Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Hamilton leads Mercedes front row lockout in Spanish GP qualifying

2018 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas with the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen behind.

Mercedes locked out the front row ahead of their Ferrari rivals, who were unable to use their harder compound Soft tyres to take pole position.

Red Bull will line up on the third row, with Max Verstappen in fifth and Daniel Ricciardo sixth.


As the first qualifying session began around a blustery Barcelona circuit, Brendon Hartley was seen walking around the paddock, confirming that his Toro Rosso would take no part in the session after his heavy practice shunt.

Super Soft tyres were the compound of choice throughout the field, with Sebastian Vettel setting the early pace with the fastest time of the weekend so far on a 1’17.031,

Marcus Ericsson ran wide at Turn One but failed to keep to the left of the bollard at the exit of the escape road, placing him under investigation by the stewards.

Nico Hulkenberg attempted to set his first flying lap in the Renault, but audible power issues sent him straight back to the pits.

Despite getting back out with enough time to set a flying lap, Hulkenberg’s 1’18.923 was not enough to get him through to Q2, leaving him the first man eliminated in 16th.

Marcus Ericsson was unable to advance in the Sauber, while team mate Charles Leclerc comfortably made it through in 12th.

Williams’s woes continued with Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll anchored to the rear of the timesheets. Stroll lost control of his car exiting Turn 12, spinning into the barriers and securing his elimination.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Nico HulkenbergRenault1’18.923
17Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’19.493
18Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’19.695
19Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’20.225
20Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Honda


With teams switching to the Soft tyres for Q2, it was Sebastian Vettel who employed them to best effect by breaking into the 1’16s for the first time with a 1’16.802.

Team mate Kimi Raikkonen reinforced Ferraris pace by going second quickest, ahead of the two Mercedes.

Romain Grosjean briefly ran off circuit but was able to resume, making it through to Q3 in eighth.

The battle for the final slot in the top ten shootout was between the two McLaren drivers of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, with the local hero prevailing as the chequered flag flew.

Pierre Gasly was eliminated from qualifying in the sole remaining Toro Rosso, with Charles Leclerc’s Sauber splitting the two Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’18.323
12Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’18.463
13Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’18.696
14Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’18.910
15Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’19.098

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The final battle for pole was looking like a straight fight between Mercedes and Ferrari as Q3 began.

But it was Red Bull who surprised their rivals by both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo breaking into the 1’16s for the first time, with only Lewis Hamilton posting a quicker time after the first flying laps.

Both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen had disappointing first attempts, putting the pressure on Ferrari as the final minutes began.

Red Bull opted to send Ricciardo out on the Soft compound tyres, with Ferrari also choosing the harder rubber for both Vettel and Raikkonen.

Ricciardo was unable to improve on his time, while Raikkonen jumped to a provisional second place in the Ferrari.

Mercedes chose to stick with the Super Soft tyres and it proved to be the faster choice, with Hamilton setting a blistering lap of a 1’16.173 to take pole position.

Valtteri Bottas secured a Mercedes front-row lock out by posting a time only 0.040s slower than his team mate.

Sebastian Vettel took third for Ferrari, only a tenth off Mercedes’s ultimate pace on the Soft tyres.

Kimi Raikkonen will line up ahead of the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. Kevin Magnussen will start seventh, ahead of the two Spaniards of Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jnr with Romain Grosjean rounding out the top ten for Haas.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’16.173
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’16.213
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’16.305
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’16.612
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’16.816
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’16.818
7Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’17.676
8Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Renault1’17.721
9Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’17.790
10Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’17.835

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2018 Spanish Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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52 comments on “Hamilton leads Mercedes front row lockout in Spanish GP qualifying”

  1. LMAO. What was that? Soft tyres trying to beat SS tyres? I was thinking this could happen but it seemed quite stupid to think that harder tyres can beat softer ones. This was a weird session.

    1. Kinda strange indeed, but only when it comes to Quali. Previous race – Baku – the SS were the best tyre, better than new Ultras.

  2. Genuinely curious – what was the laughter in the Williams pit garage all about? I saw it on a replay at the start of Q2, when we returned from an advertisement break.

