Verstappen takes dominant Spanish GP pole as big names make early exits

The world champion claimed pole in Barcelona and will have an excellent chance to increase his championship lead

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Max Verstappen dominated a dramatic qualifying for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix to take his fourth pole position of the season, as a number of big names made early exits in Barcelona.

The world champion topped all three practice sessions at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and made it a clean sweep over a single lap courtesy of a 1:12.272s that was good enough to beat Carlos Sainz by 0.462s.

Verstappen‘s teammate and nearest title challenger Sergio Perez endured another poor Saturday, scraping through Q1 before running off track in Q2 and finishing 11th, giving the Dutchman another great chance to extend his championship lead.

“The car was really good,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1. “Qualifying was really tricky with the weather but once it started to dry out, and in Q3, the car was on rails. It was really enjoyable to drive today.

“I love coming to Barcelona, I love the track, I love the fans – they love racing. I have a lot of great memories here and hopefully tomorrow we can have another one.”

Rounding out the top three, Lando Norris delivered a supreme final flying lap for McLaren, narrowly edging out Pierre Gasly in fourth. The Brit briefly sat second

Lewis Hamilton topped Q1 and had appeared the most likely to challenge Verstappen for pole but only managed fifth after a disappointing Q3 lap.

The seven-time world champion was also involved in a bizarre scrap with George Russell in the second part of qualifying, the pair coming together on the start-straight as Russell failed to make the top-10 shootout.

Behind Hamilton, it was a better day for Lance Stroll in sixth, who led the Aston Martin charge ahead of Fernando Alonso in ninth.

Esteban Ocon took seventh in another strong showing for Alpine, with Nico Hulkenberg in eighth and Oscar Piastri rounding out the top 10.

Pos.DriverTeam
1.Max VerstappenRed Bull
2.Carlos SainzFerrari
3.Lando NorrisMcLaren
4.Pierre GaslyAlpine
5.Lewis HamiltonMercedes
6.Lance StrollAston Martin
7.Esteban OconAlpine
8.Nico HulkenbergHaas
9.Fernando AlonsoAston Martin
10.Oscar PiastriMcLaren

Leclerc out in frantic Q1

With the threat of rain lingering, qualifying began in treacherous conditions. The track was dry enough for softs as a number of drivers queued to get a banker lap in, but the likes of Yuki Tsunoda, Alonso and Valtteri Bottas all ran wide, bringing out the red flag.

Times tumbled when the session resumed, with Charles Leclerc and Perez in the elimination zone with just five minutes on the clock.

The Mexican dragged his Red Bull through in 15th, but Leclerc suffered an early exit and will line up 19th for Sunday’s race.

The Ferrari driver complained the rear tyres weren’t working in his upgraded SF-23, and although he briefly vaulted himself out of trouble, the track evolution was so dramatic that he was consigned to a back row grid slot.

Leclerc admitted there was something wrong with the car in the immediate aftermath, so it remains to be seen whether Ferrari will make overnight changes that trigger a pit lane start.

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