Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Hamilton leads all-Mercedes front row as Verstappen lines up to attack from third

2020 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying

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Mercedes secured the front row of the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix but third place for Max Verstappen puts him in a strong position to attack in tomorrow’s race.

Lewis Hamilton edged team mate Valtteri Bottas for pole position by less than a tenth of a second. Further back, Sergio Perez claimed fourth on his return, while Sebastian Vettel again failed to reach Q3.


The track temperature had already risen to 47C as Q1 began. The Williams drivers were first to join the track, nursing their soft tyres as they prepared to put in their first flying efforts.

Besides the high temperatures, drivers had tricky wind conditions to deal with. George Russell said he experienced a strong gust as his first qualifying effort him behind team mate Nicholas Latifi. He improved with his second effort, however, putting him on course to continue his run of Q2 appearances.

Russell’s team mate plus the four Ferrari-powered customer cars occupied the bottom five places in the drop zone as the final runs began. However he found himself in heavy traffic.

“This is a complete mess,” said Russell as he picked his way in between the Mercedes and Ferraris in the final sector before beginning his last effort. Further ahead Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed a quieter stretch of track and delivered a superb lap to claim 15th – his first appearance in Q2 this year.

Russell joined his team mate in elimination. Antonio Giovinazzi, who scraped his car on a kerb earlier in the session, was slowest. The Haas drivers couldn’t match the impressive practice pace shown by Romain Grosjean yesterday, though the two VF-20s managed to out-pace the Williams pair.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’17.908
17Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’18.089
18George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’18.099
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’18.532
20Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’18.697

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The Mercedes drivers took up their usual places at the top of the times as Q2 began. All 15 remaining drivers used soft tyres for their first runs, and Hamilton’s 1’16.013 put him half a second ahead of anyone who wasn’t his team mate.

Sergio Perez threatened to get closer until he made a mistake at turn 12, slithering wide. He took fifth place initially, but lost that to Charles Leclerc.

The Ferrari driver wasn’t happy with that effort, which he called a “horrible lap”. Even so, he was four-tenths of a second quicker than Sebastian Vettel, whose first run left him out of the top 10 in 11th. Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen joined him in the drop zone ahead of the final runs.

Raikkonen unusually opted for a set of medium tyres for his last effort. He was the only driver to do so, and didn’t manage to progress any further, but was able to demote Ocon’s soft-tyred Renault to 15th.

Vettel briefly got into the top 10, but another excellent qualifying effort by Pierre Gasly put his AlphaTauri into Q3 and spoiled Vettel’s afternoon. The Ferrari driver was only knocked out by two-thousandths of a second, but more worryingly was four tenths slower than his team mate. He said nothing to his team as he drove back to the garage.

Both Renaults were eliminated before the pole position shoot-out, and Daniil Kvyat failed to accompany his team mate into Q3. “The out-lap didn’t help but that was everything I had,” he told his team.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Sebastian VettelFerrari1’17.168
12Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri-Honda1’17.192
13Daniel RicciardoRenault1’17.198
14Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’17.386
15Esteban OconRenault1’17.567

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After turning their engines up for potentially the last time, the Mercedes drivers edged further away from their rivals as Q3 began. It was close between them, however: Hamilton provisionally claimed the top spot by five-hundredths of a second from his team mate.

Verstappen was seven-tenths of a second back. Meanwhile Alexander Albon in the other Red Bull, who’d left the pits close enough to Hamilton to provoke the Mercedes driver into taking evasive action, was another second behind his team mate. The pair were separated by the two Racing Points – Perez ahead of Stroll – plus Norris and Leclerc.

Neither Mercedes driver was able to improve their time with their final run as track conditions seemed to deteriorate. That secured Hamilton’s 92nd pole position of his career.

“It seemed like maybe the track was slower, I don’t know,” remarked Verstappen as he was confirmed in third place having also failed to improve his lap time. Albon improved his time, but was still further away from his team mate than Verstappen was from the Mercedes. It moved him past Norris and Leclerc, the Racing Point drivers separating them.

But having won the last race from fourth on the grid, Verstappen consoled himself with the thought of what he might do from third.

“Good effort Max,” said team principal Christian Horner on the radio, “I think that was all that was in there today so good starting grid for tomorrow.”