    1. Massa probably said “Seeing how super competitive the car is, I wish I had raced for free”
      or “Blindfold me and I’ll still beat Stroll”

      He is known for his stand up routines……

    2. Yes…kind of seemed unprofessional to laugh about when both cars out in Q3 and one in gravel trap!

      1. That would be Q1

      2. i would be joyful too if my teams made it to Q3 :)

  3. The midfield competition was incredibly tense and packed. At some point in Q2 there was as little as 0.8 between 7th and 16th place iirc.

  4. HAM going to win tomorrow. Next race, please…

  5. This is the second race weekend now that the tyres have gone bonkers. In Baku we had the crazy situation where older, worn tyres were quicker than new ones because of temps hence the overcut. This race there is not much to choose between the soft and supersoft?

    This is ridiculous I have to say. Alonso was right- these tyres are $!#t.

    Rant over-
    Well done Lewis. Well done BOT. Are Merc back? Lauda thinks so.

    1. Pirelli have done a good job in putting Merc back on the front row. They need another safety change though as Mercs advantage over Ferrari is not safe enough. Great partnership between Pirelli and Merc. The Pirelli Mercedes team will be hard to beat.

    2. I thought it was a good thing that the tyres provide strategy changes and the teams must work with them. That was always what the FIA asked of Pirelli.

      1. I get it we want the season to be exciting as it is now. But, tyres not switching up and when the condition changes, everything goes wrong for someone. Today, Seb had no grip on the SS tyres during his final run. Max and Daniel were also complaining about getting the tyres into the operating window. In Baku, we had SS being able to go super long than expected while US tyres were just like ice cubes.

        Codemasters should learn from this because how tyres work in F1 2017 is just absurd.

        1. digitalrurouni
          12th May 2018, 21:26

          Please expound on the tires in F1 2017.

  6. Kind of confusing – so many different compounds and all so close. Then what is the point in having so many compounds?

    1. For the sake of the SHOW.

  7. Good to see Fernando and McLaren in P8.

  8. Rui (@colinmcrui)
    12th May 2018, 15:35

    I can see Norris replacing Vandoorne next season if he keeps his consistency in F2. I see no reason for Alonso to retire if he is still the best of the team and beating the Renaults, and Vandoorne is having a tough time keeping up.

    1. Van doorne has never had an update. He needs to be rebooted.

      Also yes not miles off Alonso at 2 tenths.

    2. With a bit of fine tuning McLaren may end up with a regular Q3 car and Vandoorne has to deliver from a team perspective. But he has a difficult benchmark to match.

    3. going up against ALO was always going to be hard, but VAN has really failed to impress, specially for someone who had a respectable curriculum in lower formulae…

      with Norris waiting in the wings, I feel he’s future at McLaren (and probably F1 as well) lies in the hands of Nando: if the spaniard chooses to stay another year in the team, it’s all over for the belgian; if he chooses to go someplace else, VAN will have another chance to prove he deserves a place in F1.

      1. We already saw Perez and Magnussen doing well with midfield teams, so Vandoorne could move and restart with less pressure. Its hard to find another Hamilton.

    4. Plus the field norris is operating in is really fierce and packed

  9. These Pirelli tyre performance varies with temperature changes and from track to track. They keep adding compounds and there is hradly any differential in lap times between compounds. The 3 types of compounds for a race was supposed to mix things up. But the hardest tyre at each race is hardly used and so it comes down to 2 compounds per race anyway. If a car can go from fastest to the third fastest because the track temperature changed, the tyres are playing too big a role. The teams need to speak up and stop these sh*%ty tyres playing such a big role in the racing

  10. The first time in three years (coincidently, the first time since the 2015 edition of the Spanish GP) that Hulkenberg gets eliminated in Q1 already.

    1. He had technical issues with his car.. So his flying lap was the only one he could do with a lot of fuel onboard to compensate the fuel delivery problem.

  11. The strangest part of this quali was the fact that when the Red Bulls put in a decent lap the Merc and Ferrari juist turn up their engines and flew away……

    1. You Go Shavez
      12th May 2018, 21:13

      I observed similar.

      But find it hard to understand how the Ferraris and Bottas can be between 8 tenths to a second slower then improve by a similar margin.

      Either they used a different engine mode on their first laps or their set ups were different.

  12. The tires are bad yes..

    Meanwhile Mercedes showing their Aero dominance. But Ferrari are not far off.

