It was another Mercedes whitewash in qualifying as Lewis Hamilton defeated teammate Valtteri Bottas in a closely-fought duel for pole position at Formula 1’s Spanish Grand Prix, but who else starred?

With Mercedes once again in a league of their own over one lap, it was Hamilton who narrowly edged out Bottas to pole around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya by the small margin of just 0.059s. 

The two Mercedes drivers were evenly-matched throughout the weekend’s three practice sessions and that carried into qualifying, with Hamilton ultimately nicking his 92nd career pole over Bottas thanks to holding an advantage in the final sector, despite the Finn being faster in the first two sectors. 

As Hamilton won the battle for what often turns out to be a crucial pole position in Spain, Bottas ensured that Mercedes locked out the front-row of the grid for the sixth successive occasion in 2020. 

But behind the headline-grabbing Mercedes duo, we’ve assessed some of the other drivers who impressed with strong qualifying displays in Barcelona…

Max Verstappen

Verstappen once again wound up third on the grid, with Red Bull still lagging too far behind the German manufacturer in terms of single-lap pace to challenge for pole on Saturdays. 

The Dutchman was 0.7s off Hamilton’s pole position-winning time as he continued to lurk just behind the Mercedes pair in his RB16. Verstappen conceded his Q3 effort was “the maximum” Red Bull can do in the current circumstances. 

“All weekend we have been P3. I just hope we can be a bit closer in the race,” he said. 

"I just hope I can apply a bit of pressure, we will do everything we can to be close and make it difficult."

As a surprise winner last time Sunday at Silverstone, Verstappen leapfrogged Bottas up to second in the championship standings, 30 points behind championship leader Hamilton. 

Starting from the top three for the first time in Spain, Verstappen is aiming to take full advantage of the promising race pace he demonstrated during Friday practice - and sweltering track temperatures - in his bid to challenge for back-to-back victories. 

It is Verstappen’s strong long-run pace that has alarmed Mercedes, with team principal Toto Wolff believing the Dutchman “needs to be seen as the favourite” for the race. 

Sergio Perez 

After being sidelined from the two previous races at Silverstone due to contracting COVID-19, Perez returned to F1 action in style as he secured a brilliant fourth on the grid, less than ninth-tenths adrift of the Mercedes.

It was a strong day all round for Racing Point as Lance Stroll set the fifth-fastest time - narrowly off the pace of his returning teammate - with both drivers putting their RP20’s ahead of Alex Albon’s Red Bull and the two McLarens. 

Perez got within two-tenths of 70th Anniversary Grand Prix winner Verstappen thanks to his fastest lap in Q3, and the Mexican has set his sights on fighting the Red Bull driver for the final podium position in Sunday’s race. 

"If we are able to get a good start and get ahead of Max, we may be able to hold him back," Perez told Sky Sports F1.

"Here is not an easy track to pass, and the amount of saving and management that we have to do tomorrow is going to be extreme.

"We don't quite have the pace to beat the Red Bull, and especially the Mercedes, but who knows? If we are able to get ahead in lap one, who knows."

Pierre Gasly 

The in-form Gasly continued his qualifying streak in Barcelona to make it into Q3 for the fourth time this season on his way to rounding out the top 10 on the grid with another strong showing for AlphaTauri.

Arguably, Gasly could have hoped for no more in the final segment of qualifying considering he had what was in all reality the slowest car of the remaining runners in Q3, though he still managed to post a time within half a tenth of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. 

But it was the Frenchman’s Q2 display that was even more impressive. A last-ditch improvement saw Gasly knockout Sebastian Vettel as he lit up the timing sheets to set the fifth-fastest time with an effort that bettered his eventual Q3 lap. 

Gasly’s performances will not be lost on Red Bull as Albon continues to find himself under-pressure, despite an improved qualifying in Barcelona. 

Kimi Raikkonen 

Raikkonen was the unsung hero of qualifying in Spain en route to lining up his Alfa Romeo C39 14th on the grid with his best Saturday performance of the 2020 season so far. 

Coming into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, Raikkonen had been knocked out in the first part of qualifying in each of the opening five rounds of the campaign and started last on two occasions, but he bounced back in Barcelona in resounding style to progress through to Q2 for the first time this year. 

The 2007 world champion may be enduring the worst season of his career to date, but at 40, the F1 veteran showed he still has what it takes by outpacing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi by over a second.

Raikkonen’s performance to grab 14th - and outqualify Esteban Ocon’s Renault in the process - was made all the more impressive by the fact he set his best time of Q2 on the Medium tyre, having used up all his available fresh Soft tyres in Q1. 

The Finn felt he could have even challenged for a spot in the top-10 shootout with new Softs but ultimately hailed Saturday as the “first positive day of the year”.  

George Russell

While he may have not been able to advance to Q2 for the fifth consecutive race, Russell still caught the eye to take 18th ahead of one Alfa Romeo. 

Russell narrowly missed out on beating Romain Grosjean’s Haas in a Williams car that never looked likely to qualify higher than the last row of the grid all weekend in Spain. 

Despite missing 90 minutes of running on Friday, The Briton was still half a second faster than Williams stablemate Nicholas Latifi as he maintained his remarkable 100 percent record of beating his teammate in every F1 qualifying session since the start of 2019.

 

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