It is Saturday, and that means it is quali day in Formula 1. The grid is in Barcelona for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, getting set to take on the reconfigured Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
What have we seen through the first two practice sessions? Speed. Max Verstappen topped the timing sheets with a lap time of 1:13.907 in FP2, followed closely by hometown Fernando Alonso, who posted a best time in FP2 of 1:14.077, just 0.170 seconds behind.
In third place? A bit of a stunner as it was Nico Hülkenberg of Haas who posted the third-fastest time of FP2, as his lap time of 1:14,117 was just 0.270 seconds behind Verstappen.
For good measure, Verstappen’s time — along with many of these — would eclipse the previous fastest lap set on this track, prior to the introduction of the tricky right-left-right chicane near the end of the lap. That chicane, which was introduced in 2007, was removed for this season and replaced with a medium-to-high-speed corner, as was the configuration prior to 2006. The previous fastest lap on that old — now new — design was set in 2005 by Giancarlo Fisichella with a time of 1:15.641.
As we did last week with the Monaco Grand Prix qualifying, we will have you covered every step of the way, so refresh early and often.
Note: All updates will be in Eastern time.
Update 11:22: And here is the provisional classification for Sunday, with Gasly potentially waiting on some bad news:
Update 11:20: Gasly is starting to get some bad news:
Update 11:16: “I’m surprised to be here,” says Norris. “Very happy, P3 ... the whole qualifying we were quite quick.”
Norris was also asked about the new corner. “It seems to be good for us, so I would say I like it.”
Update 11:14: Sainz is interviewed trackside in front of a massive crowd of adoring fans. The other hometown hero calls this “one of the most tricky qualis I’ve had here in Barcelona in terms of conditions.” He adds “I felt like I was driving really well ... I was pushing flat out ... I think P2 is as far as I could make it today.”
Update 11:13: Verstappen trackside: “the car was on rails, it was really enjoyable to drive today.” He also says “I love coming to Barcelona, I love the fans, they really love racing.”
Update 11:09: Norris comes across P3, and Hamilton comes across P5. Sainz will start alongside Verstappen in P2.
Norris’s P3 is his best qualifying result of the season, and Gasly will be next to him in P4, at least for the moment.
Alonso can only start in P9, as his teammate bests him in qualifying for the first time all season.
The top ten, for the moment, is as follows:
Update 11:08: Two minute warning, and nine of the drivers are on the track. Only Hülkenberg is in the pits at the moment.
Update 11:06: Hülkenberg is alone on the track looking to fight his way into the top five, if not better. He is solid through the first two sectors, and finishes just +0.957 behind Verstappen, putting him into P3 for the moment.
Update 11:05: With five minutes left in Q3 the top five is as follows:
Update 11:02: Verstappen on new tyres rockets to the top with a 1:12.272. Might be tough to top that. Norris comes across P2 with a time of 1:13.544, but is immediately nipped by Hamilton with a time of 1:13.196.
Update 11:00: Q3 is underway. Will we have the kind of finish to the third session we saw a week ago in Monaco?
Update 10:58: Thanks to his impressive P2 finish in Q2, Norris gets our photo of honor for Q3. And if you’re looking to read more about Norris, you can check out our exclusive chat with the McLaren driver from a few weeks ago here.
Update 10:54: Here is an image of the contact between the Mercedes teammates:
Race officials are “looking into the incident” according to F1TV.
Update 10:52: F1TV shows multiple replays of a collision between Hamilton and Russell who were almost fighting back to the start/finish line at the end of Q2.
The ten drivers through to Q3:
This is setting up for potentially a massive day for McLaren. Also, Gasly is facing one, perhaps two, penalties for impeding.
Update 10:51: Pérez has one shot now to get into Q3, and he cannot pull it out. Pérez finishes in P11, followed by Russell in P12, Zhou in P13, de Vries in P14 and Tsunoda down in P15.
For the second week in a row Pérez will not see Q3.
Update 10:50: We are seeing some drivers post improved times and push into the top ten. Sainz gets himself into P3, Norris is into P2, and Hülkenberg is up to P8.
