Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023

Verstappen easily takes pole in Barcelona as Perez fails to reach Q3

2023 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying

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Max Verstappen secured a comfortable pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix as team mate Sergio Perez was eliminated from Q2.

The championship leader secured pole by almost half a second from Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Ferrari and Lando Norris taking third place. Charles Leclerc was knocked out 19th in Q1, with Perez and George Russell failing to reach Q2 in 11th and 12th, respectively.

Fernando Alonso was out-qualified by team mate Lance Stroll and will only start ninth on the grid for his home grand prix.


After the final practice session had been affected by rain and the Formula 2 race had started in wet conditions, there was threat of another shower as the first phase of qualifying began, and driversed rushed out to set early laps. Yuki Tsunoda was in such a hurry that he even spun approaching turn 12 on his out-lap as he hit a damp patch, spinning through 360 degrees but managing to resume.

Nico Hulkenberg appeared to have set the quickest time with a 1’14.006 ahead of the two Alpines of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, however, his time was deleted for exceeding track limits at turn five. The lack of grip was evident by Fernando Alonso running wide at the exit of the final corner and bouncing over the gravel. Valtteri Bottas emulated Tsunoda by spinning in the exact same manner at the same point as the AlphaTauri driver, while Alexander Albon ran off at turn five, ending up in the gravel.

As Albon rejoined the track, he dragged a large amount of gravel back onto the circuit with him. The session was red-flagged to allow the track to be cleared until the session resumed after a nine-minute delay.

Conditions appeared to have remained static when the field were released back onto the circuit, with the Alfa Romeos of Zhou Guanyu and Bottas leading the field out. Max Verstappen immediately jumped to the top of the times with a 1’13.660, while McLaren’s Oscar Piastri lapped just three-hundredths of a second off the Red Bull in second place. Nyck de Vries had an identical spin at turn 12 to his team mate Tsunoda and Bottas but was also able to get his car out of the gravel and the session continued uninterrupted.

With under four minutes remaining, both Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc were both sitting in the elimination zone, 16th and 17th. Also at risk of being knocked out was Tsunoda in 18th and the Williams pair, slowest of all. Both Perez and Leclerc took new soft tyres and Perez used his to immediately go safe in fourth, while Albon moved into the top ten, which dropped the two Haas cars of Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen into danger.

The track conditions were improving rapidly as the chequered flag flew. Leclerc improved but only to a 1’14.079, which left him vulnerable as the majority of the field shaved vital tenths off their personal bests on their final laps. After every car had crossed the line, Leclerc was back down in 19th place and was out – a stunning early exit for the Ferrari driver. Also joining Leclerc out in Q1 was Bottas in 16th, ahead of Magnussen and Albon, with Sargeant the final driver eliminated in 20th.

Q1 result

144Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’12.93711
24Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’13.2950.35810
363George RussellMercedesW141’13.3260.38911
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’13.4110.47410
527Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’13.4200.4839
631Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’13.4330.4969
710Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’13.4710.5349
821Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’13.5810.64410
91Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’13.6150.6789
1024Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’13.6770.74010
1181Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’13.6910.7548
1214Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’13.7470.8109
1318Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’13.7660.82911
1422Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’13.8620.92511
1511Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’13.8740.93710
1677Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’13.9771.04010
1720Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’14.0421.1059
1823Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’14.0631.1268
1916Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’14.0791.14210
202Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’14.6991.7626

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Red Bull were eager to get going when the second session began, with both Verstappen and Perez both taking to the track, the former on a fresh set of softs and the latter a used set. They were joined by Sainz’s Ferrari, which also took to the track on a used set of softs.

Verstappen was easily the quicker of the two Red Bulls on their first laps, with Verstappen’s 1’12.760 over eight tenths of a second quicker than his team mate and a full second better than Sainz’s first lap. Next it was the turn of the Mercedes drivers to set their first laps, with Russell six tenths slower than Verstappen’s benchmark.

Alonso moved into second place after his first effort of the session, but was still over half a second slower than Verstappen. The only driver to get within half a second of the championship leader was Hamilton in the Mercedes, slotting into second place ahead of Alonso.

The field returned to the pits, with the track falling silent with five minutes of session time remaining. The drivers who had to find time from their final runs included the two McLarens of Norris and Piastri, the two AlphaTauris of De Vries and Tsunoda and Hulkenberg’s Haas, the slowest of the 15 cars. But the final minutes of the second session was to serve up more surprises.

The field all returned to the track, but Russell’s first lap was ruined by Perez running off at turn five and bouncing across the gravel. But neither Russell nor Perez could improve by enough on their second push laps and were both eliminated as the chequered flag flew, Perez in 11th and Russell in 12th.

