F1 – Spanish GP – Qualifying
Hola, MiniFans! Barcelona is a staple in the championship and we’re back in Spain. We could finally reach a total of a hundred pole positions for Hamilton, but we are also celebrating Verstappen’s one hundredth race with Red Bull, his first having notably been a win in this very same circuit five years ago, almost to the day.
The qualifying session was delayed by ten minutes, but it started out the same way it always does, with Williams and Haas being the first ones on track. They only enjoyed a few minutes of seeing themselves on top, as Mercedes and Red Bull quickly climbed to the top as soon as they were out on track, the Ferraris eventually joining them for the top 6 positions. Traffic was becoming a problem for some, like Norris, who needed one extra run to ensure he’d make it through to Q2 after he came into traffic and got stuck behind Mazepin. The novelty in this first part of qualifying was Latifi’s left hand side mirror breaking, likely due to him running over the sausage kerbs placed on the outside of some corners. Norris redeemed himself by snatching first place under the checkered flag, while Tsunoda played his counterpart and got angry on radio, having been kicked out in the last possible second. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Tsunoda (P16), Raikkonen (P17), Schumacher (P18), Latifi (P19) and Mazepin (P20).
Unlike Q1, Mercedes cars were the first on track for Q2. Softs were on for everyone, as lap times were very close, and Verstappen didn’t hold back, opening a gap of almost half a second to Bottas and over seven tenths to Hamilton. However, the fight was to get into Q3, not pole position yet, and it was extremely close. Just one tenth spanned over half the midfield. The gaps between drivers were so small that Verstappen was the only one who remained in his box, safely tucked half a second away. A few changes of position later, the cars that would be taking part in Q3 were finally decided. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Stroll (P11), Gasly (P12), Vettel (P13), Giovinazzi (P14) and Russell (P15).
Everyone went all out since the clock started ticking off and they started settling in their places. One spin by Pérez after going a bit too wide rose the fear for a yellow flag – an instrument that has messed up many qualifying runs in the past – but none was waved and thus it didn’t affect anyone’s lap with the exception of his own. The top three, who were, as usual, Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas, was practically decided, as almost a second separated them from Ocon, who was in fourth place. Traffic could have become an issue but, not wanting a repeat from Monza a couple of years ago, drivers managed it in a more competent way. Their second and last run, however, didn’t change much, with only Leclerc and Pérez climbing up the ladder.
Hamilton’s 100th pole position is a feat that doesn’t seem easily beaten, but that was also said of Michael Schumacher’s number of poles, wins or world championships. Or it was at least until the combination of Mercedes and Hamilton came to be. It’s now time to wait and see whether he will be able to convert it into a brand new victory.