Round 6 of the 2022 F1 World Championship brings us to the traditional start of the European season at Barcelona for the Spanish GP. Every team apart from Haas has brought big upgrades to their cars, the biggest seems to be with Constructors champions Mercedes who look too have cured most of the porpoising issues they have suffered from all season long. The most surprising upgrade is that of the Aston Martins who appear to have blatantly copied the RedBull design, whether they have done this legally or not will no doubt be something that rumbles on all season long.
After the three practice sessions the top 6 drivers were all from the top 3 teams, it could be the closest battle for pole so far this season. Going into qualifying Ferrari looked to be favourite for the front row closely followed by RedBull and Mercedes.
Q1 began in scorching temperatures. First out on to the track was the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu, he was followed out onto the track by the Alpha Tauri’s of Gasly and Tsunoda. After the first runs the top six were the two Ferrari’s, Verstappen, the two Mercedes and then Valterri Bottas in the Alfa.
Out of qualifying at the end of the session were Vettel, Alonso, Stroll, Albon and Latifi. At the front it was Leclerc on a 1.19.861 ahead of Sainz, Verstappen , Russell, Magnussen and Hamilton in 6th.
It seems the green RedBull is not as quick as a blue one. A big shock that both of the Aston’s were out in Q1 along with home favourite Alonso who had been looking quick so far this weekend.
The two Mercedes started the action in Q2, Russell going fastest with a 1.19.470, three tenths ahead of his team mate. At the end of the first runs the Mercedes were first and second, however they used new tyres whereas the RedBull and Ferrari used a scrubbed set of tyres. Perez was third ahead of Leclerc, Bottas and Verstappen.
For the final runs both Mercedes stayed in their garage feeling safe at the top of the standings, so did Leclerc in the Ferrari. Sainz needed to go back out as his first run was only good enough seventh. He crossed the line and moved to first giving the home support something to cheer about.
As the session ended Max Verstappen went quickest on a 1.19.219 ahead of Sainz, Russell and Hamilton. Out of qualifying were Lando Norris who had his fastest time deleted because of track limits, Ocon in the Alpine, Tsunoda, Gasly and Zhou.
And so to Q3, would we get the top 6 fighting it out for pole as it has seemed we would get throughout the weekend so far.
Lewis Hamilton was first over the line and so went fastest. He was quickly bettered by Verstappen, Sainz, Perez and team mate Russell. Leclerc spun on his quick lap at the final chicane and immediately returned to the pits. Everyone else then returned to the pits to prepare for their final runs. The top 5 were covered by half a second but 3 tenths of that was between first and second.
Charles Leclerc came out earlier than everyone else obviously trying to make up for the mistake on his first run. He set a blistering time of 1.18.750, an amazing lap under such pressure. Verstappen aborted his lap after complaining of no power but remained second. Third was Sainz who was joined on the second row by George Russell. Then came Perez, Hamilton, Bottas, Magnussen, Ricciardo and rounding out the top ten was Mick Schumacher.
Not quite as close as everyone had hoped but the top six is definitely closing up. Tomorrow will be a shoot out down to turn one. The RedBull race pace on Friday looked pretty ominous so could come down to a race of strategy and tyre management.