The two Mercedes drivers had made contact on the pit straight while Hamilton pulled alongside his team mate with a slipstream, Russell unaware that Hamilton was approaching behind him. Hamilton, however, was able to reach Q3.

Behind Perez and Russell, Zhou was also knocked out in 13th place, with the two AlphaTauris of De Vries and Tsunoda the last drivers eliminated slowest of all.

Q2 result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’12.7609
24Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’12.7760.01610
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’12.7900.03010
444Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’12.9990.23911
531Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’13.0010.2419
681Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’13.0590.2998
718Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’13.0820.32211
814Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’13.0980.3389
910Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’13.1860.4269
1027Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’13.2830.5239
1111Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’13.3340.57410
1263George RussellMercedesW141’13.4470.68711
1324Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’13.5210.76110
1421Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’14.0831.32310
1522Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’14.4771.71711

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With no team mate in Q3 for the second successive Saturday, pole position seemed like an open goal for Verstappen. Red Bull sent the championship leader out of the pit lane on a fresh set of soft tyres for his first run, while the majority of the top ten opted for used tyres for the first efforts of the pole position shoot-out.

Piastri set the first provisional pole time with a 1’13.772, but that was beaten by Alpine of Ocon and Sainz’s Ferrari. Then Verstappen crossed the line on his fresh set of softs and posted an ominously fast lap with a 1’12.272, over a second faster than anyone else. Hamilton was the only driver to get within a second of Verstappen’s first effort, but was still more than nine tenths adrift of the sole remaining Red Bull.

Only Alonso chose not to set an early run, staying in the pits while he waited until the end of the session to make his sole attempt. With a clear track, Hulkenberg took advantage and posted a 1’13.229 to move into a provisional third place as the rest of the field began to filter out onto the circuit for the final time.

Alonso headed out relatively early and was the first driver to cross the line to begin his final flying lap of qualifying, with Sainz immediately behind him. Alonso could not trouble Verstappen’s pole time and only managed a provisional fourth place, which was instantly beaten by Sainz, who moved second, and team mate Stroll.

Verstappen was going even faster behind them but with Hamilton unable to get close to his time, he abandoned his lap in the final sector, pole position already secured. Norris jumped his McLaren up to third with his final lap, with Gasly moving fourth in the Alpine and Hamilton taking fifth on his final run.

Stroll will start sixth, out-qualifying his team mate for the first time in the season. Ocon took seventh on the grid in the second Alpine, with Hulkenberg eighth. Alonso’s only lap left him in ninth place, with Piastri rounding out the top ten in the second McLaren.

Q3 result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’12.27220
255Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’12.7340.46222
34Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’12.7920.52022
410Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’12.8160.54421
544Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’12.8180.54623
618Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’12.9940.72223
731Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’13.0830.81121
827Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’13.2290.95718
914Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’13.5071.23518
1081Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’13.6821.41020

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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    Author information

    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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    45 comments on “Verstappen easily takes pole in Barcelona as Perez fails to reach Q3”

    1. Hulkenberg is the session’s positive surprise, but he’ll probably end up out of points tomorrow with Perez, Russell, & Leclerc behind.
      Overall, a nicely mixed-up grid.

      1. I forgot to add Alonso.

    2. Hats off to Carlos and Lando. (and I would have included Pierre, if not for his multiple times impeding others)

      Also, time to have a chuckle:

      “Verstappen is the toughest team mate but I have the speed to beat him – Perez”


    3. Perez is on the verge of looking as bad on that car as the guys he replaced.

      1. … and the only person apparently surprised by that is Checo himself. 🤷‍♂️

      2. On the verge? He couldn’t outscore Leclerc last season.

        Nobody expects him to actually be competitive with Verstappen, but with that much of a car/engine advantage there’s no good reason not to keep qualifying/finishing in P2.

      3. If Aston had two first rate drivers, replacing Stroll with perhaps Leclerc or Norris, then I think Aston would have an outside shot at the constructors this year.

        1. Think it’s wishful thinking, you’d need 2 perfect drivers and a terrible perez, such is the advantage red bull has; leclerc made too many mistakes for example this year.

    4. Not a Red Bull fan or a Max fan. But that car in Maxs hands is a work of art. They look like winning every race this year I think only reliability will stop them.

      1. And cars are extremely reliable lately, there’s been cases recently where none of the championship contenders had a terminal mechanical problem all year.

    5. Round 7 of the Verstappen World Tour continues.
      Russell may have been unaware Hamilton was passing on the left but if so he clearly didn’t check his mirrors either. Mercedes to go over that lap and work out why their drivers tripped over each other like that, could have been a far worse incident. I suspect the damage reduced Hamilton’s competitiveness in Q3.
      Norris and Gasly, excellent stuff. Leclerc presumably had some issue? Weird.
      Perez isn’t good enough for that Red Bull place.

