Valtteri Bottas blows away Lewis Hamilton to take third pole in a row ahead of Spanish GP

Press Association
Valtteri Bottas took his third pole position in a row ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix - AP

Valtteri Bottas delivered a statement of championship intent by blowing away Lewis Hamilton to secure pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Bottas, who heads Hamilton in the title race by one point, finished a staggering 0.634 seconds clear of his Mercedes team-mate.

It marked Bottas' third straight pole. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel will start from third place - he finished almost nine tenths down on Bottas.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen managed to split the Ferraris. He lines up in fourth ahead of Charles Leclerc.

Bottas might have considered himself fortunate to hang on to his seat at Mercedes following an underwhelming campaign last year in which he failed to win a single race.

Championship leader Valtteri Bottas has now taken three consecutive pole positions Credit: AP

But the Finn will be delighted with his start to the season, sharing two victories apiece with Hamilton, and securing yet another pole here.

Hamilton has not been at his best this weekend, and the world champion made an uncharacteristic mistake on his opening timed lap to finish well behind his team-mate.

"Valtteri has been quick all weekend and I just didn't put the laps together," said Hamilton. "It just wasn't a good enough job.

"I will be giving it everything tomorrow. We will try to convert this into a one-two finish and if I can reverse it I will be happy."

Bottas added: "The season has started well and the way I hope for. I feel better and better in the car."

Vettel had hoped the Barcelona track would be the venue for his championship fightback.

Lewis Hamilton's lap was only good enough for second

But the German, already 35 points adrift in the title race, could find no answer for the speed of the Mercedes cars. Indeed, it is looking more and more likely that Bottas could provide the biggest threat to Hamilton's quest for a sixth world crown.

There were gloomy faces in the Renault garage as Nico Hulkenberg fell at the first hurdle of qualifying. Hulkenberg finished seventh in the championship last year, but his French team are struggling this term.

Daniel Ricciardo, who turned his back on Red Bull to join Renault, did well to get his car into the top 10, but the Australian serves a three-place grid drop after he reversed into Daniil Kvyat at the last race. He will be 13th on the grid.

Ricciardo's penalty promoted Lando Norris to 10th. The Briton, who is steadily impressing in his maiden season, finished two spots ahead of Carlos Sainz in the sister McLaren.

British rookie George Russell finished 1.2 sec ahead of his Williams team-mate Robert Kubica, out-qualifying the Pole for a fifth time in as many races.

The 21-year-old, however, will be demoted to the back of the field, penalised for taking on a new gearbox after he crashed out of final practice.

PA

Final times after qualifying

  1. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1min 15.406secs
  2. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:16.040
  3. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:16.272
  4. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:16.357
  5. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:16.588
  6. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 1:16.708
  7. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:16.911
  8. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:16.922
  9. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17.573
  10. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:18.106
  11. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:17.338
  12. Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17.445
  13. Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:17.599
  14. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:17.788
  15. Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:17.886
  16. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:18.404
  17. Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:18.471
  18. Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:18.664
  19. George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:19.072
  20. Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:20.254

3:33PM

If it's possible to make those pole position "trophies" look any smaller...

...then it just happened. That's all from me today. I'll be back tomorrow. Can Bottas convert pole into his third victory of the season? That would be quite the statement. 

3:16PM

Worth remembering...

...that Bottas spun in FP3 and missed a lot of running. To come back after limited running and set the quickest time in all three qualifying sessions is superb. It's another suggestion that the "new" Bottas is for real. This is a track where Lewis Hamilton has not been beaten to pole position since 2015. To lose out by six tenths of a second is massive but he just couldn't hook it up around here, really. His first lap in Q3 was scruffy towards the end and the track conditions were less favourable with neither Bottas, Vettel or Hamilton improving on their second runs. 

3:13PM

Charles Leclerc reacts to a disappointing fifth

I am not very happy. In Q2 I don't understand how I could lose that much of the car on the kerb. We broke quite a lot and then had to stop again and the balance was very strange. We were slower than the Mercedes today. 

3:11PM

Mercedes strongest track?

3:08PM

Top 10

  1. BOT
  2. HAM
  3. VET
  4. VER
  5. LEC
  6. GAS
  7. GRO
  8. MAG
  9. KVY
  10. RIC

3:07PM

Vettel talks of Ferrari's deficit in the final sector...

It seems to be more than an achilles heel at the moment. I think we got everything out of the car. The second run I had to try something different and it didn't work. But yeah...happy but not happy if you know what I mean? The car doesn't feel bad but obviously we are not quick enough. In terms of balance we got it right. In those sorts of corners you just need the grip. 