Update 10:48: Just over two minutes remain in Q2 and Pérez, Sainz, Zhou, Norris, Piastri and de Vries are all on the track trying to improve their standing.
Pérez, however, slides off the track and is into the gravel.
Update 10:47: Hülkenberg returns to the track on a fresh set of soft tyres to try and improve on his P15.
Update 10:46: Under seven minutes remain in Q2, and the drivers currently in the drop zone include the McLaren duo of Norris and Piastri, as well as De Vries, Tsunoda and Hülkenberg, who was atop the Q1 timing sheets for at least a few moments.
Russell radios in that the is “bouncing all over the place” and that he has “no confidence” in his tyres.
Update 10:39: We have our first lap times of Q2. Verstappen is fastest with a time of 1:12.760, followed by Perez and Sainz. The other drivers are still on their out laps.
Update 10:37: Q2 is underway and only Sainz, Perez and Verstappen are on the track to begin the session.
Update 10:34: Q2 is set to begin, and thanks to his P1 performance in Q1, Hamilton gets our header photo.
F1TV also plays audio of Alonso calling into his team for Gasly to be given a penalty for impeding Verstappen.
Update 10:32: Could be some nervous times at Alpine. Gasly advanced to Q2, but both Sainz and Verstappen are calling for a penalty for the Alpine driver impeding them at different points during in Q1.
Also, it is worth noting that Verstappen finished in P9 during Q1. That is probably due to the frantic finish at the end of Q1 that saw other drivers pushing hard, while Verstappen had banked a strong enough lap to be sure he would be through to Q2.
Update 10:29: The five drivers eliminated in Q1: Bottas, Magnussen, Albon, Leclerc and Sargeant.
The top five from Q1: Hamilton, Norris, Russell, Sainz and Hülkenberg.
Update 10:26: A big lap from Pérez pushes him into the top five. Now we’re tracking Leclerc as he needs the lap of his day to just get into Q2. As he’s pushing, Gasly actually moves to the top of the table with a lap time of 1:13.471.
WHOA. Hülkenberg goes to the top with a time of 1:13.420.
Leclerc only gets into P12 for the moment and with some drivers still on the track the Ferrari driver could be in trouble. De Vries goes into P5, and Norris goes into P1, before Hamilton nips him for P1.
Sainz survives with a P4 finish, but he will be the only Ferrari driver into Q2 as Leclerc comes across in P19.
Update 10:24: With under three minutes to go the top five are: Verstappen, Piastri, Stroll Hamilton, and Ocon. The five drivers on the outside looking in at the moment are Pérez, Leclerc, Tsunoda, and the Williams duo of Albon and Sargeant.
Update 10:22: Mercedes might breathe a little easier right now as Russell gets into P8.
Leclerc, however, si in the pits and has to restart on pit lane. As he gets pushed into the Ferrari box the clock is ticking.
Update 10:21: With just six minutes to go both Leclerc and Russell are in the elimination zone, with Leclerc in P16 and Russell at P18. Could make for some nervous times at Ferrari and Mercedes.
Leclerc tells his team over the radio that “there’s something wrong with my rears, guys.”
Update 10:18: Nyck de Vries spins off in the same turn which caught his teammate Tsunoda. He radios in to AlphaTauri asking “what am I doing wrong there?” Commentators speculate that there has to be a wet spot in that turn right on the racing line which drivers might need to avoid.
Update 10:16: Verstappen rockets to the top of the table with a lap time of 1:14.660. Oscar Piastri, Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, and Sainz round out the top five at the moment, with ten minutes left in Q1.
Update 10:13: And we are back underway with just 14 minutes left in Q1. Only a handful of drivers have posted a lap time at this point, so pressure is starting to mount.
Update 10:10: Could things get sporty? Buxton believes they might:
Rain incoming. Radar showing it could arrive any second. With a red flag and 11 drivers yet to have a lap on the board this could get verrrrry interesting if the session isn’t restarted soon.— Will Buxton (@wbuxtonofficial) June 3, 2023
Update 10:08: As we sit under the red flag, we note that Hülkenberg’s time of 1:14.006 — which was the fastest in the early going — was deleted for the driver “exceeding track limits” at Turn 5, which is where Albon slid off.
