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Charles Leclerc takes pole as Max Verstappen's final run aborted after power loss
Verstappen second, Carlos Sainz third
George Russell fourth and Lewis Hamilton sixth for Mercedes
Do not speak too soon but things could be about to get very interesting in Formula 1. A championship which had looked set to be a two-way battle between Ferrari and Red Bull could yet have a third challenger after all.
Such has been the effectiveness of Mercedes’ new upgrade package in Barcelona, which has almost completely eliminated the porpoising which has afflicted them so far this season, and such has been their pace in practice and now qualifying, the mood in the paddock has shifted noticeably.
Yes, they are still not quite there, as shown by their results in qualifying on Saturday. George Russell, who was fourth fastest, was a good six-tenths behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the final top-10 shoot-out, while team-mate Lewis Hamilton was another tenth slower again, landing him sixth spot on the grid.
But Russell reckoned Mercedes had more pace than they showed, never managing to get their tyres into the right operating window. Even more significantly, the 24-year-old predicted Mercedes could match Ferrari’s race pace on Sunday, if not Red Bull’s.
“Ferrari look extremely fast this weekend but I think we've got a better race car than we do quali car,” Russell. “Unless they find some gains overnight I think we'll be in the mix with them. So we'll be going for it and trying to fight for a podium. I think Max [Verstappen, who starts third in his Red Bull] looks much quicker than the rest, but I think we've got a real shot against Ferrari.”
If that does prove the case, if Russell or Hamilton can overhaul Ferrari, and the Italian team have shown a susceptibility to tyre degradation this season - a factor which could well decide the race given the searing 34C heat and punishing track surface - all bets are off. Leclerc’s lead may be healthy - 45 points over Russell and 68 points over Hamilton - but with 17 races remaining this season there is still more than enough time to turn things around.
Verstappen and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez are also well clear of the Mercedes drivers, of course. But as long as Ferrari and Red Bull keep taking points off each other, there is still time for Russell, or even Hamilton, to get back into this. Red Bull have had their fair share of reliability issues, remember, with Verstappen having failed to finish two races already this year.
The world champion had another wobble yesterday, in fact. Having gone fastest on his first run in final qualifying, Verstappen was looking to respond to Leclerc’s time of 1:18.750 when he suddenly slowed down completely on his final flying lap.
"I've got no power!” the Dutchman shouted over the radio. Verstappen, winner of the last two races, later said he did not know whether he would have been able to beat Leclerc had he not run into problems with his DRS overtaking aid not opening on his final run. "To be on the front row is a good performance but I would like to have gone for that final lap," he said.
🗣 "I have no power!"
Max Verstappen's reliability issues means he can't improve his time...
Charles Leclerc comes back from his spin to grab a dramatic pole! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/bVivcxPS2A
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) May 21, 2022
Leclerc had himself recovered from a spin on his first lap in Q3, the Monegasque again showing that he can make mistakes under pressure, as he did at Imola last month, and there was definitely a feeling in the paddock afterwards that the picture had changed subtly. That it was no longer the foregone conclusion it has felt up until now.
Naturally, Hamilton denied afterwards that he was back in championship contention. “Not really,” he said when he asked whether he felt as if he was back in the title mix. “I’m still way off. My team-mate is fourth so that means the car should be at least as good as that. I’m sixth and still struggling with the car. I don’t know how to get around that but I know what I’m going to do – just continue to work hard and try to figure it out.”
But even he is not totally out of it. If Mercedes do keep improving, and Hamilton finds his mojo again, nothing would surprise. Like the evergreen Roger Federer, a guest of Mercedes’ in Barcelona yesterday and looking resplendent as ever in his monogrammed RF white tee-shirt, Hamilton is one of the greatest his sport has produced.
The truth is, though, the seven-time world champion does face a much bigger task than Russell, being 23 points worse off already.
