F1 – Spanish GP – Qualifying
Hola, MiniDrivers! We’re arrived on Spanish soil, and the rain has arrived with us. Clouds surrounded the track, and the drivers could get a feel for a wet track during the free practices. However, even if the usual heat isn’t as present as it tends to be, the warmth coming from the fans, all fired up thanks to their home hero’s performances so far, has more than made up for it.
With a still slightly wet track from an earlier downpour, many drivers were in a hurry to go out in Q1 as they saw a few drops starting to fall. The queue that had formed in the pitlane slowly trickled out when the light turned green, softs being the preferred tyre just in case. The first spin came courtesy of Tsunoda, but he wasn’t the only one losing control of his car, thanks to a mix of a not fully dry surface and slicks. A very sudden red flag came out and confusion settled in the paddock because it wasn’t quite clear why the decision had been made, as the two cars who had made it to the gravel had easily left it on their own, but marshals were soon spotted cleaning the track up of small pebbles. When the drivers finally went back out, they didn’t lift their feet from the gas pedal, despite the track not yet being fully dry and yellow flags still going out due to isolated incidents.
Piastri had managed to climb all the way up to second, less than a tenth away from Verstappen and around eight tenths in front of his teammate. Meanwhile, Leclerc was settled in the elimination zone with five minutes to go while not comfortable with the car and was forced to use a second set of softs just to try and make it through, as most drivers were, but he wasn’t successful. Two instances of Gasly for impeding other drivers were annotated to be reviewed and possibly penalised, while Pérez breathed in relief, as he barely earned a spot in Q2. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Bottas (P16), Magnussen (P17), Albon (P18), Leclerc (P19) and Sargeant (P20).
The start of Q2 was similar to Q1, but with a main difference: Verstappen was alone, already patiently waiting for the light to go green with one minute to go. However, the need to go out quickly had greatly diminished and the pack slowly but surely made its way to the track. Softs were once again the norm, as was Verstappen topping the sheets. Furthermore, the times became quicker every lap that was completed, as the grip got better and any remnant of wetness was finally gone. Just as it happened in the previous session, there were some unexpected results, such as Norris almost copying Verstappen’s time and two of the fastest cars out of the fight for pole position, while Mercedes saw ghosts of the past as Hamilton and Russell touched on the main straight, with just a broken front wing as a result. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Pérez (P11), Russell (P12), Zhou (P13), De Vries (P14) and Tsunoda (P15).
Almost everyone went out since the beginning in Q3, with Hulkenberg and Alonso, whose car was being worked on after a trip through the gravel in Q1 damaged his floor, being the only ones remaining in their respective boxes. Showing the superiority of the recipe made up by Verstappen, Red Bull and fresh soft tyres, the Dutch driver managed to be almost one second faster than his immediate rival. Alonso’s team was finally happy with the way they fixed the car and he went out under a thunderous applause and numerous cheers, but they weren’t enough to push him as high as he’s been in previous qualifying sessions. However, the other home hero, Sainz, occupied the other front row seat, giving some hope to the fans on the stands.
Saturdays in Spain aren’t usually as exciting as they are in Monaco, but a handful of surprises left everyone wondering what it is with this track and its new layout, as the last chicane has finally been scrapped. Verstappen was destined to be the poleman, and so it happened, but his teammate and Russell couldn’t make it out of Q2, while Leclerc didn’t even get past Q1. On a brighter note, Haas and McLaren occupied those three spots in Q3, with Norris even finishing in thirds place. Alonso couldn’t copy his previous results due to damaging his car in Q1, but a Spaniard did manage to score the position right beside Verstappen, letting fans dream with a new win on home soil.
MiniDrivers – F1
2023 Spanish GP