By Tom Morgan, Sports News Correspondent in Barcelona
Lewis Hamilton lambasted a “really dangerous” move by George Russell which led to the Mercedes teammates dramatically colliding during Spanish Grand Prix qualifying.
However, the two Britons immediately moved to dismiss any team tensions afterwards, insisting they had shaken hands over the “misunderstanding”.
The coming together came as the all-conquering Max Verstappen raced to another pole position for Sunday’s race. Beneath him, however, there is now keen competition across the manufacturers, with six different cars in the top six on the grid.
Hamilton starts fifth despite a bizarre coming together with Russell, who lines up in 12th at the end of Q2 at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. After further tweaks over night to his recent upgrade, the seven-time world champion had shown he is competitive again and he expressed dismay over his radio after kicking up dirt from the grass as part of his front wing flew off his Mercedes. “George just backed off,” said Hamilton over the radio. “That is really dangerous. I might have some damage on the car.”
Although Hamilton’s time was good enough to progress to Q3, Russell was eliminated in 12th. Russell later said “sorry” over his radio, but he initially said: “You didn’t tell me there was a car behind. I don’t know what the hell was going on in this session. The car was bouncing. I couldn’t get my tyres working.”
Both were called in by the stewards to explain their actions. As they emerged for media duties later, however, the pair - along with Toto Wolff - dismissed the incident as a “big miscommunication”.
“It was just a misunderstanding,” said Hamilton. Hamilton had to take on a replacement front wing for Q3 after he made contact with Russell in the closing stages of Q2. With both Mercedes men starting their hot laps, Hamilton moved out of Russell’s tow at 210mph on the main straight.
But the seven-time world champion was forced to take to the grass after his team-mate, who was making his way past Sainz’s Ferrari, unintentionally, closed the door on him.
Hamilton said later that his car had “front wing damage and I don’t know what’s damaged on the floor”, but it was not worth sweating over as “either way, we couldn’t compete with Red Bull”.
“I just spoke to him now,” he said when asked whether the pair had discussed the collision. “I just went and shook his hand and that was it.”
Overall, however, Hamilton was in good spirits thanks to significant progress on his upgrade in recent days. “I’m generally really happy,” he added. “I think we’ve made some really great progress in the car today..... We did some great work overnight and the car really felt so much better this morning.
💬 “It was just a misunderstanding, a lack of communication in the garage during an intense moment so no one is to blame.'
- Toto on the Quali incident. pic.twitter.com/pqn17XuILz
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 3, 2023
“I just had so much more confidence in the car - these upgrades have definitely worked, and so we are thankful. It’s massively encouraging.”
Russell, meanwhile, will start one place behind Sergio Pérez after the underperforming Red Bull driver also failed to make it out of Q2. Russell cut a frustrated figure as he explained the “big miscommunication” that led to the Hamilton collision. “He was not aware that I was starting a lap as well,” he added. “I was looking ahead to get the slipstream from Sainz. It was not something that either driver necessarily did wrong but within the team it shouldn’t happen and the communication should have been better towards us.”
Coincidentally, Hamilton and then teammate Nico Rosberg had an infamous collision at the same track in 2016. “It shouldn’t happen,” admitted Wolff. “Team-mates should never collide – and even with another car you should never collide in qualifying. It is always unfortunate circumstances that can potentially penalise both cars. This is a team effort and we need to review something in our communications to avoid it in the future.”
Perez is Verstappen’s closest challenger in the championship but a week on from his horror show in Monaco where he finished 16th and two laps down, he qualified only 11th.
The Mexican ran through the gravel and, although he managed to keep his Red Bull out of the wall, his next lap was not quick enough to carry him through to Q3.
“Unbelievable,” said Perez. On an afternoon of shock results, Charles Leclerc, who started this race from pole position last year, will line last but one on the grid. Leclerc complained about the rear of his Ferrari and finished above only Williams rookie Logan Sargeant in the order.
“I don’t have the answers for now,” said Leclerc following his early bath. “The only thing I can say is the left-hand corners were undriveable.”