The bigger issue for Hamilton - and a fascinating one for the sport in general - will be how Mercedes react if they genuinely do find themselves back in the mix and competing for race wins again. If Russell maintains his points advantage, do they ask Hamilton to put the team’s interests above his own and sacrifice himself for his younger team mate? That would be some request and it would be intriguing to see how Hamilton responded.
Such questions are for another day. Or possibly never at all if Mercedes’s resurgence here proves to be a false dawn. First they must prove that their car can compete with Ferrari’s in race trim, as promised. Then they can look at making further inroads.
The mood on Saturday night was generally one of optimism rather than gloom, however. “I'm definitely confident our upgrades have put us much more in the mix,” Russell reflected.
“You’ve only got to look at today. It was not an optimal day yet we still had our best [qualifying] result as a team. We were always there in the top three, top four, generally, all weekend. And that was the first time in a weekend where we were top of the timesheets during a qualifying session.
“So yeah it has been an easier weekend for us and I think yeah we're excited to see what the coming races bring. But it's going to take a couple more races until we really find a lot more pace.”
Spanish Grand Prix, qualifying classification
Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1min 18.750secs
Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:19.073
Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Ferrari. 1:19.166
George Russell (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:19.393
Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:19.420
Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:19.512
Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:19.608
Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:19.682
Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:20.297
Mick Schumacher (Ger) Haas F1 1:20.368
Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:20.471
Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:20.638
Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:20.639
Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:20.861
Guanyu Zhou (Chn) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:21.094
Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:20.954
Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:21.043
Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:21.418
Alexander Albon (Tha) Williams 1:21.645
Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 1:21.915
Spanish Grand Prix qualifying, as it happened
Okay, that is it from me today
Again it's all set up between Leclerc and Verstappen tomorrow. Let's hope for a bit more of a lengthy fight than we had in Miami last time. I'll be back tomorrow for more of the same but in the mean time stay tuned for more from myself and Tom Cary from Barcelona. Thanks for joining me.
Verstappen speaks about his issues and balance
It was actually just a simple DRS failure, so it felt like a loss of power, he said.
He is asked if he could have taken pole without it?
It's difficult to tell. A lot of people improved on the second run which is quite normal, but then our DRS didn't open, so it felt like a loss of power because of the drag. It's all qualifying. It was a bit more difficult for us to find a good balance in the car. For us, not really bringing anything it was a bit more tricky. Hopefully tomorrow we can at least be a bit closer.
On the car:
It's a bit more stable, a bit more balance. But then of course we're lacking. Tomorrow is again really hot so hopefully we can be good on the tyres again.
It's progress... but it's incremental
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) May 21, 2022
Bottas is really hanging onto the back of that Mercedes again
He was closer to Hamilton than Hamilton was to Russell. Within a tenth in fact!
Russell gets the better of Hamilton again
A Mercedes on the second row is some form of progress, isn't it? But they still haven't had a qualifying session within half a second of the pole position time.
Bit of a strange one from Hamilton, Russell just looks to have the car more hooked up. It's 3-3 in qualifying overall, though.
Verstappen speaks after second place
I couldn't do my final run, I didn't have the DRS open, I just lost power. To be on the front row for us... it was a good achievement but I would have liked to have gone for the final run. Last two races we seem pretty decent on the tyres. Tomorrow will be very hot and very warm again. It's difficult to pass. Hopefully our car will be kinder on the tyres.
Charles Leclerc reacts to his pole position
I did a mistake in the first run of Q3 and then I obviously had one lap. It went extremely well. Very, very happy with pole position. It was a good lap and the car was amazing too. I am in a strong position to start the race but we've been struggling with tyres in the past two races compared to Red Bull. We need to get on top of it.
SPANISH GP QUALIFYING - Q3 CLASSIFICATION
CHARLES LECLERC TAKES POLE FOR THE 2022 SPANISH GRAND PRIX
"The lap was good, the lap was good!" he says on the team radio. He's not wrong.
