A clinical pole position after a gross error. Charles Leclerc went through all the states on Saturday at Montmelo, where he signed his 13th pole position in Formula 1. A top position with a particular taste, since it is the first for the Scuderia since that signed by Kimi Räikkönen in 2008, and that it closes a series of nine Mercedes in Catalonia since 2013.
Author of a spin at the end of his first attempt in Q3 and finally not timed, the Monegasque drove without a net to get a good place on the starting grid. Under this enormous pressure, he accomplished a “good turn” as he described it on the radio, maximizing the potential of his F1 75 in the big, fast corners of the track near Barcelona. He was also the one who was able to best balance his effort by sparing his machine in the first sector, where the tires are subject to significant stress, especially at the front right. A paying sacrifice in the second and third sectors, which he dominated.
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And when the red garage saluted his achievement in an explosion of joy, his rival Max Verstappen sent a message of capitulation to Red Bull: “I no longer have potency problems!” Another reliability concern for the world champion, who was preparing a big blow. Coming out of his reserve in Q2 with the best time, the Dutchman had positioned himself last on the track, and was waiting to see if his best time would survive the opposing assaults. He gave it up for 0″323, a gap that came as a surprise as he seemed able to compete with the “rossa”.
The Mercedes disappointment
These two were in another world, once again. This Spanish Grand Prix was however a dream opportunity for many to interfere in their duel of titans but in the end it was only a series of disappointed hopes. For the local Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) first of all, in search of a first career pole position and just third at 0 “416. Everything was planned to celebrate her and her father Carlos Sainz, 1990 world rally champion and 1992, finally presented the trophy for the author of the pole position to his teammate.
And what about Sergio Perez? He existed even less in this equation with several unknowns. He could have been the X factor of this breathtaking end of the session but he failed in fifth place, at 0 “670. Red Bull expected better, certainly.
Finally, we were eager to see the progress of the Mercedes. If George Russell’s fourth place is interesting in itself, it remains at 0″643 from the time of the pole position, about the usual regime. Without porpoising on the straights either and he too with a fresh n°2 engine , Lewis Hamilton capped sixth, at 0.762.
Alpine, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin absent from Q3
Notable fact, this sixth session of the season brings together for the first time the three best teams on the first three rows of the starting grid. It’s quite imperceptible, but the challenger teams are gradually falling into line, victims of a lower development rate than the big teams or of reliability concerns. Alfa Romeo, McLaren and Haas highlighted this trend with Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher qualifying from P7 to P10 with a backlog ranging from 0.858 to 1.618.
Some absentees in Q3 also testify to this slow downgrading, such as Alpine, excluded from Q1 with Fernando Alonso (17th) – on a timing problem – or Esteban Ocon (12th) in Q2. Either AlphaTauri, thirteenth on a regular basis with Yuki Tsunoda or because of the start of a fire in Pierre Gasly’s car on his reconnaissance lap during the last practice. In another register, Aston Martin has suffered the plasters of its new body strangely resembling that of the Red Bull. “Are you kidding?”, replied Sebastian Vettel to his engineer, learning of his elimination in Q1 with the sixteenth time. Still better than the 18th signed by Lance Stroll, ahead of the Williams.
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