Hamilton fastest but engine penalty sees him start P11
Starting alongside Bottas will be Hamilton’s championship rival Max Verstappen. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc starts a brilliant P3, with the Scuderia showcasing good speed throughout the weekend alongside the ever-impressive Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri. Alpine’s Fernando Alonso continued his strong form edging out Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez for P5, while McLaren’s Lando Norris will start P7. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Stroll’s teammate Sebastian Vettel round up the top 10, with Hamilton starting just behind the four time world champion.
Mercedes have shown supreme pace throughout the weekend and have been easily the quickest car in every session except the wet FP3, which saw Pierre Gasly top the timing sheets. Nonetheless, Bottas and Hamilton will be the ones to beat and given the track layout, it shouldn’t be a tough task for Hamilton to charge through the field. So heading into race day, even though Hamilton starts outside the top 10, it’s advantage Mercedes with Red Bull having to play catch up, especially given how quick Ferrari have been.
Qualifying 1 – Eliminated – Daniel Ricciardo, Nicholas Latifi, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Räikkönen and Nikita Mazepin
The first qualifying round got underway with the prospect of rain looming around the corner. Drivers knew, they would not have too many opportunities and had to make the most of whatever they get.
The Alfa Romeos got the session underway, with the entire grid following closely behind. The effects of the drizzle were evident as Max Verstappen was the first to spin off. while his championship rival Hamilton had to put all his experience on display to avoid heading into the barriers.
It was the Williams of George Russell who held P1 for quite a while with a 1:28.047s but once Hamilton got his lap in, he comfortably dislodged his future teammate with a 1:27.085s, with his teammate following closely behind with a 1:27.173s. Verstappen though, pipped both the Mercedes with a stunning 1:26.692s.
As the chequered flag came, it was the two Alfa Romeos with Nikita Mazepin and Nicholas Latifi in the elimination zone. The other car in the drop zone was Carlos Sainz, who although will be starting from the back of the grid, was out there to destroy some other drivers’ laps. Sainz did just that with his final lap to see himself into Q2 and that left McLaren‘s Daniel Ricciardo suffer a shock elimination in Q1. Ricciardo though wasn’t the big surprise of the session, it was the Haas of Mick Schumacher, who put in an absolute stunning lap to scrape his Haas into Q2, the second time for the young German in his rookie season.
Qualifying 2 – Eliminated – Sebastian Vettel, Esteban Ocon, George Russell, Mick Schumacher and Carlos Sainz
Sainz who would be serving an engine penalty sat out of the session, so the remaining 14 took the track. The track hadn’t dried up completely; although there was no rain, but a slippery track meant Red Bull Sergio Pérez suffer an early spin at Turn 1.
Hamilton once again set the session’s benchmark with a stunning 1:23.595s on a drying track. He went even quicker with a 1:23.082, half a second clear of his teammate in second and six-tenths ahead of Verstappen in third.
As the final laps came it was Leclerc, who suffered a spin on the main straight, George Russell, Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher in drop zone with Carlos Sainz. Ferrari though, pulled out a master plan sending Sainz for a lap right at the end, the Spaniard ended up giving a tow to his teammate which saw Leclerc push himself in the final top ten shootout, even though it was at the expense of Leclerc’s former teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Top Ten Shootout – Hamilton fastest but Bottas takes pole
The session got underway with the two Mercedes’ first out on the track and both Hamilton and Bottas enjoyed the empty track to themselves as they put in impressive lap times. Hamilton went P1 momentarily with a 1:23.093s but Bottas pipped him with a 1:23.071s.
With under a minute left on the clock, it was Hamilton who had provisional pole followed closely by his teammate who held of Verstappen in P3. Once the chequered flag dropped, Verstappen could manage only P3, which meant, unless someone pipped Bottas, it was going to be the Finn on pole. And so it was, Hamilton didn’t improve on his time but neither did Bottas so even though the championship leader took pole, his teammate inherited pole position due to his penalties.
The Final Starting Grid
*serving engine penalties