Verstappen second, Sainz third and Russell fourth.
Hamilton sixth, which is about as low as he could possibly be.
Q3 - Leclerc goes quickest! He takes provisional pole
But Russell has gone quickest in sector one... think he's lost some time in sector two, though. Doesn't look like he'll do it.
He moves fourth! Nobody can beat Leclerc!
Q3 - Final runs under way
What does Leclerc do in the first sector? He's there or thereabouts, 0.026s off Verstappen.
Sainz is two tenths down at the same point.
Leclerc has found two tenths in the second sector! Will this be the astonishing lap I was talking about?
Verstappen says he has no power!
Q3 - Leclerc guilty of overdriving the car again?
Possibly. He has one lap to find the pace to try and get him on the front row. Could he do any better than that? It would have to be an astonishing performance.
Q3 - Four mins remain
I said I wasn't sure earlier if Verstappen's Q2 time was ominous. But this one is, certainly.
Q3 - Order after the first runs
LEC (NO TIME)
Q3 - Verstappen goes quickest by a big margin
Three and a half tenths in fact!
Q3 - Hamilton goes quickest
It's a 1:19.243...
But that is soon beaten by Russell, Perez and then Sainz.
Verstappen is on a hot lap now. Leclerc has aborted his lap after spinning in the final sector.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 21, 2022
Q3 - Let's see what Hamilton can do
He's half a second up on Magnussen in sector one and a couple of tenths quicker than Sainz... but Russell has the edge again! Perez also slower. Mercedes going well in S1.
Q3 - 10 mins remain
Okay, that was a bit premature. Ricciardo and Verstappen the last two men to take to the track.
And now it is time to find out. Both Haas cars out early, though soon also come the Mercedes cars. Or at least one Mercedes and one Ferrari.
Is that an ominous lap time from Verstappen?
Not sure. Sainz was 0.2s further back but Leclerc did not run again. And neither did either Mercedes. So, who knows? We will find out, though in Q3, which is just about to begin.
Q2 - Classification - ToP 10
Q2 ends - Verstappen quickest
Norris has had his lap time deleted and is pushed down to 11th and is out! He is joined by Ocon, Tsunoda, Gasly and Guanyu. Mick Schumacher makes it through!
Q2 - Magnussen goes fourth. Perez into fifth
Verstappen is about to finish his lap and goes fastest by two tenths!
Gasly goes 12th! Tsunoda out-qualifies him but both are likely out.
Ricciardo sneaks into the top 10 but can he stay there as the chequered flag falls?
Q2 - Mercedes have only used one set of fresh tyres...
.... by staying in the pits for the second runs.
Sainz improves to go quickest by 0.017s,
Lap times not likely to tumble here, it seems.
Q2 - Two mins remain
The final runs are under way. Neither Mercedes car coming out, which is fair enough. Nor is Leclerc. He should be okay, though. Sainz has just begun his hot lap.
Q2 - Could well be the old tyre factor that explains some of it
Gasly - and everyone else - told to not try to create gaps in the pit exits any more. To be fair, it can get a bit dangerous.
Q2 - Order after the first runs
No. I cannot make sense of that either. Conditions are getting warmer, but they're not that dissimilar to what we had earlier on in the day.
Q2 - Leclerc's time is well down on Russell's
Half a second, in fact. And Sainz is nearly a full second off. Okay... that's interesting. Are they going again?
Verstappen also six-tenths down...
Well, well, well...
Q2 - Hamilton crosses the line first
But then Russell beats his time by three tenths! Bad news for Hamilton. The good news is that he's a bit quicker than Perez in the Red Bull. Encouragement continues for Mercedes...
Q2 - Mercedes drivers start their flying laps
Russell has a tenth on Hamilton in the first sector... and loses only a few hundredths in the second sector. Could be tight between them. Sainz also going well.
