Spanish GP Qualifying: Hamilton takes pole as Mercedes lock-out front row

Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole by 0.059 seconds on a hot Saturday afternoon in Barcelona. Valtteri Bottas seemed to be on a mega lap during his second Q3 run but fell short in the final sector and has to be content with second. This pole means Hamilton now has 92 pole positions and 150 front row starts in Formula 1, and the Englishman will be looking to sign it off with a win tomorrow.

Last weekend’s race winner Max Verstappen put his Red Bull in third and will be hoping for a repeat of the last race. However the Dutchman does not have the luxury of a different strategy this time around with both him and the Mercedes cars set to start on the soft tyres. His teammate Albon will have to be content with starting on the 3rd row after he managed to put a lap together to be placed 6th on the grid.

Racing Point will be happy with the qualifying this afternoon as Sergio Perez is set to start on the second row alongside Verstappen in fourth after missing out the last two races and Lance Stroll starting at fifth alongside Albon on the third row. The team would have definitely liked to be closer to Verstappen but will have to be content with fourth and fifth despite showing promising pace throughout the weekend.

Ferrari’s dismal year looks set to continue after Leclerc only managed 9th place after some complaints with the car in the second run of Q3 and with Sebastian Vettel crashing out in Q2 yet again but this time by just two milliseconds. The Italian team will only be looking for a points finish tomorrow with anything more than that looking like a distant possibility.

GP SPAGNA F1/2020 – SABATO 15/08/2020
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

McLaren look set to have a better weekend than last time around as they have locked out the fourth row with Carlos Sainz in 7th and Lando Norris in 8th. The team will be aiming for a double points finish tomorrow and with this being Sainz’s home Grand Prix, the Spaniard will be hoping for a change in fortunes this time around.

Another team that will be happy with qualifying is Alpha Tauri with Gasly managing 10th after a decent qualifying and Danil Kvyat managing 12th place. Gasly will definitely be eyeing another strong points finish given the French driver has been having a much better year compared to the last one.

Renault would be looking to salvage something out of Sunday after a poor showing today with Ricciardo in 13th and Ocon in 15th as the French team just seemed to have been lost for pace. Ocon would hope his situation changes tomorrow after the Frenchman crashed into the wall during FP3 after a poor judgement call followed by a poor qualifying.

A surprise name in Q2 today was Kimi Raikkonen who finally managed to end his streak of exiting in Q1 this season. His teammate Giovinazzi is set to start 20th on the grid after a poor showing in Q1 and damaging his floor during the first run in Q1.

Both Haas cars are set to line up with Magnussen in 16th and Grosjean in 17th with both the drivers admitting they could’ve put together the better laps. George Russell might be bemoaning about him not being to able to score points on social media but his qualifying game seemed on point as he managed to keep his perfect record over teammate Latifi with both the Williams cars set to start in 18th and 19th respectively.

With Mercedes locking out the front row yet again at the Spanish GP, Hamilton is in with a great chance to edge closer to Schumacher’s win record unless his teammate takes the fight to him on Sunday. Max Verstappen might also be in with a chance if Redbull have a strategy masterstroke up their sleeves yet again. Racing Point would not rule themselves out from an unlikely podium but they will have to work for it.

*The Grid:

Hamilton                     Bottas

Verstappen               Perez

Stroll                             Albon

Sainz                             Norris

Leclerc                        Gasly

Vettel                           Kvyat

Ricciardo                    Raikkonen

Ocon                             Magnussen

Grosjean                     Russell

Latifi                             Giovinazzi

*Subject to change after investigation of a turn 2 incident between Kvyat and Magnussen

 

 

Spanish Grand Prix: Hamilton scorches to the top in FP2 as Ricciardo and Grosjean impress

Under the scorching hot Barcelona weather, it was Lewis Hamilton who topped the time sheets with a 1:16:883. His teammate Valtteri Bottas finished in P2 (+0.287) behind. It seems like normal service is resumed for the Mercedes team after locking out the top two earlier in the day.

The temperature at the Circuit de Catalunya increased by three degrees celsius by the time FP2 came around which made tyre degradation key to every teams’ running plans. The track temperature was so high that running through sector three would put a much more significant level of load through the rear tyres and push the soft compounds out of their optimum operating window. It was likely we would see slower times than earlier in the day.