Spanish Grand Prix qualifying classification
Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1min 12.272secs
Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Ferrari 1:12.734
Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:12.792
Pierre Gasly (Fra) Alpine 1:12.816
Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:12.818
Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:12.994
Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:13.083
Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Haas F1 Team 1:13.229
Fernando Alonso (Spa) Aston Martin 1:13.507
Oscar Piastri (Aus) McLaren 1:13.682
Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:13.334
George Russell (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:13.447
Guanyu Zhou (Chn) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:13.521
Nyck de Vries (Ned) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:14.083
Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:14.477
Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:13.977
Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 Team 1:14.042
Alexander Albon (Tha) Williams 1:14.063
Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:14.079
Logan Sargeant (USA) Williams 1:14.699
Spanish Grand Prix qualifying, as it happened
We'll be back with our live coverage tomorrow from around 12.30
With the race beginning at 2pm. Probably need something like a Verstappen retirement to make the race interesting. The chance of rain for tomorrow is not so great as it was for today. You never know...
Sainz with his best qualifying of the year
Has given the home fans something to cheer at least. Alonso’s struggles were uncharacteristic.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 3, 2023
Verstappen reacts to his pole
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 3, 2023
An interesting moment on Sky Sports F1 when Christian Horner is asked if Verstappen will have any competition tomorrow. He says yes, but then goes on to lists numerous things that aren’t other drivers: the rain, reliability, how the tyres will hold on in the final sector.
That is a superb lap from Norris
“I am surprised to be here, P3 almost P2. Very happy. It was nice, the whole of qualifying we were quite quick, so all good.”
Plenty of men with reason to be delighted there
And a few who will be disappointed to say the least: Perez, Russell, Leclerc for example.
Q3 - Classification
MAX VERSTAPPEN TAKES POLE FOR THE 2023 SPANISH GRAND PRIX
He was on another good lap but aborts it because he knows he cannot be beaten. Never in doubt, really.
Q3 - Norris into third, Gasly fourth!
What can Hamilton do? Can he trouble the front row?
No, he cannot – it’s only fifth! Behind Gasly, Norris and Sainz. And, of course, Max Verstappen.
Q3 - Alonso with not a great lap here
Fourth, 1.235s off Verstappen.
Sainz improves to displace Hamilton. Stroll goes third, beating Alonso in qualifying for the first time this season!
Q3 - Alonso carrying some damage since that off in Q1
He goes out to set his first and only flying lap of the session, I assume, with a clear track. He may catch some of the others, actually. But he’s the first to start his hot lap in this passage of the session. Let’s see what he can do. A front-row spot up for grabs, you’d think.
Q3 - Barely a drop of rain since Q1 started
And it’s too late to affect anything now. Oh well. Looks like we’re going to have a slightly mixed up grid, anyway.
Hulkenberg crosses the line with a decent lap, third and it’s only Hamilton and himself who are within a second of leading man Verstappen’s time. A fine job so far this weekend from the German.
Q3 - Order and gaps after the first runs
HUL (NO TIME)
ALO (NO TIME)
Q3 - What can Hamilton do?
It’s second, but it’s nearly a second off Verstappen’s pace. On used tyres, though. But he will do well to get within half a second and that is even if Verstappen does not improve.
Q3 - Verstappen fastest in the second sector, too
Ocon crosses the line a tenth or so ahead of Piastri and then Verstappen beats them both with a 1:12.272, which is 1.500s faster than Piastri, as I predicted.
Q3 - Hamilton out on used tyres
Stroll currently has the fastest first sector, but surely Verstappen will beat that. Indeed he does by four tenths...
Piastri crosses the line with a 1:13.772 on the used soft tyres. Imagine Verstappen will be something like 1.5s faster than that at the least.
12 minutes on the clock. Nobody that keen to get out there. Just one Red Bull, one Ferrari and one Mercedes involved here. Two McLarens, two Alpines and two Aston Martins, though. And Nico Hulkenberg.
Q2 - Classification
Nearly a big incident on the pit straight
Hamilton is slipstreaming Russell, who is using DRS. It seems he thinks Russell moves to the right to let him through but then he backs off and pushes him onto the grass a little. I am not sure Russell knew Hamilton was there and Hamilton has some damage on his front wing.