Q2 - A bit of a wait for cars to get out onto track this session
Well, relatively. But out they come, all at once. Both Mercedes out before either of the Red Bull or Ferrari drivers.
GREEN LIGHT - Q2 begins
You know the drill. 15 cars, 10 through and five eliminated.
Both Haas cars into Q2 again
Not sure that counts as an achievement for them any more... but given the season they had last year...
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) May 21, 2022
Still, Magnussen seems to have good pace again.
Well, for all that talk of the Green Red Bull...
It hasn't really worked out for Aston Martin. Vettel sounded incredulous when told he was out. Oh well, at least he beat his team-mate.
Q1 - Classification - TOP 15
Q1 ends - Leclerc quickest
A 1-2 for Ferrari. Vettel, Alonso, Stroll, Albon and Latifi are eliminated.
Full order incoming.
Q1 - Final laps under way
Alonso has been shuffled down the order and seemed to be blocked in his final lap. Ricciardo has got up into 10th!
Vettel in P16 and in danger of getting out. He's out, confirmed!
Q1 - Can Schumacher get out of Q1?
Yes he does, into eighth!
Magnussen moves up into fifth. That puts Ricciardo down into 16th. Gasly improves to 11th, so he's through...
Q1 - It's Albon, Stroll, Gasly, Schumacher and Latifi
Russell told he's going to miss the flag so will not set another time.
Q1 - 2 minutes remain
The final runs are under way. Leclerc, Sainz and Verstappen are not going out, but everyone else below them is. Russell told he will be tight for time. He should be safe, though, really. Very safe.
Q1 - Bit of a gap between P16 and P15
Three tenths in fact. Ricciardo is the man in 15th. Not having a great time of it, really. 1.182s separates the top 12, which isn't too bad.
Q1 - Top 10 and gaps
Q1 - Norris/Stroll pit lane incident will be investigated after the race
Here's the drivers at risk of dropping out: Albon, Stroll, Gasly, Schumacher and Latifi. Now everyone has set a lap.
Q1 - 8 minutes remain
And it's now a Ferrari 1-2 at the top, Leclerc leading Sainz by 0.031s. Both a couple of tenths ahead of Verstappen.
And here comes the Mercedes...
Russell fourth and Hamilton fifth. Not much between those two, both around four-tenths off Leclerc's ultimate pace.
Q1 - Verstappen now fastest
0.356s quicker than his team-mate. Norris complains of nearly crashing into an Aston Martin in the pit lane. Well, of the Aston Martin crashing into him. It was Stroll.
Q1 - Perez goes fastest
Inevitable but it's a decent lap, I think. 1:20.447, quicker than Zhou by 0.618s. Verstappen already has a couple of tenths on his team-mate in the first sector, though he did get a tow from Perez.
Q1 - Perez out relatively early
Looks like Tsunoda has had his lap deleted for track limits at turn 12.
Perez goes fastest of anyone in the first sector, as you would expect. Let's see what he does in the final two sectors. Verstappen also out now.
Q1 - Gasly will be the second man to set a time after Guanyu
He crosses the line with a 1:22.022. That isn't great - well off the pace of the leading Alfa Romeo and also his team-mate.
Q1 - 17 minutes remain
Gasly, Tsunoda and Guanyu out first of all. 34.5 degrees is the air temp and 47.3 the track temp. Not much wind, either.
Q1 begins: 18 minutes to go
The usual business, 20 drivers and five go out.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 21, 2022
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Seems hard to bet against Leclerc on current form over one lap. I think Russell will get it into the top four and will be ahead of Hamilton. Perez to have a stinker? Don't know. Bottas has had a more difficult weekend here than most of his races so far, though he was in the top 10 in FP3 so should expect him to be there in qualifying too.
Just under 20 minutes to go until Q1 begins
Surely Mercedes, with their upgrades this race, should be getting within half a second of the pole time? They have failed to do that all season so far at 10 attempts.
