Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will be starting in pole position for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, and after a topsy-turvy Qualifying session he will be joined on the front row by Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, but there could be some adverse weather in Montmelo which will likely have a dramatic effect on the race.
Verstappen was head-and-shoulders about the rest of the F1 field in Saturday’s qualifying session which came on a drying track after rain during the final practice earlier in the afternoon.
A number of big name drivers were caught out by the conditions on track, as well as having their own issues, with the biggest casualty being Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari who starts 19th on the grid.
George Russell for Mercedes and the Red Bull of Sergio Perez were both unable to make it out of Q2 and will start the 2023 Spanish GP in 12th and 11th, respectively.
Lewis Hamilton looked to be much happier in his Mercedes and at one point during qualifying was the closest challenger to the Red Bull of Verstappen. But following a coming together with Russell, the seven-time F1 champion could only qualify in fifth, before being bumped up to fourth after Pierre Gasly was handed a grid penalty.
After blocking both Sainz and Verstappen in qualifying, Gasly, who produced a sensational performance in the Alpine, dropped from fourth to 10th on the starting grid for the 2023 Spanish GP.
Rain played its part on Saturday in qualifying, although it didn’t fall during the session, deluge in Practice 3 and during the support F2 sprint race, meant the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was drying up as the day went on.
And while rain wasn’t to be initially expected on Saturday, there likelihood of rain during the race in Spain has increased significantly for the Grand Prix which starts at 3pm local time (2pm UK).
Air temperature is expected to be a constant of 21 degrees Celsius for the start of the race, with a possible drop over the course of the encounter, with rain forecast to hit the track at around 4pm.
There is around a 50 percent chance of thundery showers across the course of the afternoon and the wind is coming from the southeast at 15-20km/h.
Risk of safety car
As always in F1, the potential for a safety car is increased during periods of wet weather in a race, and can flip the Spanish GP on its head.
This was evident in Monaco just last week where rain in the final 10 laps of the race caused chaos, and eventually allowed Esteban Ocon to grab a podium place in the Alpine.
With Verstappen expected to disappear into the distance, a safety car caused by rain could also play into the hands of Ferrari or Mercedes should they take a gamble on strategy and run longer int he first stint, or start on the hard tyres in expectation of rain.
And accords the last eight race in Spain, there is a 50 percent chance of a safety car with pit stop time loss around 22.88 seconds, which would be significantly reduced should a safety car be called.