Seems Russell was not on a hot lap but Hamilton was.
Q2 ends - Verstappen fastest
Norris second. Perez, Russell, Zhou, De Vries and Tsunoda are eliminated.
Q2 - Final runs under way
Perez looking likely to get through here. He crosses the line in 11th... no, he’s out! And so is Russell!
Two big scalps gone in this session.
Q2 - Stroll into fourth, Sainz into second
Norris is in 12th and goes second, usurping Sainz! From nowhere! That should see him through.
Can Piastri do similar? Yes, he’s into sixth. Russell and Perez both in the drop zone as it stands.
Q2 - Perez in the gravel!
He was a couple of tenths down on Verstappen after one sector and then goes straight on at the tight left-hander down the hill. He keeps it going and is told he has the fuel to keep going, but those tyres are pretty dirty. He is vulnerable, though, down in ninth currently...
Q2 - Drivers come out for final runs
Russell really struggling today. He might make it into Q3 but a big gap to Hamilton. Hamilton might also be able to find a bit more time here as his best lap so far was done on slightly older soft tyres after he aborted the lap before.
Q2 - Top 10 and gaps
Q2 - Hamilton goes again...
...and again sets the fastest first sector time. Where will he be after two? He does his personal best and is looking likely for second here, I think.
He runs a bit wide at the final turn but sets the fastest final sector and goes second, 0.239s off Verstappen.
Decent lap, that.
Q2 - Russell more than half a second down on Verstappen after two sectors
He crosses the line second fastest but nearly seven-tenths down. Hamilton appears to have backed off in the middle sector. Not sure why. Stroll improves to go second, but Alonso then pips him. 0.518s the gap between him and Verstappen up top.
Q2 - Hamilton backs up before starting his flying lap
Russell two-tenths down on Verstappen after one sector. Hamilton has a fine first sector, marginally up on Verstappen in fact. Nice.
Q2 - Verstappen posts a 1:12.760
Not exactly lightning, a couple of tenths faster than Hamilton’s fastest Q1 time. Perez cannot get anywhere near that but he is on used softs, so that will have cost him a bit of time. 0.854s the gap between the Red Bull pair.
Sainz is more than a second away from his old team-mate Verstappen, though.
Alonso in a roving steward role, it seems
Verstappen and Perez get out there early on a clear track.
Q1 - Perez makes it through, just
15th is good enough. He made it through by just over a tenth over Bottas.
Q1 - Classification
Q1 ends - Leclerc is out!
That is a nightmare afternoon. He struggled so much and is out in Q1 on merit, on raw pace. He didn’t have enough battery power to do another hot lap.
Q1 - Final runs under way
Hamilton with the fastest first sector. De Vries fourth, Norris now fastest, Russell second. Leclerc is in 16th! He needs to find another lap, but can he? Sainz now in fourth, Hamilton fastest...
Q1 - 20 cars out on track at the moment
Lap times tumbling...
No rain yet. Hulkenberg goes fastest!
What can Leclerc do? 11th. That might not be good enough. It might not...
Q1 - Perez improving here... and he needs to
Two minutes remain and he should be fine if he can string the rest of the lap together. Leclerc still needs to find some time.
He goes fourth and should be safe with that lap. Leclerc has just started his next quick lap. He is currently down in 17th.
Albon moves into sixth, Alonso into third. Gasly fastest!
Q1 - Top 10 and gaps
DROP ZONE: PER, LEC, TSU, ALB, SAR
Q1 - Russell goes out of the drop zone
He moves into P8, putting Perez into the bottom five... Perez and Leclerc there as it stands.
Q1 - Leclerc struggling a lot here
He improves his lap but he is only 16th and is still in the drop zone.
“There’s something wrong with my rears, guys,” he says to his team.
Q1 - Hamilton moves up into third
Sergio Perez crosses the line to go only 13th, 1.5s down on Verstappen.
Verstappen then improves by a small margin to go faster still at the top.