Steiner might have to bite his tongue given his current ... situation.
Update 10:06: F1TV shows a replay of Alonso sliding off the track and into the gravel as well, right before the red flag came out. They then show Alex Albon sliding into the gravel at Turn 5, and there is speculation that when he recovered and got back onto the track, he brought some gravel with him, creating the need for the red flag.
Update 10:04: The red flag is out. Valtteri Bottas is in the gravel, having slid off the track at Turn 11, which is where Tsunoda had some trouble moments ago.
Update 10:02: An early yellow flag as Yuki Tsunoda slides off the track, but he is able to get back on the track without further incident and the green flag waves again.
All the drivers are on the track but for Carlos Sainz Jr., Charles Leclerc, and Logan Sargeant.
Russell radios into the Mercedes pit that “rain is on the way I think.”
Update 9:58: It’s time for opening titles!
Also, George Russell’s pose is starting to become something of a meme...
Update 9:51: F1TV’s Sam Collins looks at lap time data from both Verstappen and Alonso taken from FP2, and as you might imagine, Verstappen is faster through the straights, but Alonso is quicker through the corners and more “medium speed” parts of the track.
And, as you might expect, Alonso is quicker through the redesigned Turn 13, which was present back in 2006 when Alonso won the Spanish Grand Prix.
Update 9:38: Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer, speaking with Laura Winter and Will Buxton, calls Esteban Ocon’s P3 in Monaco “really good for the team.” He also addressed comments from Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi, pointing to the upgrades to the car as a reason for the recent improvements and results. “We feel like we’re making progress. It’s always good to put new bits on the car and have them perform like you think they’d perform.”
Update 9:17: Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner has been summoned to have what we can only assume will be a lovely chat with race officials regarding comments Steiner made following the Monaco Grand Prix.
Steiner had some harsh words for race officials following a penalty handed down to Hülkenberg in Monaco, stating “F1 is one of the biggest sports in the world and we still have laymans deciding on the fate of people which invest millions in their careers,” said Steiner on Thursday. “And it’s always a discussion because there’s no consistency. Again, I don’t want to blame any particular person on this, but if you’re not all there all the time…This is like a job [but] it’s not even a job, because in a job you could get sacked, because you get paid. And if you do a bad job, you get sacked. You cannot get sacked because you don’t get paid. I think we need to step it up.”
Update 9:06: Common W for AlphaTauri’s admin:
Update 9:02: Good morning friends, and welcome to another qualifying day in the F1 world. Before things get rolling in about an hour, it is time to ask this question.
Are the stars aligned for Fernando Alonso?
Yes, this is his home race, but it is much ... much more than that as outlined by Laura Winter from F1TV:
1086 F1 races. The #SpanishGP would be Alonso’s 362nd start. That is exactly one third (33.3%) of all races. It is the 33rd race at this circuit. He has garage & pit box no 33. He is going for his 33rd win, 10 years since his last. And he’s on home soil. Have the stars aligned?!— Laura Winter (@lauracwinter) June 1, 2023
FP3 notes and a prediction
The main note from the third practice session? Rain. As FP3 began storm clouds were on the horizon, so most teams took to the track quickly on the soft compound to try and get a qualifying simulation in before the rain arrived. Verstappen was fastest again, posting a lap time of 1:13.664, followed by teammate Sergio Pérez with a time of 1:13.914. Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes was third-fastest, with a lap of 1:14.072.
That’s when rookie Logan Sargeant went off the track, bringing out the red flag:
During the near ten-minute delay, the rain began to fall. When the session resumed, most teams kept their cars in the garage. Lando Norris took to the track on the intermediate tyres for a brief period, but he too came back to pit lane.
Near the end of the session the rain abated and the track surface dried a bit, so the teams came back to the circuit for a few more laps. However, the times from the earlier part of the session, before the rain arrived, held up at the top of the board.
Here is the full classification from PF3:
As for a prediction for qualifying, we unfortunately have to be a bit boring this week. Verstappen has been fastest all week, and barring the rain shaking things up, it is hard to see him not qualifying up front.