Thus, teams took this time to work out the delta between the medium and hard compounds. The question on everybody’s lips will be whether the top teams will risk running the hard compound tyres in Q2. This session was critical to figuring these questions out.

Red Bull had a bitter-sweet session in which Max Verstappen finished P3 (+0.821) ahead of both Mercedes drivers. However, Alexander Albon continued to struggle, only good enough for P13. Verstappen was able to reduce the deficit to Mercedes by a tenth however it seems a little farfetched to think that the Red Bull will be able to challenge the Mercedes going into Saturday.

Daniel Ricciardo finished another impressive P4 as the Australian continues to impress in that ever-improving Renault. If they can make it through to Q3 on the harder compound tyres, do not count out the Honey Badger to make a massive impression in this race. Esteban Ocon finished in P9 (+1.420) but given the young Frenchman’s ability to make the one stop work at Silverstone, expect him to be a factor in a race that is expecting high temperatures and high degradation.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS20.
Spanish Grand Prix, Friday 14th August 2020. Barcelona, Spain.

Haas will be extremely pleased with their performance this weekend with a surprising time set by Romain Grosjean in P5 (+ 1.250). We saw earlier in FP1, the Frenchman setting a similar time good enough for P6. His session ended ten minutes before the end with a mechanical issue. Whether P5 is representative of their true pace or a sign of their nearest rivals sandbagging before qualifying, it remains to be seen. But it will be a positive sign for the American team who have regularly missed out on Q2 this season. Kevin Magnussen struggled down in P16 (+1.878) but will be eager to replicate his teammates impressive pace.

McLaren began the session testing some parts on the bargeboard of Lando Norris’s car. However, they will be worried about the sudden drop in pace over the past few races. Perhaps the new bargeboard will help in the high-speed corners later in the weekend but a P7 (+1.331) for Sainz and a P14 (+1.623) for Norris leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Likewise, Racing Point had a difficult day with Sergio Perez in P8 (+1.410) while Lance Stroll was down in P11 (+1.474). However, Perez will be happy to outperform his teammate in both sessions the weekend he returns after suffering mild symptoms of COVID-19. As the controversy of the Racing Point break-ducts consume the discourse off-track they may be pleased that it will distract from their on-track plateau in performance. However, I expect Racing Point to be up there with Renault vying for a Q3 slot.

Alpha Tauri had a decent day in which Pierre Gasly finished P10 (+1.429) ahead of Danil Kvyat in P15 (+1.759). The Russian once again struggled to find pace in the car and had further frustrations when the Williams of Nicholas Latifi blocked him going into turn 2. The team have shown signs of improvement in the races and so may choose to run the harder compound in Q2 to start on an alternate strategy.

Alfa Romeo finished with Raikkonen in P17 (+2.017) and Giovinazzi in P18 (+2.081). Though they were a few tenths faster than their nearest rivals Williams.

Rounding out the final two places were the Williams drivers, Nicholas Latifi in P19 (+2.272) and George Russell P20 (+2.508). The Canadian will be happy to outperform his highly rated teammate going into Saturday. However, it seems to be the young British driver’s tendency to deliver a lap time out of nowhere when it comes to qualifying and so will be ready to achieve his fifth Q2 appearance in a row.

While the Mercedes lock out the top two positions the fight for best of the rest will be captivating to watch. Ricciardo and Grosjean are showing glimpses of brilliance. Leclerc is still outperforming that Ferrari and Carlos Sainz will be eager to put on a good performance at his home race in order to reverse his run of bad luck.

 

 

Spanish Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas fastest in FP1, Ferrari improve

Valterri Bottas set the quickest time during FP1 of the Barcelona Grand Prix. His teammate Lewis Hamilton was second, only 0.039 seconds behind. Those times were set on a qualifying run in the latter half of the session on the soft tyres.

Mercedes will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing result at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Barcelona has been a good track for the German team in the past,  but there will be concerns that the temperature over the weekend will potentially harm their tyre wear, similar to what happened at Silverstone.

However, they can breathe a sigh of relief that they can mitigate that risk by being almost a second clear of the rest of the competition again.

2020 Spanish Grand Prix, Friday – LAT Images

Max Verstappen set the third fastest time +0.939 seconds behind the Mercedes drivers. Following a race win last weekend the Dutchman will be hoping for another positive drive at a circuit where he achieved his first race win.

