BARCELONA  -   Valtteri Bottas claimed pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix. He secured the top spot at the Circuit de Catalunya with a commanding lap to deny his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was in second. Sebastian Vettel was in third for Ferrari in front of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, with Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari in fifth.

Bottas’s time of 1minute 15.406seconds, a new track record, left the challenge Ferrari had been hoping to mount, forlorn in his wake and indeed even Hamilton could not come close to the Finn. The British driver was six-tenths back, with Vettel eight-tenths in arrears.

Bottas set the fastest time on his first hot run in Q1, when Hamilton’s opening lap had been a little untidy especially in the last sector and neither driver was able to improve on their second runs. Bottas had topped Q1 and Q2 as the times steadily fell and had his penultimate lap absolutely nailed. Where Hamilton had looked a little scruffy, the Finn was smooth and flawless, taking a deserved pole and ensuring Mercedes have maintained their run of claiming the top spot here in every race since 2013.

Bottas’s ninth career pole position is his first in Spain and his third in a row this season, further reinforcing the immensely strong start the Finn has made. He has outscored Hamilton over the single lap now by three to one. He took a dominant win in Australia, followed by two second places and a further win at the last round in Baku. He leads Hamilton by one point in the world championship and has once again proved that he is intent on putting the pressure on his teammate in his challenge for the title.

The pair have two wins apiece and have secured four consecutive one-two finishes for Mercedes. Bottas will be confident of maintaining his title lead with victory in Barcelona, where pole has returned the winner in 21 of 28 races.

He was beaten off the line in Shanghai by Hamilton, who went on to take the win but held his place from pole in Baku and converted it to a solid win. He will be eager to do so again here, although Hamilton has been explicit this weekend that he will not be giving his teammate an easy ride if they are vying for the lead through the opening corners. Bottas has never won at the Circuit de Catalunya but did take second to Hamilton last year.

Ferrari proved to have strong pace in Bahrain but were found wanting again in China. They had brought an early engine upgrade to Spain and new aerodynamic parts and had hoped to rediscover the form with which they had looked so strong in testing. However Mercedes had also brought a raft of aero upgrades and have maintained their advantage. Bottas was quickest in the first two practice sessions but Hamilton had the edge on Saturday morning, almost half a second up on Leclerc. The Finn had lost running time after spinning and going off early in the session.

When it mattered, Bottas was once again able to demonstrate his superiority in qualifying with an outstanding lap to deny the Scuderia and his teammate. Bottas and Hamilton had warned that they expected Ferrari to be quick in Spain but Mercedes have once again managed to find the sweet spot for their car for the fourth time in five races and will be expectant they can convert it into race pace in what will almost certainly be a single-stopper.

 

Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly was in sixth. The Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were in seventh and eighth, with the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat in ninth. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was in 10th place but will take a three-place grid penalty for causing a collision in Baku. His teammate Nico Hülkenberg hit the wall in Q1 and damaged his front wing and went out in 16th place.

The McLaren’s of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz were in 11th and 13th. Alexander Albon in the Toro Rosso was in 12th, with Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen in 14th and Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez in 15th. George Russell crashed his Williams in FP3 and had to take a replacement gearbox for which he will receive a five-place grid penalty and will start at the back of the grid. His teammate Robert Kubica was in 20th. Lance Stroll in the Racing Point was in 17th in front of the Sauber of Antonio Giovinazzi.