3:06PM

Hamilton reacts to second on the grid

Valtteri did a fantastic job. On my side, just didn't put the laps together. It just wasn't a good enough job. I'll be giving it everything. Its great for the team to have this 1-2, if I can reverse this I'll be happy. 

3:04PM

Bottas reacts to his pole position

Really enjoyed that. Practice three was difficult with the spin. I forgot that and just moved on. It has started well the season. I feel better and better in the car. 

3:03PM

There it is...

3:01PM

VALTTERI BOTTAS TAKES POLE POSITION FOR THE 2019 SPANISH GRAND PRIX

By six tenths of a second! Three in a row! He barks "yes!". What a lap. Wonder what happened to Hamilton, there?

3:00PM

Q3 - Not going well for Hamilton...

Bottas is down...I don't think he will improve here. Hamilton improves but he's still 0.3s down after sector two. Is this Bottas's to lose now?

Vettel can't do it! Bottas can't improve! Hamilton is 0.8s down! Verstappen fourth...Leclerc...fifth! He's behind Verstappen...

2:59PM

Q3 - final runs underway...

...Hamilton has to back off after Vettel passes him. Bottas will be the man to set the first quick lap of the lot...he's 0.033 down in S1. Leclerc goes for another hot lap...

2:58PM

Q3 - Leclerc sets a 1.16.6...

...that's behind Max Verstappen and in fifth. Hmmm. Will he go again? Probably. Meanwhile Mercedes send both cars out. Hamilton has some time to make up. His last hot lap was as ragged as a ragged thing. 

2:56PM

Q3 - Leclerc begins his hot lap...

...what's his first sector like?  He'll want a 21.5 at worst. It's a 21.6...he's out there on his own at the moment. 

2:55PM

Q3 - Leclerc has not yet been out...

...Hamilton got very wide in turn eight...and had a wheel on the gravel a couple of times. He has time to find...but it is out there. 

Top 10 so far:

  1. BOT 
  2. HAM +0.6
  3. VET +0.9
  4. VER +1.0
  5. GAS +1.3
  6. GRO +1.5
  7. MAG +1.5
  8. KVY +2.3
  9. RIC +2.7
  10. LEC (no time)

Verstappen says there's a lot of gravel in turn 13. There is. Wonder if that was Hamilton's doing? He wasn't that wide, was he? 

2:52PM

Q3 - Bottas goes quickest by 0.6 seconds!

Wow. Where did that come from? Vettel goes third with a 1.16.272...he's within two tenths of Hamilton at least.

Verstappen fourth, just a tenth down on Vettel. Hamilton had a very slow out lap there. Could that have been the problem?

2:51PM

Q3 - Hamilton begins his hot lap...

...the first of the big guns to do so. It's a 21.6, which is still a couple of tenths off Vettel's quickest time in Q2. How is he in S2? He's quickest of all, a tenth up on his own Q2 time. Bottas looking quick also...the Mercedes looks so unstable in the final sector but it just seems to carry that speed on...

It's a 1.16.040 for Hamilton...

2:48PM

Q3 begins! 

12 minutes to go. 

2:47PM

Looks like it's between Bottas and Hamilton for pole, then...

...Ferrari are struggling, here. Not encouraging for the race tomorrow or indeed the rest of the season. 

2:45PM

Did this cost Leclerc time in Q2...

...and will it cost time in Q3?

Vettel and Leclerc were 0.7 and 0.8s down on Bottas's new lap record.  Verstappen there or thereabouts the Ferraris as well. Chance of him beating one of them? Gasly ahead of Grosjean there, but only just. 

2:43PM

Q2 ends - Top 10

  1. BOT
  2. HAM
  3. VET
  4. LEC
  5. VER
  6. GAS
  7. GRO
  8. KVY
  9. MAG
  10. RIC

"Nice boys, nice," is what Dani Ric says on the team radio. Norris missed out by just half a tenth or so, there. He will start in the top 10 most likely tomorrow unless Daniel Ricciardo can qualifying in P7, as he has a grid drop.  

2:42PM

Q2 - Leclerc makes it through...

...no surprise, really but he goes fourth. Not particularly quick, though. 

Drivers out:

Norris, Albon, Sainz, Raikkonen, Perez

2:41PM

Q2 - Bottas going well in sector 2...

...Norris improves to go P7. Going to be tough to stay there. Raikkonen doesn't make it through...Albon improves. Magnussen goes into P5. What can Sainz do? He looks like he's abandoned his lap there...only 11th! 

Ricciardo sneaks into Q3! Bottas sets a new track record! Gasly fifth...

Leclerc in the drop zone!

2:39PM

Ferrari good in S1...