Alexander Albon finished  lower in P8  (+1.821). The Thai driver has been facing criticism recently after a string of results where he has failed to perform at a level close to his teammate. The Red Bull car seems to be a handful which was communicated to the team early on in the session, Albon complaining of a ‘sharp’ car.  This simply means that the car is too reactive. When a driver turns the steering wheel, if the car reacts too sharply it will inevitably give you a nervous feeling. Even before you reach a corner you are already worried about your input. Max is naturally faster in a sharper car while Albon is having to adapt his driving style.

Luckily, later in the session Albon mentioned that he was happier with the balance of the car, despite losing time on the straights.

Ferrari will be happy that Sebastian Vettel was closer to his teammate. While Charles Leclerc has had an impressive run of races where he has finished on the podium twice, a new chassis was brought to this race in an attempt to solve the difficulties Vettel has been having. Charles Leclerc finished P4 +1.185 off the pace while Vettel finished in P5, one hundredth of a second behind.

The Scuderia were surprisingly good on managing the Pirelli tyres at Silverstone. If both drivers can capitalise on a good qualifying position, things may be looking up for the team to score good points this weekend.

Haas will be pleased with their efforts as Romain Grosjean finished in P6 +1.506 off the pace while Kevin Magnussen was P9 +1.835 off.

They will be hoping to score points for the first time since Budapest after a disappointing run of form.

Sergio Perez was back in action after the fiasco following a positive coronavirus test. His time only good enough for P7 (+1.689) however was set on the medium compound tyres. Likewise, Lance Stroll set his fastest time on the medium compound tyres good enough for P10 (+1.858), nearly two seconds off the pace.

Racing Point certainly have more pace than that and may have been running high fuel, long race runs. Time will tell what their true pace will be on soft tyre and low fuel.

Racing Point Media

Renault had a productive day once again running a combination of long and short stints throughout the session. Esteban Ocon was P12 +1.951 adrift while his teammate Daniel Ricciardo was P18 +2.445 off.

While Renault’s season has been a mixture of positives and negatives, they will hope to replicate their impressive form at Silverstone here. The Enstone team have been playing around with a fundamental front suspension change and have been trying to find the optimum balance between front aerodynamics and front suspension for many weekends. It seems the second race at Silverstone gave them to opportunity to find the right setup for the demands of the circuit.

As Barcelona mimics Silverstone with many flowing high speed corners. Renault may be able to dial that car in and give there drivers something stable and quick to race with.

McLaren were running a specific programme in order to figure out the cooling issues they experienced with Carlos Sainz at Silverstone. Carlos Sainz finished P11 +1.948 off while Lando Norris was P13 (+1.959).

Sainz will be hoping for a positive result after a string of reliability issues and horrendous pit stops have cost the Spaniard over 25 points at least since Styria. At Styria, Budapest and the 70th Anniversary McLaren have not delivered a sub five second pit stop for Carlos, putting him into traffic after he was running best of the rest each time. All of these, on top of the tyre failure at the first Silverstone race while in P4 shows he has had his fair share of bad luck this season. Andreas Seidl iterated this point after practice to Sky F1 saying that: “On Carlos’s side, we clearly have to admit we have let him down as a team several times this year”.

Alpha Tauri was P14 with Pierre Gasly (+2.103) while Danil Kvyat was P17 (+2.360). The Russian a good potion of the session in the garage, when he was finally able to get a run out he was complaining about the headrest in his cockpit.

Pierre Gasly has been in magnificent form and will be hoping to extend his unbeaten qualifying record against his teammate this season.

Antonio Giovinazzi finished P15 (+2.132) while Kimi Raikonnen was alongside him in P16 (+2.196). Another uneventful session for the Italian team, who have looked like the slowest car on the grid at times.

Williams gave test driver Roy Nissany a run out this session. He finished P20 just under three tenths slower than Nicholas Latifi in P19. However, the Israeli set his time on the mediums and for most the session was very close to the Canadian. It was a relatively uneventful session for the British team apart from a spin caused by Roy Nissany going into sector three.

As the weekend progresses the temperatures are expected to rise. It will be interesting to see the effect this has on teams who have struggled in the heat such as Mercedes and McLaren.