Lewis Hamilton took his 100th pole position in Formula One as he beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 0.036s; Valtteri Bottas came in third while Charles Leclerc locked out the second row ahead of tomorrow’s race.
The session started with a ten minutes delay as the track marshals re-adjusted the tyre barriers and gravel trap on the entry of Turn 9. Both the Williams and Haas drivers were the first to come out on track as the session finally got underway.
Apart from the Mercedes drivers who were on the medium compound tyres, everybody else came out on the softer compound. That would mean the Mercedes team is counting on the soft compounds to start the race on.
With almost twenty cars trying to set a qualifying run, track position was a major issue for many drivers. Lando Norris found that out in the ugliest of ways as he found himself surrounded by four cars coming out of Turn 13.
Valtteri Bottas set the fastest lap time of 1m 18.005s on the medium compound of tyres after Hamilton, and then Verstappen set the fastest times themselves. The AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly put in a great lap as he moved into third 0.185s behind Bottas’s time.
By the time the drivers came out for their second runs of the session, the track had further evolved as driver after driver kept improving their times. At the end of it all, Lando Norris set the fastest time of Q1 with a time of 1m 17.821s. But the real drama was at the other end of the table as quite shockingly, Yuki Tsunoda missed out by just 0.007s while Alfa Romeo‘ Kimi Räikönen, Haas’s Mick Schumacher, Nicholas Latifi, and Nikita Mazepin got knocked out at the end of the Q1 session.
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After the dramas of the first qualifying session, the focus turned to the second qualifying session as the fight began to secure a place in the Top 10 shootout. The Mercedes duo was first to hit the track, followed by the Red Bull drivers and Esteban Ocon. Ironically all the drivers went in with the soft compound tyres as the frontrunners distanced themselves from gambling onto the medium compound tyres.
Hamilton was the first to set a lap time with a 1m 17.632s, but Bottas bettered that by two-tenths of a second. On the other hand, Max Verstappen was on a scorching run as he set the fastest Sector 1, Sector 2, and Sector 3 times on his way to set a lap time of 1m 16.922s, almost five tenths clear of Valtteri Bottas.
The midfield had no answers to the front three as Carlos Sainz came closest to the top three with a 1m 17.656s, seven-tenths off the pace. In contrast, the likes of Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso used a used set of soft compound tyres on their first run.
Sergio Pérez was in the danger zone sitting in 12th with four minutes left in the session, with drivers from 5th to 13th covered by two-tenths of a second. The track temperature shot up by one and a half degrees as the drivers made their way out for their second runs.
With not many drivers improving on their previous runs, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez managed to extract time out of their cars to move into the Top 10, relegating Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly in the drop zone. Both the drivers failed to improve their lap times and had to settle for 11th and 12, respectively. Sebastian Vettel could only manage 13th in his Aston Martin, while Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell rounded off the 14th and 15th places for tomorrow’s race.
Unlike the Q2 session, the third session started with the Ferrari and McLaren drivers getting out on track ahead of the Mercedes and Red Bulls. Lando Norris set the first lap time of the session with a 1m 18.010s, but Leclerc and Sainz bettered Norris’s time and briefly went to the top of the timesheets.
Sergio Pérez’s dismal start to the race weekend continued as he spun out his Red Bull out at Turn 13 when he dipped a wheel on the gravel and lost the rear of his car completely. Hamilton avoided the subsequent yellow flags as Pérez returned on track just in time before the yellow flags obstructed Hamilton’s run.
Hamilton set a lap time of 1m 16.741s as he went fastest in the second and third sectors. Max Verstappen was hot on his tail as the Dutchman set the fastest first and third sector times but lost out on the all-important middle sector, which landed him in second just 0.036s behind Hamilton.
Valtteri Bottas came close but was still one and a 1/10th shy of Hamilton’s time. With only 2 minutes and 35 seconds left on the clock, all the cars came out on track. The wind also picked up in the first and second sectors as the drivers jostled for position before one final push.
The top three remained unchanged as all the frontrunners failed to improve on their times while Charles Leclerc managed to find some time on the final sector of his lap to propel the Monegasque to fourth for the day. Esteban Ocon will be mightily impressed with his performance as he came home in fifth ahead of the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.
Daniel Ricciardo took seventh ahead of Sergio Pérez, who could only manage the eighth fastest time after spinning out on his first turn. Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso completed the fifth row for tomorrow’s race as both the Alpine and McLaren team would be happy with both of their cars inside the top 10.
With 90 percent of the races won by drivers starting on the grid’s front row, tomorrow’s race will be a titanic battle between Lewis and Max. However, the two of them will be wary of the threat Valtteri Bottas, and Charles Leclerc could possess from the second row of the grid.