With sunny skies just outside the Spanish city of Barcelona, the qualifying hour started with all eyes on the Red Bull teams, and if Max Verstappen could out qualify his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo on his debut.
Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein was the first driver on circuit for the first eighteen minute session, although there wasn’t a train behind him with most electing to stay in the pits for the first part of the session. With the Manor’s setting the early pace, Haryanto was a tenth faster than his highly rated teammate Wehrlein. In the battle expected at the back of the field, Ericsson in the Sauber also went out early and was a tenth faster than Haryanto, with Nasr going another tenth faster again.
Lewis Hamilton was going substantially faster though, as you would expect, and set a 1:23.2 and over two and a half seconds faster than the back of the field teams. Rosberg was a couple of tenths faster than Hamilton, as we have seen over the weekend so far. Many other teams were still in the pits with ten minutes remaining.
Perez did a time good enough for third fastest, with Palmer’s Renault in fourth but still two and a half seconds down on the leader. Hulkenberg was half a second down of Perez, with Magnussen splitting the two Force India drivers. Sainz then went third, before his former teammate took the position. At just half a second off the Mercedes, young Verstappen was also faster than Kimi Raikkonen. There was also a good lap by Alonso to go sixth, with Kvyat in seventh – just a couple of tenths off his new team mate.
After his first lap Vettel couldn’t match the pace of his team mate either, with Verstappen remaining in third. Bottas’ first lap put him into sixth, with Massa only going thirteen and two seconds down on the leaders. Ricciardo was the last to have set a lap time and couldn’t match Verstappen either, a couple of tenths behind the Dutchman and only just ahead of Raikkonen – the Ferrari drivers demoted to fifth and sixth.
With one run remaining, those in the drop zone included Palmer, Grosjean, Nasr, Ericsson, Haryanto and Wehrlein, the car on the bubble Nico Hulkenberg.
Hulkenberg was the first to improve to go to eighth fastest, with Grosjean improving to 12th. Palmer could only go 16th in the Renault. Massa in the pits dropped out in 17th, with Nasr not able to improve either in the Sauber. Button made a late move to improve to 12th, dropping Palmer down to 17th.
Those who would depart during the first part of qualifying included: Palmer, Massa, Ericsson, Nasr, Wehrlein and Haryanto.
It was a slow start to the second part of qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton the first to take to the track, and his teammate Rosberg following him. Hamilton therefore set the pace at a 1:22.1, Rosberg couldn’t match Hamilton though – six tenths down on the current World Champion. Force India’s Hulkeberg was the next on the road but was three seconds down on the leading Mercedes. Perez went a couple of tenths faster, with Sainz once again going third – but two seconds off the pace in the Toro Rosso.
Alonso took the McLaren to fourth fastest, and ahead of the two Force India drivers, and Grosjean went fifth. Ricciardo then went third, a second and a half from the Mercedes. Bottas went fourth fastest, but Verstappen blitzed them all to go third and nearly half a second faster than his team. Ferrari were once again later on the circuit, Raikkonen pitting without setting a time, and Vettel not able to beat Verstappen, still half a second down on the Dutchman.
With just under three minutes remaining, those who needed to headed out on the circuit for their final runs. Kimi Raikkonen, out of sync with the other runners and was fourth fastest and surprisingly ahead of Sebastian Vettel by a couple of tenths, but was still behind Verstappen. Button improved to 10th, with Kvyat falling into 11th, before both them being deposed by Hulkenberg. Perez then went seventh, dropping Hulkenberg out and Alonso stayed inside the top ten, the first time since Honda joined with the team.
Those out in the second part of qualifying included Hulkenberg, Button, Kvyat, Grosjean, Magnussen and Gutierrez.
Q3 started with Mercedes once again leading the field out, Hamilton again ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg. On his first run Lewis Hamilton had a massive lock up into turn 10, running wide as a result even though he was four tenths ups. It was a 1:23.2 for Hamilton, with Rosberg coming over the line nearly a second faster.
Raikkonen was still struggling with grip at the rear of the Ferrari, with him setting a time two seconds away from the Mercedes. Verstappen set a time within eight tenths of Rosberg and ahead of Hamilton, compromised by his lock up.
With only five drivers going out for a run at the start of the session, all the cars emerged at the very end of the session. Rosberg had to drop back from Hamilton at the start of the second run, the British driver still staying ahead of the German on the road. Hamilton was a couple of tenths up in the first sector, and half a second up in the second. Ricciardo went over the line though to go second, with Raikkonen third.
Hamilton went fastest, but Rosberg was three tenths down. Ricciado actually ended up beating Verstappen by three tenths in third and fourth ahead of the two Ferrari drivers.