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Max Verstappen remains unbeatable in Barcelona. The Dutchman continued his dominant weekend and scored a comfortable pole position for the Spanish GP.
F1 Spanish GP Qualifying: Who Will be on Pole?
Max Verstappen will be on pole for the Spanish GP on Sunday. The Dutchman, who had swept all three practice sessions, set a 1:12.272 and beat local hero Carlos Sainz by nearly half-a-second. A surprising Lando Norris completed the top 3. Fernando Alonso could only manage ninth in his worst qualifying session of 2023. Sergio Perez and George Russell were out in Q2, while Charles Leclerc will start down in 19th after a disastrous Q1 exit.
Q1: Norris Leads, Leclerc Out
The session got red-flagged shortly after the start. With the track slightly damp, Alexander Albon ran wide into turn 8 and dragged some gravel back on track, prompting the interruption.
At the end of the first run, Verstappen led from Oscar Piastri, Lewis Hamilton, Esteban Ocon and Zhou Guanyu. There was drama for Leclerc, with the Ferrari driver complaining about his rear tyres. Leclerc found himself down in 17th and staring at a potential early exit.
With track conditions rapidly improving, the final minutes of the session turned into a frantic shootout for Q2. Leclerc briefly got out of the bottom 5, but tumbled down the order as other drivers also improved their time. In the end, the 2022 Spanish GP pole sitter dropped down to 19th and was eliminated in Q1 for the first time in four years.
Sergio Perez narrowly secured a transfer spot, finishing a distant 15h. Verstappen was only ninth, while Lando Norris topped the opening segment, becoming the first driver to dip into the 1:12’s. Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, plus Williams duo Albon and Logan Sargeant joined Leclerc in the bottom 5.
Q2: Verstappen on Top, Perez Drops Out
Verstappen was the first driver out on track in Q2, and the Dutchman was quick to set a 1:12.760 for the then fastest lap of the weekend. After the first set of runs, two late flyers by Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso put the former teammates and title rivals second and third, although a long way from Verstappen.
Perez, who had only managed eighth during the first run, locked the rear brakes heading into turn 5 and went into the gravel. Although the Mexican managed to return to the track, his tyres were already done for the session.
As drivers kept improving their times, Perez found himself deep into the Q2 cutoff zone. Perez’s last effort was only good enough for 11th, and the championship runner-up missed out on the Q3 transfer by 0.051s. George Russell also joined the Red Bull driver, down in 12th. The Mercedes driver also had contact with teammate Lewis Hamilton, breaking the seven-time world champion’s front wing.
Verstappen’s early lap was good enough to keep him in the lead. A late flyer by Norris put the McLaren driver in second place, while Carlos Sainz also managed to improve later in the session to go third. Zhou, de Vries and Tsunoda joined Perez and Russell in the cutoff.
Q3: Verstappen Scores Another Dominant Pole
Verstappen was, once again, the first driver to exit the pits. The Dutchman once again smashed the timesheets, setting a 1:12.272, going a whopping 0.924s faster than Hamilton. Norris finished the first run up in third place, with Ocon and Sainz completing the early top 5.
Alonso, who did not set a time during the first run, opened the second set of flying laps. The Spaniard went fourth-fastest, but over a second slower than Verstappen, and quickly dropped back down to ninth in the late flurry.
Sainz went second to salvage a positive for the home crowd. Norris showed that his pace in Q1 and Q2 was no fluke and slotted into third place, behind his former teammate.
But no one was able to beat Verstappen’s banker. The Dutchman secured his fourth pole position of the year, this time by 0.462s.
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