      1. Albon should be brought back now that he’s experienced.

        Perez is way too inconsistent, just as he was with the pink Mercedes. The speed is there, the pace is there, but he rarely can put everything together.

        Or maybe Red Bull doesn’t care because Max is winning anyway and this is good enough for them.

        1. I think the problem is deeper, Perez is fast out of certain corners only, which gives him a deceptive boost in less than a handful of tracks over a season. But everywhere else on the lap is slower, often way slower. Plus as you said, he’s inconsistent. Again, though, that inconsistency tends to be pressure-induced and also with big consequences. Three times he’s been off in qualifying now this season alone. Australia (supposedly some car issue, I actually doubt it), Monaco and now Barcelona. I don’t think he’s good enough to be there and as the other teams close the gap, Perez could be painfully exposed later in the season. But I’m not sure who could slot into that team with Verstappen now so dominant, the pressure would be huge.

        2. Albon should be brought back now that he’s experienced.

          Experience doesn’t make you any quicker. So replaying that particular experiment is pointless unless Red Bull Thailand feel like supporting Red Bull Racing with a sum outstripping Checo’s paydriver package.

          1. Experience can help him better prepare the car to his style and adapt to it, that’s good enough already.
            He had half a season of experience when he first got there.

            1. Yes, I think he would be able to perform at red bull now, he wasn’t as bad a driver as he looked at red bull, he was getting similar results in toro rosso as red bull, that says a lot.

      2. @david-br Season 15 episode 7 of the Scuderia Ferrari show.
        Todays episode: Two Failures One Success

        1. @david-br I like the VWT but its quite monotonous at least SFS has a comedy side of it and you will never guess how will they fail in the next episode.

          1. @qeki :P
            I’m not sure how much more Ferrari suffering I can take and I’m not even a Ferrari fan! 15 years is a long time waiting, success always just over the horizon. Even 2007 was kind of lucky. Seeing Leclerc travel the same path of disillusionment as Alonso and Vettel is painful.

            1. BW (@deliberator)
              4th June 2023, 5:00

              Agreed. The last time Ferrari put in a legitimate championship challenge was 2006.
              2007 was all about Mclaren finding ways not to win a title either one of their drivers should have and handing it to Ferrari on a silver platter.
              And since then, only Alonso has dragged an otherwise un-championship worthy car into contention.
              Ferrari is a total farce, and there are no signs that anything is even looking like getting better.

            2. BW, there’s no way 2008 isn’t a legitimate championship challenge.

            3. BW (@deliberator)
              4th June 2023, 8:41

              @ Esploratore – fair point, although in 2008 the drivers made heavy work of a championship challenge in what must have been a vastly superior car.
              But I take your point about 2008, so I will revise my original statement to “Ferrari hasn’t put in a legitimate championship challenge post 2008…”

    6. Lando Glorious

    7. Ricciardo’s chances of being in next years best car are steadily rising

      1. Perez needs to raise his game a little bit as Alonso is not that far but I think everything is working good for Red Bull, all they need is “don’t even try to mess with Max” 2nd driver and Perez actually is doing an excellent job!

        1. BW (@deliberator)
          4th June 2023, 5:04

          He needs to be finishing 2nd consistently. Yes, RBR don’t want him to “mess with Max”, but he still needs to be reliable enough to bring home 18/19 points each weekend, and even that is proving too taxing for him.
          Barrichello, and even Irvine for that matter, did a much better job of being a reliable #2, although like Perez, Barrichello never seemed to realise his #2 status.

    8. Perez was 6 tenths behind Verstappen in Q2. If Red Bull are a second faster than everyone else this isn’t a problem. If on any given session Red Bull don’t have a second in hand over the field Perez might just not be fast enough.

    9. Good result for McLaren, considering. Hopefully they can latch on to that bunch of cars behind the Red Bull.

      Anyway, for all the millions spent on all these upgrades – it’s still a one man show. Yay for the cost cap?

      1. Everyone loves the cost cap. Especially the hundreds of people no longer working at highly successful teams because the company leeching not-quite-half of the sport’s revenues wanted the teams to be profitable without sharing any more of the money they generate.

      2. Yes, I was also surprised by mclaren, already in q1 they looked fast, and were then fairly competitive with the 2nd best group of teams in q2 and q3 too.

    10. But for a oversnap at Turn 10, Hamilton would almost certainly made the front row. Tomorrow’s race should be a blinder.

