Lewis Hamilton beat his title rival Max Verstappen by a mere 0.036s in a tight qualifying session at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Fourteen years after his first pole, the Mercedes driver laid down a marker for this years championship with another stellar Saturday performance
It was a typically error-free display from the seven time world champion with a 1.16.741 good enough for the top spot.
100 POLES! I can’t even begin to describe how this feels. I can’t thank the team and everyone back at the factory enough for everything they’ve done to help us secure this incredible milestone. I feel so humbled and very grateful. This feels like my first win all over again ??? pic.twitter.com/KkCgShdhq2
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) May 8, 2021
The usual suspects followed with Max Verstappen in second and Valterri Bottas in third.
Red Bull threatened to delay Hamilton’s centurion celebrations with a strong showing in Q2.
But Hamilton always seems to find a way at the moment and that was the case again today.
We are set for a thriller tomorrow with the two teams very closely matched.
Ominously, 22 out of the 30 races at the Circuit de Catalunya have been won by the driver starting on pole.
The long run down to Turn 1 always provides drama though.
Some feel that P3 can even be better than pole due to the slipstream so keep an eye out for Bottas off the line tomorrow.
Q1 – Yuki Tsunoda left with a “question mark” over lack of performance
It was more bad luck on a Saturday for the rookie driver after he was knocked out in Q1 finishing 16th overall.
After taking pre-season testing by storm, it hasn’t gone to plan so far for the highly rated Tsunoda.
To make matters worse, his teammate is carrying the rich vein of form that saw him claim a maiden win last season with strong performances week in week out.
Pierre Gasly will start from 12th on Sunday with a lap time over half a second quicker than Tsunoda.
It led the Japanese driver to question whether both drivers were receiving equal treatment for their cars.
“I have a little bit question mark [if it] is the same car – of course it’s the same car, but just the character of the car is just too different.” said a disgruntled Tsunoda after qualifying.
He will need to get on top of the car sooner rather than later if he is to remain part of the Red Bull family next season.
Yuki Tsunoda speaking to Sky as if his car might not be the same as Pierre Gasly’s. Whether he believes it or not, probably not the smartest move to say to the press at your fourth race… ? #F1 #SpanishGP
— Chris Medland (@ChrisMedlandF1) May 8, 2021
Expletive laden outbursts, which are becoming more frequent, will not endear him to his team or the paddock in general.
With the exception of Gunther Steiner, anyway.
Raikkonen Fails to Make the Cut
Also falling at the first hurdle were the two Haas cars, Nicholas Latifi and surprisingly, Kimi Raikkonen.
The Iceman appeared to be on for a strong session after finishing 9th in P3 earlier this morning but he was unable to hook up a lap when it mattered.
He is now losing 3-1 in Alfa Romeo qualifying battle.
Antonio Giovinazzi continues to improve with a decent push to 14th on the grid.
‘Mr Saturday’, George Russell, did well to escape Q1 as he once again ringed every ounce of performance out of his Williams.
He used all of his soft tires in Q1 so getting any further than 15th was impossible for the Brit.
Q2 – Verstappen flatters to deceive
Red Bull looked mighty in Q2 with Verstappen’s first lap putting him almost half a second up on the nearest Mercedes.
The Dutchman’s first win for Red Bull was here in Catalunya back in 2016.
That remains his only win in Spain to date but the Red Bull clearly has pace to challenge Mercedes on race day.
Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc also ran well in a further indication that the Scuderia are on their way back to the top.
They finished in 4th and 7th in Q2 respectively with Sainz hoping to have a solid race at his home grand prix.
McLaren continued their strong start to the season with both drivers getting through to Q3.
The same can be said about the Alpine boys with Ocon putting in a strong display outshining his more experienced teammate.
Alonso was not so convincing scraping through in 10th place.
— Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) May 8, 2021
This was a positive sign for the team however and Ocon said that getting both cars into Q3 was the ‘confirmation’ the team needed.
It was not a good day for the Aston Martin’s as they try to regain the performance from 2020.
Both Stroll and Vettel were knocked out in Q2 in an unremarkable session for the team.
They line up 11th and 13th tomorrow so they will at least have the choice of tire for the race.
Something which could see them leap up the field in the opening stint tomorrow.
Q3 – Another record for Hamilton
Sergio Perez got off to a shaky start in Q3 spinning his Red Bull on his first flying lap.
It would set the tone for the rest of his sessions as the Mexican finished a disappointing 8th.
Perez felt ‘far from 100%’ due to a shoulder issue which hindered his qualifying efforts.
He will be relying on his race craft and expert tire preservation tomorrow to make up the places.
Despite the incident, Hamilton still managed to pull out a 1.16.741 taking provisional pole after the first round of laps.
The second half of Q3 was a damp squib with none of the front runners able to improve their times.
As a result, the session belonged to Hamilton who came through for his 100th pole.
A staggering achievement for the Britain when you compare it to the other greats of the sport.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 8, 2021
Leclerc and Ferrari Best of the Rest
The lap of the session went to Charles Leclerc who stuck his Ferrari in 4th position.
He is making that position his own this season with this being the third race he starts from the second row of the grid.
A special mention to Esteban Ocon who split the Ferraris with a fantastic lap to take 5th.
Both him and Alonso will be hoping to convert their grid positions into points tomorrow as the team look to kick start their season.
Many have been surprised by Daniel Ricciardo’s slow start to life at McLaren.
He hasn’t yet been able to take the challenge to Lando Norris who has been in fine form this season.
Despite that, Ricciardo did get the better of the young Brit today though finishing two places ahead in 7th place.
Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 8, 2021