Fair to say that it's a hot one in Spain this weekend
Record temperatures for May in Spain this weekend, so perhaps the 30-odd degree heat does not seem quite so bad. But the sun is strong.
Similar conditions tomorrow, too, though a degree or two cooler. Could be interesting for strategies and tyre wear in the race. Hopefully it's one of those marginal ones where we see split strategies. Doesn't really feel like we've had too many of them so far this season.
Laurent Mekies of Ferrari spoke this morning about their upgrades for this race
We are taking our time to explore it to make sure we can set the car up around it. The first indications are positive. there was not a given weakness that we were targeting with this package. The other aspect is the porpoising. We were targeting to get some improvement from that package.
Looks decent in the hands of Charles Leclerc so far...
In the W Series race that has just finished here...
...Jamie Chadwick has taken another victory, this time a closely-fought one over Abbi Pulling. About half a second separating them in the end, but she couldn't really get close enough to try a move.
And here is a break-down of the drivers' average qualifying positions so far this season
Alonso hasn't really got much return for his excellent qualifying performances. Just two points so far. Norris and Albon stand out for me.
Here is a statistical overview of how the team's qualifying pace rates this season
This is, on average, how fast they have been over one lap in qualifying trim.
Mick Schumacher had a bit of an issue in FP3
He should be back out for qualifying, though, his team say.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 21, 2022
Current constructor standings
With so many races this season it's hard to say that Mercedes are completely, definitely out of it but they need not only to find the pace to catch up Red Bull and Ferrari but to start regularly beating them. That is hard. Still, it's sort of now or never for them to get back into the picture at the front at least. Carry on where they were and it looks an enormous ask.
Current driver standings: Top 10
Times after final practice
Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:19.772
Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:19.844
George Russell (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:19.920
Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:20.002
Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Ferrari. 1:20.129
Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:20.260
Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren1:20.403
Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:20.646
Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:20.781
Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:20.882
Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren1:20.910
Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:20.944
Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:20.981
Guanyu Zhou (Chn) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:21.201
Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:21.449
Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:21.520
Alexander Albon (Tha) Williams 1:21.572
Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 1:22.419
Mick Schumacher (Ger) Haas F1 1:25.46
Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia AlphaTauri No Time Set
Good afternoon F1 fans
And welcome to our coverage for qualifying for the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. It's a track all the teams know well enough, if that isn't too much of a cliche, and one that should provide a good benchmark for how the teams are progressing... or not, depending on what the case may be.
It's not traditionally regarded as a one of the tracks that encourages excellent racing, but with the new regulations this year we may well be surprised. Let us hope so. In any case, that's all for tomorrow – qualifying is the main focus of today and going by the times in FP3, we can be at least a little hopeful that there is a three-way battle for pole position.
Charles Leclerc has been the pace-setter all weekend, topping final practice earlier this afternoon and both on Friday. It has kind of been that way this season, He was closely followed by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, again within a tenth of his rival and championship leader. Mercedes' encouraging progress continued in final practice, with Russell and Hamilton third and fourth, as opposed to their customary fifth and sixth (at best).
Both Russell (third) and Hamilton (fourth) were within a quarter of a second of Leclerc's Ferrari. They may not be able to challenge the front row in the end, but if they can threaten the second row then that is a definite improvement. So, the story of a comeback, however small, might change the narrative on the defending champions' season, but will the narrative of Russell beating Hamilton change? In qualifying Hamilton has been the better (winning 3-2 so far), but trails him by 23 points in the standings. A not insignificant gap.
Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez were fifth and sixth, around four and five tenths off Leclerc respectively. Lando Norris, Kevin Magnussen, Valterri Bottas and Esteban Ocon made up the rest of the top 10.
That sets it all up rather nicely for qualifying, with just 1.2sec separating the top 12, it should be another tight battle to get out of Q1 and Q2. And Q3 is anybody's guess.