they plagued the track with their red rims. Everyone’s eyes were on Verstappen, the only one who would maybe risk a medium or a hard compound, while Vettel seemed unable to seta lap fast enough to make it into the top 10. A small traffic jam looked like it was about to be created, but there was enough time left on the clock for the drivers to set some space in between each other. Unlike Q1, this session became madness at the end, with the last driver who made it into Q3 doing so by a mere 0.003. Only one Ferrari made it through, neither Renault managed it despite being among the favourite midfielders to do so, McLaren got both cars in with a very tight margin when it came to Norris, an Alpha Tauri squeezed through and Verstappen didn’t go for a different strategy, choosing the same red tyres as the rest. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Vettel (P11), Kvyat (P12), Ricciardo (P13), Raikkonen (P14) and Ocon (P15).
Not many cars had two brand new tyre sets for Q3, which meant a lot of drivers would have to nail one lap and that the first run would probably not be set in stone. The second stint, however, could shake things up with its shiny brand new tyres on all cars. The top places, mostly occupied by those who had two new sets, didn’t budge, but Sainz did manage to climb a couple of places, which demoted Leclerc to ninth. The third sector was still proving to be difficult and barely anyone could improve their previous time, but this session set in stone that Ferrari isn’t part of the top teams anymore, with Racing Point inheriting that place.
Without an incentive such as the one we had last race in Verstappen starting with a different tyre than his immediate rivals, we can almost only hope to see tyres being the main characters of the race once again, as the weather is not as hot as it was expected to be in Barcelona in the middle of August. We’ll see whether we’ll be celebrating another Hamilton win or an unexpected one.