Q1 - Top 10
Drivers in the drop zone: PER, LEC, NOR, DEV, ALB
Q1 - Alonso moves into sixth
Nearly a second slower than Verstappen, with 10 minutes left in this mini-session. Replays show that Gasly got right in the way of Sainz at the final corner and I would not be surprised if he picked up a penalty for that. That is the risk with this new track layout with that final chicane no longer in play.
Q1 - Verstappen goes fastest
A 1:13.660, and Piastri is not too far behind him in second, just 0.031s in fact.
Q1 - Both Ferrari drivers get their laps compromised by an AlphaTauri I think
Leclerc crosses the line but only 11th. Zhou has gone fastest, but Sainz is not too far behind with his lap.
Q1 - Session resumes
A little over 14 minutes on the clock. Not really a great deal more rain if any, since they threw the red flag.
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) June 3, 2023
Here is the current order, by the way
Only these seven drivers have set a lap time.
Session to resume in two minutes
All those spins suggest that it is not that easy out there
It seems that the red flag is for the gravel on the track from at least one of the incidents.
Not entirely sure what this red flag is about
Did they use it too prematurely? There are 14 minutes and 13 seconds left on the clock when re resume.
Q1 - RED FLAG
Looks like Bottas beached his car towards the end of lap, heading into the final few corners. And that is why they threw the red flag, but then he got it going again...
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 3, 2023
Replays show that De Vries also has a spin and Alonso ran wide at the final turn adjusting buttons on his steering wheel. Albon also spins into the gravel and then gets going again.
Absolute chaos at the start of Q1! 🚩 pic.twitter.com/GZRUsT5Ru2
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) June 3, 2023
Q1 - Russell crosses the line with 1 1:15.735
Will the rain come? There are still a few damp patches out there if you go slightly off line.
Hamilton crosses the line eight-tenths down faster than his team-mate and we have yellow flags as Bottas has gone off...
And the red flag comes out... why?
Q1 - 16 mins remain
Tsunoda appears to have gone off the track already. Lost it in the final sector, but manages to keep it going. Russell thinks rain is on the way.
GREEN LIGHT: Q1 begins
No surprise, with the changeable conditions, that there’s a host of cars queueing up at the end of the pit lane. And everyone on slicks. Russell says it’s spitting in the pit lane but only lightly.
That said, it doesn't really look like the rain is at all that heavy
Probably slicks to start with. But there are a few spits and spots.
I spoke too soon
It is now raining trackside.
Just about five minutes to go
If it stays dry there might not be a great deal of interest at the front...
Gary Anderson: What the ‘spy’ photos of the Red Bull and Mercedes tell us
The crashes of Sergio Pérez and Lewis Hamilton at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix gave us some great photographs of the under-floors of the Red Bull and Mercedes cars.
Mercedes had their upgraded package but given Red Bull’s performance advantage, there would have been huge interest in looking at what they are doing with their under-floor and diffuser.
It is not always easy to get a totally clear picture from the images the “spy photographers” capture. We are looking into a black hole a little because of the shadows that make it difficult to see the surfaces correctly. Nevertheless, there is still plenty that can be learned.
Well, it doesn’t look to have rained in the last hour or so, so it might well be a dry start to qualifying. Still a chance of rain in the session, though.
And here's how the teams are doing in qualifying
It has closed up a fair amount in the last two rounds, which is good to see. Though Red Bull are still miiiiles ahead of the rest.
Driver qualifying stats so far this season
How does each driver fare against his team-mate in qualifying? We have all the stats here.
The two Mercedes drivers spoke after FP2 yesterday
“Our car feels... like the car. It’s so different from last week of course. The long-run pace didn’t look terrible,” Lewis Hamilton said.
George Russell struck a similar tone: “We know that we’re not Friday specialists and we take a bit of a step forward on Saturday. We are where we are. We weren’t expecting to suddenly set the world on fire. We need to learn what we can with the info we’ve got and try and learn forward tomorrow.”
Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes will ‘struggle’ to qualify in top 10 at Spanish Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton does not seem all that sure as to whether this Mercedes upgrades are working.