“Exactly,” Verstappen replied.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’15.584
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’15.643
3Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’16.292
4Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’16.482
5Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’16.589
6Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’17.029
7Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’17.044
8Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’17.084
9Charles LeclercFerrari1’17.087
10Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’17.136

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2020 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “Hamilton leads all-Mercedes front row as Verstappen lines up to attack from third”

  1. One of the most boring qualifiers that I have ever sat through and Qually is often more fun than the actual race.

    Fingers crossed for some entertainment tomorrow ;)

    1. Yep agreed, totally predictable, again, not worth getting up for, I was so bored I went for coffee after Q2.
      Maybe a track with fans packed in the stands gives a false illusion of excitement ?
      Krusty yelling about nothing for an hour is headache inducing..
      I’ve done a complete 180 on Qing, would sooner see one car on the track at a time….

    2. Plenty of tyre fun in the F2 feature race.
      All my fingers and toes are crossed that something even 1/10th as good happens in the F1 GP tomorrow.

  2. 8 tenths off his teammate and just a tenth ahead of the Mclarens, Leclerc and Gasly. Get Albon a better simulator for improved pace. At least he is not too far back on the grid.

  3. It’s so good to have Mercedes in there at the top, as they still make it a fight between their drivers.
    Otherwise it might have been a boring Verstappen season :)

    1. With my ZiggoGo app I am sure I would hear a lot of jubilant talk of brilliance and F1 DNA at that @coldfly, but I too am glad to see the two Mercedes drivers really being so close on Saturdays and fighting for pole

      Behind Verstappen it’s also quite hard fought and intense too.

    2. @coldfly I like this :)

  4. Where do you see the lap times from P2 to
    See if max was the quickest on the long runs?

    1. Does it matter? Mercedes were probably not full throttle.

  5. I’ll be honest here, I’ve never missed a qualifying session since I started watching the sport since 2003 but I’ve skipped the last three qualifying sessions and only watch the highlights on YouTube and I don’t regret it.

  6. Yep, I’m done, won’t bother to get up at 5.30a for the next race Q…

    1. You will awake in the early hours.
      You wont know why.
      You will stare at the ceiling wondering why your right foot feels colder than the left.
      You will think “Qually Day!”

      You will roll over and go back to sleep.

  7. Alpha-Tauri one tenth behind Ferrari is not bad at all.

    Shocking gap between the Red Bull drivers, but then maybe Verstappen is as good as Albon is average. (for example a good qualifier like Ricciardo would be 0.35 behind, and Albon would be 0.35 behind Ricciardo again, explaining the 0.7 gap now)

    1. @balue – Is that a dig at Ricciardo, since I don’t remember Ricciardo qualifying 0.35 seconds off Verstappen on a regular basis. They were always similarly matched! I can agree that Ver is faster than Ric but may be by 0.05-0.1 sec. Get your facts right please! Ricciardo is a top class driver with on par skills as Ver, Ham and Leclerc.

      1. @architjain07 Why do you say that when there were races with bigger gaps than that and he was regularly behind? Seems it is you who should get the facts straight. 0.35s is not unusual between team mates at all, but I am obviously extrapolating to the possible situation today where Verstappen would have further improved and become truly excellent, and that Albon is just average – referenced by a good qualifyer like Ricciardo who would be in the middle, thus making sense of the big gap.

        Your explanation for the current gap?

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        15th August 2020, 21:31


        Ricciardo and Verstappen were closer than Verstappen and albon, but I don’t think I would say they were always “similarly matched” in qualifying.

        If I just judge the sessions that they both got though to Q3 in 2017 and 2018, Verstappen beat Ricciardo 19 out of 28 times. So nearly 70% of the time. Then looking at the gaps, there are some very interesting points. All the gaps are just missing out races that they both didn’t set a realistic lap time or had bad luck. Also not including the times one messed up in Q3 meaning they didn’t set a time, or just a poor first run. They both did this at times.


        Bahrain: Ricciardo by 0.142
        Russia: Ricciardo by 0.256
        Spain: Verstappen by 0.469
        Monaco: Verstappen by 0.502
        Canada: Verstappen by 0.154

        Austria: Ricciardo by 0.087

        Hungary: Verstappen by 0.021
        Belgium: Verstappen by 0.483
        Italy: Verstappen by 0.139
        Singapore: Verstappen by 0.026
        Malaysia: Verstappen by 0.054
        Japan: Ricciardo by 0.026
        United States: Ricciardo by 0.081
        Mexico: Verstappen by 0.873
        Brazil: Verstappen by 0.405
        Abu Dhabi: Ricciardo by 0.369


