Lewis Hamilton claimed his third pole position of the year and his first ever at the Circuit de Catalunya.
He will share the front row of the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix will Wiliams driver Pastor Maldonado.
Fernando Alonso took third at home in front of the two Lotuses.
With the soft tyre offering an improvement of over a second per lap over the hard tyre, and the top 14 cars covered by a second in practice, it was clear that none of the front runners would be able to get away with not running the soft tyre in Q1.
Red Bull accepted the inevitable and didn’t even bother to send Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber out for a run on hard tyres at the beginning of the session, holding back until the final six minutes, then heading out on softs.
Even Lewis Hamilton, who was fastest to begin with, decided to use a set of softs to guarantee his place in Q2. His lap of 1’22.583 was seven-tenths faster than anyone else could manage.
The contest to escape Q1 was as close and fraught as usual. Jean-Eric Vergne looked on course to drop out early again when he failed to improve with his last effort.
But he still had Bruno Senna behind him, and the Williams driver had a scruffy middle sector on his final lap. He never made it to the finishing line, spinning off at turn 12, letting Vergne off the hook.
Narain Karthikeyan only completed four laps and his best effort was outside of the 107% time by 1.8 seconds.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
|23||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1’27.555|
Hamilton avoided having to make a second run in Q2 – his first effort of 1’22.465 was good enough to secure him a place in the final ten.
Webber also tried to do a single run but paid the price – he was shuffled down to 12th as the others improved. Jenson Button was another surprise eliminated despite doing a pair of runs, as he continued to struggle with understeer in his car.
Lotus and Toro Rosso only did single runs, coming out late in the session. The Lotus pair made it through but both Toro Rossos were eliminated.
Neither Force India driver made it through to Q3 and Felipe Massa was also eliminated – his lap 0.6s slower than team mate Alonso’s.
Pastor Maldonado was the only driver to beat Hamilton’s time, ending Q2 fastest after his team mate had been knocked out in Q1.
Kamui Kobayashi grabbed a place in Q3 but wasn’t able to make use of it – a hydraulic problem forced him to stop at turn three on his way back to the pits.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
|12||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’22.977|
|13||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1’23.125|
|14||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1’23.177|
|15||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’23.265|
|16||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’23.442|
Vettel queued up at the exit of the pits as he waited for the final ten minutes of qualifiyng to begin. But after taking to the track he returned to his garage without setting a time, apparently expecting many other drivers would also not set times.
Hamilton went out next and did set a time. He was followed by the two Mercedes drivers – Rosberg taking second place, Schumacher also pitting without setting a time.
Now the session started to liven up. Fernando Alonso headed out in the Ferrari and produced a superb lap to beat Hamilton’s time. Neither of the Lotuses could beat it, Grosjean edging Raikkonen.
But Maldonado could, and for a few seconds the Williams driver was on pole position with a lap of 1’22.285.
However Hamilton had returned to the circuit, and produced a blistering lap of 1’21.707 to claim pole position by half a second.
Hamilton hit trouble on his return to the pits, his engineer telling him to stop on his in-lap due to an unspecified problem with the car.
Top ten in Q3
|8||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||No time|
|9||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||No time|
|10||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||No time|
2012 Spanish Grand Prix
- Maldonado voted Spanish GP Driver of the Weekend
- Spanish Grand Prix gets highest rating for five years
- F1 fans’ videos from the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix
- Top ten pictures from the Spanish Grand Prix
- Vote for your Spanish GP Driver of the Weekend
Image © McLaren/Hoch Zwei