  13. Mercedes are so dominant

    1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
      12th May 2018, 17:12

      no, they’re probably not
      -They had used softer tires’
      -Hamilton is known for his qualifying abilities. he’s the all-time leader in terms of pole positions.
      -Even Raïkkönen is within half a second of Hamilton

      1. First 4 races for Mercedes have been massive stragles. Even lowest point for Mercedes is enought to match Ferrari in Championship and Lewis underperforming, but leading Championship.
        Performance equality seems totally fake and manufactured.

    2. Alex McFarlane
      12th May 2018, 18:08

      Where have you been the last few races?

      Even in Q1 and Q2 it didn’t look like the silver arrows had the pace or handling to take pole.

      1. Martin Brundle has said twice prior to this race that Merc looked the best through corners.

    3. Itza yoke people! A yoke

  14. Time for Kubica to have an entire race weekend. Williams will never learn a thing if their hopeless drivers can’t even keep the car on the track!

  15. 0.125 secs away from pole with a harder tire is not that bad

  16. Strolldonado has another amazing session, but that set the tone for qualifying in regard to teammates outperforming one another, or equally underperforming: Leclerc hammering Ericsson, Gasly keeping it out of the wall and making it to Q2, and Vardoorne remaining in Alonso’s shadow. Meanwhile, others driver pairings are very closely matched, seemingly proving they’re both getting the best out of their cars (one hopes!): Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Haas. A session of two halves.

  17. Another Stinking example of Sky Sports inability to cover Grand Prix Racing properly. The run to pole TV Coverage STOPPED WITH 18 SECONDS STILL TO BE RUN.


    1. Errr….mine didn’t.

    2. Invisiblekid
      12th May 2018, 23:57

      Sky’s coverage or FOM?

      1. Here in California, the SKY coverage is such an improvement over what we’ve had recently its like comparing an IPhone to an old spin dial phone with the curly cord. I do miss the comedic commentary of David Hobbs…
        I do think any coverage I’ve seen in the past decade still suffers from ignoring the leader too much. Even if he has set sail.
        They need to find a better balance there and give more credit where it is due. Please don’t go back to the 2 hours of non-stop 40 seconds lead Schumacher gazing, but find the balance that gives adequate glory to whoever is the best that day.

  18. New tyres and european season, it’s been fun, looking forward to next season, it’s always like this it seems. Had Ferrari maximized their points it wouldnt matter anyway, they are incompetent, they cant give us a proper battle.
    Sky was so delighted to see Ferrari struggle on q3s,1st run. Back on sky, this weekend, oh boy, they didnt even celebrate the important thing, Ham’s pole, it’s all about where Vettel is.

  19. Dont give a shi7 for MAGs bad boy reputation- this boy is growing every single race.. he impressed me this season- and Steiner adores him..so he will soon sign a 2 year contract…

  20. So much for the Hamilton fans telling us ‘Ferrari are easily the quickest’. Business as usual.

    1. don’t forget vettel was on the harder slower tyre

  21. That laugh in the Williams garage after Stroll’s gone off was, to me, the image of the day. It was said that the woman laughing was Strolls manager, but I don’t know whether this is true. Contrary to some people beliefs, Massa wasn’t even in the image. He wasn’t the one doing the laughing. I can’t think of any joke appropriate enough to make mechanics laugh hysterically moments after their driver crashes. Very weird. Something isn’t right about this team right now, regardless of its results.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      12th May 2018, 23:16

      I remember one time where Lotus seemed to find Maldonado’s engine blowing up very entertaining. They looked like they didn’t care at all. Fair enough it was the last race of the season, but Maldonado didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t deserve the team laughing at the situation he was in. It was after all his final race in F1 as it happened It seemed like they were exited to find out how much damage had happened.


  22. Rigged championship in favor for Hamilton.

  23. Best part can be the start of this race… Ferraris’ sandwiched between mercs and reds! even more interesting is vettel is in front of max! when this happen usually doesnt end well for vettel… if it starts clean, and no rain, no funny incidents like unfit tyre changes to change leaders, it will be sail in the front and lotsa action right behind… my guess…

    1. Yeah first corner chaos a possibility, with that run up there’s opportunity for movement amongst the top 6. Fingers crossed they all make it thru. Hope MV and DR don’t swap carbon fibre in this race.

  24. Also think Haas may stir things up a bit.

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