BARCELONA, Spain – Mercedes’ strong pace at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya continued on Saturday, with Lewis Hamilton speeding to his record-extending 74th Formula One pole during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton led a front-row lockout for the Silver Arrows, their first of the season, after he and teammate Valtteri Bottas also combined to sweep the two practice sessions on Friday.
The four-time Formula One world champion posted a lap of 1:16.173 in the third and final qualifying round to claim top honors over Bottas, who was .040 of a second adrift on the time sheets at 1:16.213.
Saturday marked Hamilton’s second pole of the season and first since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in March.
“I needed this pole. I’ve not had pole for a while,” said Hamilton. “It was very close, but I’m very happy.
“I was trying to go for it in every sector. It’s important for me to get back into a good position in qualifying, because it’s usually a strength of mine,” Hamilton noted. “It was a very close qualifying session. Ferrari looked to be sandbagging until this afternoon and Valtteri has been driving exceptionally well. There is still lots of work to do tomorrow, but this is a great start to the weekend.”
Bottas was pleased to land on the front row but disappointed at just missing out on the top spot to his teammate.
“It was so close today, like it’s been all weekend. It was good fun,” said Bottas. “I ruined my first run in Q3, so I only really had one chance in the last run. I got a decent lap. It’s a shame it’s only four hundredths (difference), but the race is tomorrow and for us as a team, this was a perfect result today.”
Mercedes has swept the front row in qualifying at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in four of the last five years, also doing so in 2014, ’15 and ’16. They now have 51 front row lockouts as a team in Formula One competition.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was right behind the two Mercedes, qualifying third with a lap of 1:16.305, meaning the top three on the grid for Sunday’s race were separated by less than two tenths of a second.
Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen landed fourth in the sister Ferrari.
The two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth and sixth, respectively, followed by Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Renault’s Carlos Sainz and the second Haas of Romain Grosjean.