    11. I think the question now is will Red Bull wait till the end of the season before they give Perez the elbow…

      1. They will probably give Riccardo a spot for a race or two down in an Alpha Tauri first

        1. Where does this love for Riccardo come from? He was not on par with Max last when he was at RedBull, and Max has only gotten better. Daniel didn’t show anything that indicates progress while at Renault and McLaren. People really believe he would do better than Perez? Why, based on what “data”?
          Checo needs to forget he can beat Max and that second is his maximum potential. Don’t try to overachieve and make errors, just aim for second place. He is good enough in the RedBull to beat the rest of the field.

    12. Only question for tomorrow is who is finishing 2nd, probably about half a dozen drivers with a chance of that.

      Anyone seen speed trap data, can Hamilton overtake, will Sainz tyres hold up and can Perez get through the field?

      1. Am I supposed to believe that perez won’t make it to 2nd with a dominant car starting 11th?

      2. I mean, it’s interesting to look at hamilton, sainz, maybe other drivers battling for 2nd spot, but I don’t think it’s realistic to hold perez back on a track where you can overtak with drs, and red bull seems stronger than ever, verstappen was further improving his lap before aborting, he could’ve got pole with a single lap even if the other drivers had 3 attempts.

    13. Anyone else had enough of a certain commentator with the initials MB? First he states that it is completely dry at the start of Q1. RUS tells team that it is raining lightly and MB says that RUS seems to think that it is raining. When the cars drive off to start Q1, there are raindrops on at least the first 3 cameras and then 6 drivers go off the track and a few others struggle to keep their cars on track. But then it gets better after the red flag, when he tries to explain why the Ferraris are struggling, by stating that cars that were on a flying lap had their tires compromised when the red flag came out. Great explanation except the Ferraris never left the garages until after the red flag. To top it all off, when the red flag came out, both commentators wondered if the red flag could be rescinded. That would be a great. So cars near the end of a lap see a red flag, come into the pits, and their crews put them in the garage, whilst teams that had just started a lap, see a red flag, slow down, but get a green flag, and are able to start a lap. That would be a great rule for races too, some cars have to come in for red flag but other cars go green.

      1. Who is MB? Martin Brundle on SKY?
        I live in the US and don’t watch F1 on TV anymore, can’t stand that crew. Pay $70 per year for F1TV, see all practices, qualification and races; either direct or later. Much better commentary.

    14. Hm, when Verstappen is good, Perez is nowhere.

      They should sign Alonso, Hamilton or someone who can cope that RedBull.

      1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
        4th June 2023, 4:50

        Why on earth would they do that?

        The last thing Red Bull wants is two number one drivers on their team – especially while they have a dominant car. That kind of thing inevitably leads to headaches at best (see: Senna vs. Prost at McLaren, Hamilton vs. Rosberg at Mercedes), championship defeats at worst (see: Piquet vs. Mansell at Williams, Hamilton vs. Alonso at McLaren).

        I’m sure Horner & co. wouldn’t mind if Pérez were able to finish second more frequently, but replacing him with someone who might actually be able to consistently challenge Verstappen would come with its own set of problems. As it stands, they have one hand on the WDC already, and barring some major upsets, no sane person would bet against them in the WCC, either. So why rock the boat?

        I agree that this makes things less interesting from a fan perspective. But from a team perspective, it makes perfect sense.

        1. BW (@deliberator)
          4th June 2023, 5:14

          I think, by the end of the season, Verstappen will have enough points by himself to take the constructors title for RBR. So from that perspective, what Perez does is largely irrelevant to RBR.
          However, what is very relevant to Perez, is that he finish 2nd in the driver’s to save his own career. If he gets beaten by Alonso to 2nd, he is destined to spend his remaining years a la Massa/Raikkonen, scrounging around for drives at the bottom of the field.

          1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
            4th June 2023, 5:54

            As long as Red Bull keeps making dominant (at least in Verstappen’s hands) cars, and as long as Pérez keeps finishing at least third in the WDC – thereby ensuring that no other team can beat Red Bull in the WCC – I doubt they’ll want to replace him. As for his post-Red Bull career, I doubt he’s thinking about that too much right now. I also think that, once Red Bull finally lets him go (which may not happen for another two or three years), he’ll be just as likely to retire as to go back to racing in the midfield.

      2. Perez could be off the pace due to man management. eg to avoid conflict between Perez and the ‘desinated’ champion. Also, him coming from behind, slicing through the slower cars, makes great tv. Every other grand prix seems to have this scenario.

    15. BW (@deliberator)
      4th June 2023, 5:17

      If Perez wants to show his “championship mettle”, this is the perfect opportunity for him to storm through the field, take a solid 2nd place and show that he really has what it takes to maximise bad weekends.
      I’m not holding my breath though – I’m far more looking forward to seeing Alonso do that…

    Comments are closed.