        Australia: Verstappen by 0.272

        China: Verstappen by 0.152
        Azerbaijan: Ricciardo by 0.083
        Spain: Verstappen by 0.002

        Canada: Verstappen by 0.179
        France: Verstappen by 0.190
        Austria: Verstappen by 0.156
        Great Britain: Verstappen by 0.497

        Belgium: Verstappen by 0.170
        Singapore Verstappen by 0.662

        Mexico: Ricciardo by 0.026

        Abu Dhabi Ricciardo by 0.188

        Out of the 9 times Ricciardo beat Verstappen, 5 of them were by under a tenth of a second, so very little. There were only a couple of occasions in these two years that Ricciardo looked comfortably faster and that was in Russia and Abu Dhabi 2017. In 2018, when they both made it to the end of Q3, Ricciardo only out qualified Verstappen 3 times. Over this time, there have been 7 occasions where Verstappen has managed to be very close to – or over half a second faster than Ricciardo. There were also quite a few occasions where they were very close (singapore to USA in 2017), but over all in this time with Verstappen winning 19/28 of the ones I’m including, (usually by larger margins) I don’t think I could say they are even close to evenly matched overall in qualifying pace.

        And since Ricciardo has moved to Renault, I would say his mistakes have increased. We can have a different opinion, but I would say Hamilton and Verstappen are both significantly better than Ricciardo now.

        1. @thegianthogweed quality comment and agree Ricciardo’s recent qually form has not been stellar. One could also argue that a big part of why he left Red Bull was to not see the gaps widen further between himself and Verstappen.

  8. Judging by the above feedback, reining in Mercedes’ qualifying won’t be such a bad thing. Still can’t see them actually losing the front of the grid, but it is quite something that the nearest other car is 0.7 off – and an exceptionally talented driver in prime form at that (compare with Albon…). Obviously Mercedes are being penalized for being too good at their job. But Wolff’s comments suggest they know it’s damaging to be too much ahead. A bit like this.

    1. @david-br mind you, there does seem to be a considerable irony in seeing the sorts of fans who normally shout abuse at the FIA for knee-jerk reactions now wanting to impose the very sort of knee-jerk reaction they’d normally decry.

      1. Mercedes could contest this, I’m sure, if they really felt the need. As @coldfly suggests, and Ian below, maybe more a case of a move to allow Ferrari as an engine supplier to look a little less bad.

        1. @david-br there are, however, some rumours going round in the Italian press that Mercedes weren’t even using their most powerful engine modes during that qualifying session (only using the second most powerful mode they have available to them).

          If that is the case, then maybe it might be the case that they don’t need to contest it if Mercedes are that far ahead when they’re not turning their engines up to their maximum power setting whilst everybody else are – and it would perhaps suggest those going on about Mercedes’s engines have ended up fixating on the wrong thing.

          In pressuring the FIA to rush through a change in the desperate hope of hobbling Mercedes, it might also be the case that those other teams are about to accidentally cripple themselves even more than they hurt Mercedes, only exaggerating their performance gap – which would be a rather ironic twist if that were to happen.

    2. Even if Mercedes’ ‘party mode’ is that much better, it will not change the top 3 I think.
      It might though demote RP from being RBR fighters, and throw Williams firmly back behind Haas and Alfa Romeo.

      1. @coldfly We’ll see come Spa, but I think you’re right. Seems more a case of putting everyone else back in their ‘right’ places and making Ferrari (and their engines) look a little better.

    3. In q1 & q2 when Mercedes don’t use their qualifying power modes they qere still half a second faster than verstappan. If you think this ban is gonna mean verstappan cor any other driver can beat Mercedes you are gonna be disappointed. Mercedes aren’t qualifying 1st & 2nd because of a magic button. The Mercedes car is still going to be miles faster.

      1. From what I saw on Twitter, some are reporting that Merc did not use their Party Mode or change the engine modes through qualifying today. It doesn’t bode well for the ones who are after the ban. In fact, it will give Merc the advantage in race action when overtaking or defending against an engine with lower power, since the power levels are soon fixed and that gives Merc the edge.

    4. Bad thing? Definitely not for RB. Those RPs behind Max are getting quite close, so at least they will drop back from Max. He will be relieved. And next year he won’t have to worry about the McLarens taking the odd podium either.

      1. Max doesn’t care anyways they will not pass him.

  9. I genuinely feel for Vettel.

  10. Why did Kimi run the second stint on medium? Was he saving soft for the race or he actually faster on medium in previous sessions?

