Hunt for pole open with Red Bull slow in FP2 at 2024 Spanish GP

Max Verstappen could only go fifth-fastest in FP2 at the 2024 Spanish GP at the track he dominated this time last year...

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Red Bull slow in FP2 at 2024 Spanish GP with more questions than answers the order of the day as Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari all look set to compete for pole position.

Max Verstappen, usually on the pace through the weekend at any given track, couldn’t post competitive times on either the medium or the soft tyres as understeer throughout the entirety plagued his car that has been so dominant at times through 2024.

Even upon changing his front-wing the problem continued for the world champion, leaving them with lots of work to do overnight after Red Bull appeared very slow in FP2 at the 2024 Spanish GP with Sergio Perez, likewise, off the pace despite a typical gap to Verstappen.

But the second biggest shock of at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was Alpine. The team that just hired Flavio Briatore were fourth and ninth fastest with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, so do they have the potential to score some serious points this weekend in their fight at the base of the constructors’ standings?

Mercedes seemed very strong in the hands of both drivers, with George Russell having the edge over Lewis Hamilton on the mediums whilst the seven-time F1 world champion took over when the softs were fitted as they ended the session in first and eighth place.

Could it be a second consecutive pole position for Mercedes at a track they historically have always gone strong at, even when they’ve been working through the struggles they faced in 2022 and 2023?

Daniel Ricciardo of Visa Cash App RB during practice ahead of the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Daniel Ricciardo of Visa Cash App RB during practice ahead of the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Meanwhile at Ferrari, Charles Leclerc had a better session than FP1, although he was still a few tenths off the pace, with the 0.311 gap to Hamilton leaving him in sixth as he looks to get back to the winning ways that he enjoyed at the 2024 Monaco GP in May.

He will no doubt be looking into the data of his teammate as Carlos Sainz produced an impressive 1:13.386 to narrowly miss out on setting the fastest lap of the day by going second fastest, meaning the Spaniard appears to be well in the hunt for a podium at least at his home race.

At McLaren, Lando Norris also showed he has the one-lap speed to challenge for pole by missing out on being the fastest man of the day by 0.055, comfortably ahead of Max Verstappen and his own teammate, Oscar Piastri.

On the other side of the garage, Piastri could only go seventh fastest in the end with some work to do to get back onto the pace of the 2024 Miami GP winner, who he has generally been close to in qualifying this season.

And another impressive time on the board was posted by Valtteri Bottas, who was around four tenths ahead of his own teammate, managing to stick his car into 10th, closer to Verstappen‘s slow Red Bull than he was to Zhou Guanyu. Could his one-lap speed give Sauber the chance to bag their first points of the 2024 season and improve his chances of retaining his seat when the team changes to Audi for 2026?

Sergio Perez on track during practice ahead of the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Sergio Perez on track during practice ahead of the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Temperatures key to 2024 Spanish GP pole

Air and track temperatures fell by around four degrees from the end of FP1 to the start of FP2 and it had an interesting impact on the rest of the tyre as the medium, although it lacked as much outright pace, seemed to be a more competitive tyre than the softs.

Russell, on pole for the 2024 Canadian GP, managed to take his medium tyres through nine “cool and push” laps before mistakes began to creep in as tyre degradation ultimately began to take over at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, whilst the softs proved to be a one-lap tyre.

The red-walled aspect of the Pirelli range lost half a second from their first and second runs meaning they are essentially a one-shot tyre and only good for one-lap. So, does that open the door for the mediums to guide the front runners through to Q2?

With Red Bull slow in FP2 at the 2024 Spanish GP and the mediums looking solid, it would allow McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari to save an extra set of softs for the final phase of qualifying, when 10 teams will battle to take pole position for the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix, which could be key to squeezing out some extra tenths with greater driver knowledge and track evolution.

But if it goes wrong and they misjudge the gap on the mediums, they could face a shock Q1 or even Q2 exit highlighting just how much of a knife’s edge one-lap pace and qualifying hinges upon, creating all the ingredients for a great viewing for the fans and audiences, especially if Red Bull don’t find the time we’ve been accustomed to this season.

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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