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Norris nudges out Verstappen to take pole at Barcelona, as Hamilton makes top six start

Written by Vyas Ponnuri


Lando Norris set a stellar lap to take pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix, edging out the dominant Red Bull of Max Verstappen by the slimmest of margins, with only 0.020 seconds separating the championship leader and the star McLaren driver.


Having led for most part of qualifying, Verstappen was forced to settle for second, and would be pinning his hopes on getting the Briton at the start, on a track where overtaking isn't the easiest.


Lewis Hamilton finally broke into the top six, qualifying third around a track where he has triumphed six times before. He would be eyeing a podium finish, his first of the season, if it were to come to fruition.


His teammate George Russell would make it a Mercedes second row lockout, outqualified by his seven-time champion teammate for only the second time in 2024.


Despite showing plenty of optimism heading into qualifying, the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz had to settle for fifth and sixth, the Monegasque driver once again outqualifying the home favourite.


Pierre Gasly had plenty to cheer about, as he netted seventh for the race, ahead of the much more fancied Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who made it into Q3 for the first time in three races.


Gasly's teammate Esteban Ocon would start ninth, while Piastri would start only tenth, having lost his lap time early on, before a trip through the gravel relegated him to the rear of the top ten.


A qualifying session of fine margins, and here's how it all unfolded.


AS IT UNFOLDED

Q1

While the running order from practice sessions should usually be taken with a pinch of salt, as many as four teams were expected to be in the running for pole position, once the figures were crunched.


Logan Sargeant was the first driver to lay down a marker, setting a 1:14.301, before both VCARB drivers Ricciardo and Tsunoda came through and went into the 1:13s. With track limits under strict supervision, and the wind playing a crucial role in the laps, drivers would be looking to keep it within the white lines on the track, and keep themselves away from the eyes of the stewards.


The first of the big names to set a lap was Red Bull's Sergio Perez, who went quicker with a 1:13.081, as he looked to make his way into the later segments of qualifying, having missed out on reaching Q3 since the Miami Grand Prix.


The margins were already narrow after the first runs in Q1, with the top five separated by only two-tenths with under six minutes to go.


With the track beginning to ramp up, Alex Albon initially got his Williams out of the bottom five, before the two Kick Saubers of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu soared into the top ten. Esteban Ocon too dragged his heavy Alpine up into the top ten, as Perez finally booked his place in Q2 for the first time since Imola.


Suddenly, home favourite Fernando Alonso found himself in the bottom five, before he put in a lap to make himself into safe territory, as did Hamilton, who went to the top of the leaderboard. Alonso's teammate Lance Stroll, who only received a reprimand for making contact with Hamilton in FP3, made it out of Q1.


Finally, Haas would have one car in Q2, as Nico Hulkenberg demoted his teammate into the bottom five, while Tsunoda and Sargeant couldn't do anything to trouble the top 15. Zhou Guanyu held his breath as he dropped down the leaderboard, but he eventually celebrated making it into Q2 for the first time in 2024.


A hotly contested qualifying session saw just over a second separating the entire grid.


Eliminated in Q1 - Kevin Magnussen, Yuki Tsunoda, Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon, Logan Sargeant


Q2


The times would get even closer as the battle for the top ten spots would hot up, going into Q2. With so many teams separated by slim margins, drivers would be under pressure to get their best laps in, keeping it within track limits.


First to lay down a marker was Lance Stroll, who delivered a 1:13.630 on the board, having the track all to himself for the first minutes of Q2.


After the first runs, it was Verstappen streaking clear of the rest, holding a two-tenth margin to Lando Norris in second, who in turn was ahead of home hero Carlos Sainz by only two milliseconds, highlighting just how close it was between the top teams.


The two Mercedes would struggle, in comparison, with Russell only sixth, while Hamilton was outside the top ten, lamenting the tyre choice the team made for the first runs.


Stroll, running a different run plan, put himself into the top ten by the slender margin of four milliseconds, demoting Ocon into the bottom five with only three minutes to go.


Heading into the final minutes of Q2, some big hitters found themselves with work to do; Hamilton and Alonso found themselves outside the top ten. The Briton made his way into Q3, comfortably, going up to second on the leaderboard, while Alonso would miss out by the barest of margins, only 0.019s off a spot in Q3.


Fortunately for Red Bull, Perez made it into Q3 for the first time in three races, while the surprise package of the session were the two Alpine cars of Ocon and Gasly, as both drivers made it into Q3, as the French team showed an improved run of form.


Alonso and teammate Stroll found themselves out, along with the two Kick Saubers of Bottas and Zhou, while Hulkenberg too missed out on making Q3 once again.


Eliminated in Q2 - Alonso, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Zhou


Q3


With the business end of qualifying upon us, drivers primed themselves for the pressure of nailing the best laps to get the best grid spots on the race. Who would get the coveted pole position, and put themselves in the hot seat for race victory? The answer was only twelve minutes away.


It was a checkerboard of cars into Q3, with two Red Bulls, two Ferraris, McLarens, Mercedes, and Alpine cars making it into Q3.


First to lay down a lap time was Perez, the Mexican celebrating a return to Q3 by setting a 1:13.061, eyeing his best start at the circuit.


But he was usurped by Verstappen, the triple world champion setting a time of 1:11.673, ahead of Norris, and the two Mercedes of Russell and Hamilton, after the first laps.


Piastri would have his lap time deleted, demoting him from seventh to tenth after the first runs, highlighting just how important it was to stay within track limits.


Heading onto the final laps, it was all to play for, with just over a quarter of a second separating the top six. A grandstand finish beckoned.


First to challenge the Dutchman at the head of the leaderboard was Piastri. Having set two personal best sectors, he approached the winding right-hander of turn 12, taking too much road, and heading into the gravel on the exit of the corner. He would start only tenth on the grid, as Perez moved up to seventh.


On the final laps, Sainz and Leclerc would only make it as high as second and third, unable to match Verstappen's lap time. Yet, the Dutchman had more pace in reserve, going a full 0.270s quicker to set a 1:11.403. But he wouldn't be able to celebrate yet.


Norris was setting the timesheets alight, over a tenth of a second up on the Red Bull driver's time after two sectors. Heading into the final sector, Verstappen's territory in all of qualifying, the Briton set a personal best final sector, stopping the clocks only 0.020s ahead of the Dutchman, to take a second pole position.


The two Mercedes displayed further confidence in their updated machines, with Hamilton making his first top six start all season, qualifying third ahead of Russell, as the silver arrows locked out the second row, relegating Ferrari to the third row on the grid.


An exciting qualifying session, nonetheless, with the barest of margins being the deciding factor once again. Will Norris be able to convert his pole position to victory, around a track where overtaking isn't the easiest? Tune in tomorrow at 3 pm CET (2 pm BST) to find out.




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