    1. Strategic Advantage in the battle for the Win if he was to go through to Q3 :^)

    2. I’m also puzzled, though I have suspect the medium delivered a better sector three than the soft, but I could be wrong there….

  11. So Racing won’t be much fun if Mercedes wasn’t there. Compared to Lewis’s 30 points lead Max would have been 50 points ahead of Charles. Yeah blame Lewis and Mercedes for everything.

    1. If Max hadn’t had a DNF and RB didn’t pit for the fastest lap Max would be leading the championship. But its those pesky Mercs that need pegging back

      1. Revisionist history. Max was pitted at Silverstone for two reasons – a shot at fastest lap, but mainly because Bottas’ front left blew up and his own front left was also on the verge of exploding. Red Bull took the safe option. They would have looked extremely silly if they didn’t pit and the tyre had exploded – remember Bottas went out of the points because of it, not to mention Ferrari throwing it all on the line in 2017 at the same circuit and having it blow up in their faces.
        And whether or not you agree with this odd choice by the FIA, you cannot seriously argue, when you look at the pace difference between the two teams, that Red Bull are even remotely close to Mercedes.

        1. Talk about revisionist history. Go and watch the race again. Max pitted because he was 30s up the road from his nearest competitor. And remind us of the gap to the Mercs just before he pitted? A lot less. And he pitted to get the fastest lap. If you are going to talk about the gap between the Mercs and the RBs, dont ignore the gap between Max and those behind him.

          1. And I’m not ignoring the gap between the RB and Mercs. I realise they have been so poor for years that they need as much outside as help as possible. Including taking a bit of RP’s qualifying pace away.

          2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            16th August 2020, 9:40

            You say “go watch the race again” as if you know everything. Horner after the race said Verstappen reported serious vibration. They elected to make the pit stop and then found a whole load of cuts to the tyre. He then said there was no guarantee he would have got to the end of the race. The reason for Verstappen pitting was as much or more related to tyre concerns rather than fastest lap.

  12. I’m putting half-a dollar on Kimi trying a one-stopper and getting a point or two for Alfa.
    Fingers crossed Ocon doesn’t play dirty…..

  13. I think it was Brundle who said during the session that with the hard tires been so useless this weekend he was told that everyone would qualify on the softs (Which they did) & that they would do a soft>Medium heavy tire management 1-stop tomorrow as that is the fastest strategy given how difficult it is to pass on this track. The risk of making a 2nd stop & coming out behind somebody only to get stuck is too risky.

    If the hard was a more useful tire maybe they would have some more options but with only 1 new set of mediums which is the best race tire we getting a tire management race which i guess isn’t surprising for formula tire (something Brundle said he’s getting fed up with also).

  14. How boringly predictable. I have could almost chosen this order before anyone set wheel on the circuit. I don’t bother watching qualifying anymore.

    The dominance of Mercedes is doing this sport untold damage as the FIA realise. Roll on 2022 and please let it be better.

    1. Nine times out of ten Qually is better than the race @phil-f1-21
      Hang in there ;)

      The above statement doe’s not bode well for the race does it ….. sorry :(

      1. Sounded quite negative I admit. You never know, we may be in for a classic ;-)

    2. bit harsh to say mercedes are doing untold damage to the sport. i get that its a bit boring at times but for me f1 has always been about teams pushing the limits of what is possible, and watching the mercs sheer speed is incredible to watch. ferrari and redbull simply dont seem to have any answer but thats on them, they are the ones that need to improve, not just rely on the fia to peg the mercs

    3. Less than a tenth covering 6th through 10th though. There’s going to be a tight race in the midfield.

  15. To me the races come down to can Verstappen beat Bottas…

  16. How many get excited watching division 3 football, a few perhaps. The real excitement is in the professional series. F1 is the professional series of motor racing. Mercedes are doing a professional job, it is thus left for the others to step up their game. They are not running with a 12 liter engine or six wheels. They have done their homework well. They have shown what true team effort can accomplish.

    1. I enjoy watching Lewis and Mercedes make history, and I enjoy watching their rivals watch Lewis and Mercedes make history.

  17. I get excited about RACING, anything on four wheels, earlier watching Sheena Monk, (coming back from a horrendous crash at Laguna Seca in 2018) and Corey Lewis win in the McLaren 570S GT4 at Road America was no third division football…

  18. Mercedes reckon Verstappen is favourite:


  19. RedBull has a second driver problem, to the tune of 7 tenths.

    The rest fairly predictable.

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