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Qualifying report
Formula 1 Spanish GP

F1 Spanish GP: Verstappen claims pole over Sainz, Leclerc falls in Q1

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took pole in a weather-impacted qualifying for Formula 1’s 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, where the Mercedes drivers collided and Charles Leclerc was knocked out in Q1.

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, celebrates in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Spots of rain falling ahead of Q1 led to that segment featuring many offs and a red flag – with Fernando Alonso picking up damage in an incident that meant he was not a pole threat.

In the other Red Bull, Sergio Perez was knocked out in Q2 after he too went off the track in what were tricky conditions throughout the session.

In a fully dry Q3, Verstappen was the sole runner to take new softs for the first runs and duly blitzed to a provisional pole time of 1m12.272s.

This ended up being the pole time as the Dutchman’s rivals – running ahead on the road – could not threaten then even with new tyres.

Home hero Carlos Sainz shot onto the front row with a final lap that featured personal bests in all three sectors, the Ferrari driver edging out his former team-mate Lando Norris, who took third for McLaren.

Then came Pierre Gasly, who faces two post-qualifying investigations for appearing to impede Sainz and Verstappen in separate incidents in the busy Q1.

Lewis Hamilton had looked to be Verstappen’s main threat for pole after he sat second after his first Q3 run on used tyres, but the Briton paid the price for not improving enough in the final sector and he could only score fifth with his best lap of the final segment.

Lance Stroll finished sixth as the lead Aston Martin, ahead of Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg, who completed just one Q3 run – offset from the rest and set a few minutes before the final fliers.

Alonso led the pack for these as Aston used the most time they could to work on his damaged floor, but he never appeared to be in the fight for the top positions as a result and so only beat Oscar Piastri to 10th.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Running at the rear of the pack for the final runs, Verstappen, with his pole already secured by the lack of improvement from the rest, was ordered to abandon his final flier in the pits.

Q2 was dry throughout, but there were big casualties. Perez paid the price for going off into the gravel at Turn 5, having touched the slippery painted kerbs on the outside line going into the downhill long left ahead of his final flier.

He had enough time to set another time, and was running just inside the top 10 at the time, but others improving meant he was at serious risk of being knocked out.

Perez blazed to personal bests in all three sectors but could not beat Hulkenberg’s time and so was knocked out in 11th by 0.051s.

That final lap had been completed in Russell’s wake – the Mercedes driver finishing 12th but also in the wars, having moved over on team-mate Hamilton ahead of their final Q2 runs.

While Hamilton went through despite not setting a last time and having his right-side front wing endplate knocked off in the contact, Russell was knocked out as his last effort was compromised – the incident also involving Russell passing Sainz on his inside on a cool-down lap and Hamilton getting a big tow to close in on the other Mercedes.

The incident will be investigated after the session, with Russell also complaining throughout Q2 that his tyres were not working as expected – the Briton saving a big snap out of Turn 11, where Nyck de Vries had spun twice in Q1.

Zhou Guanyu and the AlphaTauri pair were also eliminated behind Russell – Zhou and de Vries setting personal bests on their last Q2 laps, with Yuki Tsunoda ending up 15th behind.

Q1 started with many cars waiting at the end of the pitlane to head out early in anticipation of rain impacting proceedings, as clouds had built up to the south of the track prior to qualifying action commencing.

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, leave the pits

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, leave the pits

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Drops of rain were falling in the pitlane when the session started, but the action only lasted a few minutes as the greasy conditions caused several drivers to have off-track moments.

Alonso shot through the gravel at the exit of the final corner and picked up his floor damage, while Valtteri Bottas spun at Turn 12 having lost the rear of his Alfa in the proceeding Turn 11 right kink – a few minutes after de Vries had done likewise.

With Albon off in the gravel at Turn 5 and stones strewn across the track at multiple points, Q1 was red flagged.

When it resumed after a near 10-minute delay, there was much focus on Ferrari, which had not sent its cars out to join the first pitlane queue and they were amongst a big gaggle lacking a time on the board by the time of the stoppage.

Leclerc and Sainz immediately registered times on their first fliers, but the former’s was much slower and he struggled for pace from there – complaining “there’s something wrong with my rears”.

He escaped the drop zone with a flier set just before the chequered flag dropped at the end of Q1, but with the rain no longer a problem and rubber being laid down ever more, Leclerc was shuffled back and dumped out in 19th, with only Logan Sargeant behind.

Also eliminated in the late flurry of personal best times were Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Albon – who all slotted in ahead of Leclerc.

F1 Spanish GP Qualifying Results:

Cla Driver Chassis Engine Time Gap
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull 1'12.272  
2 Spain Carlos Sainz Ferrari Ferrari 1'12.734 0.462
3 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 1'12.792 0.520
4 France Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 1'12.816 0.544
5 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1'12.818 0.546
6 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 1'12.994 0.722
7 France Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 1'13.083 0.811
8 Germany Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 1'13.229 0.957
9 Spain Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes 1'13.507 1.235
10 Australia Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 1'13.682 1.410
11 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull Red Bull 1'13.334 1.062
12 United Kingdom George Russell Mercedes Mercedes 1'13.447 1.175
13 China Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1'13.521 1.249
14 Netherlands Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri Red Bull 1'14.083 1.811
15 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Red Bull 1'14.477 2.205
16 Finland Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1'13.977 1.705
17 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1'14.042 1.770
18 Thailand Alex Albon Williams Mercedes 1'14.063 1.791
19 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 1'14.079 1.807
20 United States Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 1'14.699 2.427

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