“From the pace that I had today it will be a struggle to get into the top 10, but hopefully we can make some changes overnight,” he said on Friday night. “It is impressive to see the improvements that everyone has made all around us. If you look at the Alpines, and you can see the Aston Martin is right behind the Red Bull which is impressive. It is not going to be easy that is for sure.”
Logan Sargeant could also do with a good race
So far, not so good.
RED FLAG! 🚩
Logan Sargeant brings out the red flag after flying through the gravel and into the wall! pic.twitter.com/XM2KADzFcs
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) June 3, 2023
He has shown glimpses of speed, but needs to start to putting it all together over a weekend and getting closer to Albon. And crucially, cutting out the big mistakes.
Lance Stroll could do with a good weekend in Spain
But he went into the gravel in FP3 a couple of hours ago.
Lance taking a stroll into the gravel in FP3 📻 pic.twitter.com/C9Nw4Kmkm6
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) June 3, 2023
He trails Fernando Alonso by a hefty points margin and has yet to out-qualify his team-mate. He’s not a bad driver, but might there come a time when Aston Martin, given their ambitions, need to look elsewhere? I covered this topic in my F1 newsletter from earlier this week. You can sign up to that here if you have not already done so.
Updated constructor standings
The Formula Two sprint race has just finished. Drivers started off on the full wet tyres but have now finished on slicks. There are still some damp patches off-line, though. So, if there is no further rain it should be slick running for the F1 drivers, too.
Current driver standings: Top 10
What are the timings for the sessions this weekend?
All times British Summer Time
Saturday, June 3
Sunday, June 4
Times after FP3
Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1min 13.664secs
Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:13.914
Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:14.072
Carlos Sainz Jr. (Spa) Ferrari 1:14.240
Fernando Alonso (Spa) Aston Martin 1:14.264
George Russell (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:14.278
Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:14.353
Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Alfa Romeo F1 Team Kick 1:14.360
Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:14.659
Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:14.681
Guanyu Zhou (Chn) Alfa Romeo F1 Team Kick 1:14.681
Nyck de Vries (Ned) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:14.693
Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:14.756
Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Haas F1 Team 1:14.988
Oscar Piastri (Aus) McLaren 1:15.105
Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:15.266
Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 Team 1:15.534,
Pierre Gasly (Fra) Alpine 1:15.841
Alexander Albon (Tha) Williams 1:15.851
Logan Sargeant (USA) Williams 1:16.529
And welcome to our live coverage for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, just outside of Montmelo. The season so far is taking a familiar shape heading into the seventh race of the season. Yes, Red Bull have won each of the six rounds so far (plus one sprint race), but before last weekend Sergio Perez was at least in the championship question.
Perez had an horrific weekend in Monaco, crashing in qualifying, starting last before finishing out the points. He now trails his team-mate by 39 points in the standings. Although few would have given Perez much chance of beating Verstappen in the final reckoning, it would have been nice to have him in the picture to create some jeopardy.
How is it going so far for Verstappen this weekend? Rather well. He has topped all three practice sessions so far and should be favourite for pole in qualifying. That is no surprise. Perez has been a little distant, but this is a track that will suit the RB19 more than Monaco.
The spanner in the works may be the weather. The final practice session earlier this afternoon was affected by a light shower and meant that drivers had to run the intermediate tyres for a while. It was dry enough for slicks towards the end of the hour but there is also a fair chance of rain throughout qualifying. In fact, the rain looked a little heavier in the 45 minutes or so after FP3 finished.
The rain should provide the opportunity for a mixed-up grid but it does not always work like that. A quick car in the dry is usually a quick car in the wet. There are more variables and a greater chance for someone slipping off but, really, Verstappen is comfortably one of the best drivers in the wet as he has proved on numerous occasions. The better scenario would be changeable conditions so that it switches from slicks to intermediates. Timing then is key.
A wet qualifying session would be no bad thing whatever, though. It should be an enjoyable watch and challenging for the drivers, especially with the final chicane removed. Q1 begins at 3pm BST and we will be here for all of the build-up, latest updates and reaction from qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.