The axe has once again fallen at Red Bull Racing in the middle of a Formula One season, as the former world champions announced that incumbent Pierre Gasly has been dropped in favour of star rookie Alexander Albon.
Valtteri Bottas made it three poles in a row in his resurgent third season at Mercedes, leading teammate Lewis Hamilton to lock out the front row for the Spanish Grand Prix in a blow to Ferrari’s dwindling title hopes.
Here’s how the grid shapes up for Sunday night’s race (AEST).
The W10 looked a handful to drive, but this was actually to their advantage as it was able to carry more speed through the final sector than the Ferrari. Valtteri Bottas set a blistering lap time in his first Q3 run, setting a new track record with a time of 1 minute 15.406 seconds, more than 0.6 seconds quicker than teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas spoke to Jenson Button after qualifying: “By Q3 it was just getting better and better. It started well, the season, the way I hoped for, and I feel better and better in the car”.
Hamilton explained, “I just didn’t put the laps together. Ultimately it just wasn’t a good enough job”.
Ferrari was way off the pace in Barcelona, the track around which they were quickest in preseason testing. Bottas’s incredible lap was a massive 0.9 seconds quicker than the fastest Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Charles Leclerc was a further 0.3 seconds behind in fifth.
Vettel told Button: “It [Ferrari’s lack of pace in slow corners] seems to be more than an Achille’s heel at the moment. I think I got everything out of the car in the first run. I had to try something in the second run – it didn’t work. The car doesn’t feel bad, but obviously the car isn’t quick enough”.
Red Bull Racing
Pierre Gasly was unable to keep up with the lap times set by teammate Max Verstappen. The Frenchman was off the pace by 0.6 seconds in Q1 and half a second in Q2. We’re five rounds into the 2019 season, so it’s no longer an excuse to say he’s getting used to the RB15. I expect the team will tell him he needs to speed up quite soon.
Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of the energy drink brand, once told the team in 2015 that if they didn’t improve their performance, he would withdraw funding. He expects a good return on his investment.
Verstappen managed to split the two Ferrari drivers by qualifying fourth, just 0.1 seconds behind Vettel in third. Despite this appearing to be a good result, the Dutchman wasn’t too pleased, telling Sky Sports, “I’m not here to qualify fourth”.
Nico Hulkenberg didn’t have a great start to qualifying, damaging his front wing after locking up and going straight on at turn four. He then proceeded to drive around the rest of the circuit with his front wing tucked under the front-left tyre, creating a lot of smoke as well as putting some gravel onto the circuit. Race control may not have been too pleased.
Though he managed to return to the track to set a lap, Hulkenberg just missed out on a place in Q2, qualifying in 16th, which was a shame as the Renault mechanics did an excellent job getting his car fixed in just seven minutes of the German returning to pit lane.
This must have been incredibly annoying for Nico. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo was able to get the car into Q3, though the Australian will start from 13th on the grid due to his three-place grid penalty for reversing into Daniil Kvyat last time out in Baku.
George Russell has a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change after crashing rear-first into the barriers in Saturday morning practice. However, the maximum penalty hasn’t been applied because once again Williams has the slowest car on the grid. That said, Russell was just 0.6 seconds away from getting through to Q2, making this the team’s best qualifying session of the season. Monaco may suit their car as it is at the moment, but don’t expect rapid improvements just yet.
Lance Stroll again wasn’t able to get through to Q2, extending his streak of Q1 eliminations to nine. This must be becoming quite annoying for most of the team considering Esteban Ocon, an extremely talented driver, was forced to forfeit his seat for the Canadian after Lance’s father, Lawrence, bought the squad last season. This is certainly an example of how money talks in F1.
However, despite Stroll’s poor performances in qualifying, Racing Point struggled overall, with Sergio Perez qualifying 15th after just about scraping into Q2.
Both McLarens were unable to get through to Q2, which is quite disappointing considering their recent good performance. A good strategy and some good race pace may get them some points tomorrow. There are plenty of overtaking opportunities in Barcelona, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
The two Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were separated less than a tenth of a second and were the best of the midfield. Romain Grosjean starts seventh and Kevin Magnussen starts eighth.
Alexander Albon qualified 12th, but the Thai driver suffered oversteer coming out of turn five, which definitely didn’t help his lap time. Daniil Kvyat qualified ninth.
For the first time this season Kimi Raikkonen was unable to get through to Q3. However, the car doesn’t have much pace here, with Antonio Giovinazzi also struggling and qualifying 18th.
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