Can anyone stop Lewis Hamilton this year? Apparently not Nico Rosberg, who will have to start the Spanish Grand Prix just behind his team-mate after Hamilton bagged his fourth pole in five races in Barcelona in lunchtime, this time to some surprise. Having dominated FP1 and FP2 yesterday, Hamilton was at sea in the final session this morning and even as late as Q2 was complaining the team had gone the wrong way on set-up overnight.
Mind games? Another example of the maturity and engineering nous Lewis has added to his sheer pace this year, or a bit of luck after the final shoot-out was red flagged with both Silver Arrows already on flying laps? Hamilton still has to win the race, of course…
Meanwhile, the only impact the man who has become used to leading the championship of late could make on this session was to be the cause of that red flag. Having completed just four laps yesterday, Sebastian Vettel looked like he could put his brand new RB10 chassis on the second row, but having first coughed on the way out the pits, the Red Bull quickly gave up out on the track.
Daniel Ricciardo will therefore lead the fight against Benz once again and only just ahead of Valtteri Bottas who finally found the speed the Martini Williams has been threatening all year. Next up a car that didn’t have any speed (or reliability) only five races ago; major hat tip to Lotus for getting the E22 sorted. It’s good to have Romain Grosjean back in the top ten, that’s where he belongs. As for his teammate, well more of that later.
Ferrari are next up, with Kimi ahead of Fernando after one of the more lairy laps in what was generally a pretty lairy session. Track temperatures of 44C played hell with both the medium and hard compound Pirellis, and tripped just about every one up at some stage, Jenson Button included. Jenson’s not been very smiley this year and today was no different, but at least his McLaren made it through to Q3.
Alonso’s old teammate Felipe Massa starts two places behind the second Ferrari (having been pretty effectively blitzed by his teammate) and then the unlucky Vettel, who at least put a brave face on it today.
Top ten then: HAM, ROS, RIC, BOT, GRO, RAI, ALO, BUT, MAS and VET.
Force India, who enjoyed such a strong prologue (they’re still ahead of Ferrari in the constructors championship, for now) will be gutted that Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were fastest of those who failed to make it through to Q3. Behind them Esteban Gutierrez made the best of the new superleggera Sauber and Daniil Kyvat who did his best to shine but could not get the Toro Rosso any further up the grid. Let’s hope this isn’t something the 19-year old Russian — arguably the rookie of the year so far — will have to get used to.
2014’s other new star, Kevin Magnussen meanwhile didn’t get to run at all in Q2 so will start 15th. McLaren weren’t coming clean as to which bit of the MP4-29 wasn’t working. Meanwhile having lost a wheel in FP2 yesterday and been awarded a ten-place grid penalty for his team’s clumsiness, Jean Eric Vergne also opted out. With Toro Rosso possibly starting its traditional European-season slump, there was little point in JEV even trying to be fair. Although if the team had considered who Jean Eric would be starting alongside, then maybe they might have given it a go.
Two years ago Pastor Maldonado started this race from pole, tomorrow he will start at the very back having trashed his Lotus almost immediately. Until Crashtor’s accident Lotus were enjoying a better weekend, with both cars in the top ten this morning and Grosjean converting that to a third-row start.
Remarkably the concrete-addicted Venezuelan completed more laps than anyone yesterday, but appeared to have wiped all his personal data overnight, attacking turn two like he’d never driven it before and losing it all the way through turn three.
Obliged, then, to look out for Maldonado in the increasingly pacey E22 will be Adrian Sutil (in the revised ‘faster’ Sauber), Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi in their Marussias, and Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi in their Caterhams. None made it beyond Q1.