Lewis Hamilton claimed his third pole position of the season at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, finishing three tenths of a second ahead of championship leader Nico Rosberg as Red Bull Racing claimed row two on the grid ahead of Ferrari.
Hamilton’s first flying lap of the final Q3 segment was marred by a big lock up into Turn 10 and the mistake left Hamilton with a time of 1:23. 277. Rosberg easily eclipsed that with his first lap, setting a clean-lap benchmark of 1:22.475.
Hamilton’s early Q3 error also led to the Mercedes being split as new Red Bull Racing recruit, impressive all weekend, put in an excellent opening lap of 1:23.203.
Behind Hamilton after the first runs were Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in P4 and P5 respectively. However, Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull had yet to show his hand.
Australian had been forced to make take to the track late in Q2 for a cautionary tour in case his lap time was in danger of not getting him through and that left him with just single set of new soft tyres for the final segment.
However, when the opportunity presented itself, Ricciardo delivered a superb lap of 1:22.680 to claim P3 behind the Mercedes. The Australian was the only non-work Mercedes to dip below the 1m23s barrier.
Verstappen tried to react and the 18-year-old did make a small improvement but it wasn’t enough to beat his team-mate and Ricciardo’s lap was good enough to beat out his new team-mate by four tenths of a second. A strong message to the youngster at the start of what is sure to be a fascinating intra-team battle for the rest of this season.
The good news for Red Bull is that neither Ferrari driver could dent the Milton Keynes team’s advantage. Raikkonen delivered the best lap for the Italian squad, but it was two hundredths of a second shy of Verstappen’s best and so the Finn is set to line up at the front of row three as he two tenths clear of team-mate Vettel.
Behind them, Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Williams, while Carlos Sainz took eighth spot for Toro Rosso. It was a solid result for the Spaniard in front of his home crowd and on a weekend where he faced a new team-mate in the shape of former Red Bull Racing man Daniil Kvyat. The Russian has had a tricky weekend so far and he was elimimated in Q2 in P13.
It was a much better day for Fernando Alonso. The two-time champion delivered an excellent Q2 lap in front of his home fans to claim P10 and take McLaren into the top-10 shootout for the first time this season.
Alonso finished in P10 in the final segment behind Force India’s Sergio Perez, but the result will be huge result for McLaren and Honda.
Behind Alonso, and eliminated at the end of Q2 were Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India, P12 man Jenson Button in the second McLaren, Kvyat, Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Renault’s Kevin Magnussen and the second Haas of Esteban Gutierrez.
The big casualty of the opening Q1 segment was Williams’ Felipe Massa. The Brazilian completed a single run but the time was not good enough and he was forced to watch from the garage as he was pushed down the order. He finished in P18 behind Renault’s Jolyon Palmer. Also eliminated in the opening segment were the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr and the Manors or Pascal Wehrlein and P22 man Rio Haryanto.
2016 Spanish Grand Prix
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.214 1:22.159 1:22.000
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.002 1:22.759 1:22.280
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:23.749 1:23.585 1:22.680
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:23.578 1:23.178 1:23.087
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:23.796 1:23.504 1:23.113
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:24.124 1:23.688 1:23.334
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:24.251 1:24.023 1:23.522
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:24.496 1:24.077 1:23.643
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.698 1:24.003 1:23.782
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:24.578 1:24.192 1:23.981
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.463 1:24.203
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:24.583 1:24.348
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:24.696 1:24.445
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:24.716 1:24.480
15 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:24.669 1:24.625
16 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:24.406 1:24.778
17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:24.903
18 Felipe Massa Williams 1:24.941
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:25.202
20 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:25.579
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:25.745
22 Rio Haryanto Manor 1:25.939