...not so much elsewhere. 

2:38PM

Q2 - drivers out on their out laps...

...cue much jostling for position. Ferrari still in the garage. Not for much longer, Leclerc comes out. 

2:36PM

So it's quite close for the final few spots...

...but there is a 0.3 jump from P10 to P11. Plenty of time to be found, though. 

2:35PM

Q2 - Top 10 after the first runs

Gasly goes P5 after all that. 

  1. HAM
  2. BOT +0.2
  3. VET +0.6
  4. VER +0.7
  5. GAS +1.2
  6. GRO +1.3
  7. LEC +1.5
  8. MAG +1.5
  9. SAI +1.6
  10. RIC +1.6

Drop zone:  ALB +1.9, PER +1.9, NOR +1.9, KVY +2.0, RAI +2.0

2:33PM

Q2 - Magnussen flying here...

...Magnussen goes sixth. A little off Leclerc. Sainz puts in a tidy lap to go into 8th. That's everyone setting a time apart from Gasly. Who is finishing off his hot lap now. Leclerc lost a bit of floor, I think, running wide at turn nine. 

2:31PM

Q2 - Verstappen splits the Ferraris...

...with a lap time very close to Vettel's. Lando Norris looking likely to jump ahead of Leclerc here (who he has to pass in the final sector)...

No. He loses 1.2s in the final sector. So not a good finish to the lap for him. 

2:30PM

Q2 - Mercs and Ferrari get their first hot laps in

Vettel sets the quickest time in S1. That has been a good part of the track for Ferrari, though. S2 Hamilton is three tenths up...

Bottas sets a 1.16.2...Hamilton sets a 1.16 flat...Leclerc a 1.17.5...Vettel a 1.16.7...ouch Ferrari are nowhere. 

2:27PM

Q2 begins...15 minutes to go...

Five drivers to lose out, 10 to go through. 

2:26PM

That's a good lap from George Russell...

...only 0.6s off the Force India of Lance Stroll. They are still a way behind but things look to be heading in the correct direction. 

2:24PM

Mercedes times

2:23PM

Who could have predicted that?

Hate to say I told you so...

 Oh, me. Seriously, though, Stroll is a poor qualifier, Giovinazzi has struggled so far this season generally and Renault are just nowhere. It felt like it would have been one of them. Daniel Ricciardo only just made it through, too. 

2:21PM

Q1 - top 10

  1. BOT
  2. VER
  3. HAM
  4. LEC
  5. VET
  6. NOR
  7. MAG
  8. SAI
  9. ALB
  10. GAS

2:20PM

Q1 ends 

Stroll doesn't improve, he's out, Norris does improve to go sixth! Perez improves to put Hulkenberg out! Oh dear. Not good. 

Drivers out: Hulkenberg, Stroll, Giovinazzi, Russell, Kubica

2:18PM

Q1 - Ricciardo does not improve...

...he's in danger here. Raikkonen improves to push Ricciardo and Hulkenberg down. Giovinazzi does not improve but he may get another lap in...

2:17PM

Q1 - as ever, it is going to be a chaotic final few minutes...

...in the first part of qualifying. Ricciardo locks up. He's currently in 13th. Not looking at all good for Renault at the moment. Hamilton improved to get within 0.117 of Bottas, by the way. 

2:16PM

Q1 - final runs getting underway...

Hulkenberg looking like he's going to be towards the danger zone, perhaps just above it...what's his lap time in the end? Ooh. 15th. Just above it by less than a tenth...not out of danger yet. He pushes Perez into the drop zone. 

2:14PM

Q1 - Leclerc improves enough for P3...

...Magnussen goes P6, Grosjean P9. Hulkenberg does come out of the garage. 

Top 10:

  1. BOT
  2. VER
  3. LEC
  4. HAM
  5. VET
  6. MAG
  7. GAS
  8. KVY
  9. GRO
  10. ALB

Drivers in drop zone: GIO, RAI, RUS, KUB, HUL

2:12PM

Q1 - Leclerc going for another quick run on these tyres...

...he's up in S1. Middle sector was okay. Hulkenberg has not emerged again. Has he got time? 

Six minutes left...

2:11PM

Q1 - Hamilton three tenths off Bottas's time...

...didn't have a good final sector, getting a bit lively out there. 

2:10PM

Q1 - Bottas goes quickest...

...but only just. 0.069 in it. What can Hamilton do on his first hot lap? 

2:09PM

Q1 - 10 minutes left...

...Verstappen on the charge.  He's quickest in the second sector. He goes quickest overall by nearly 0.5s. Nice work. Track evolution is substantial now with the sun out. 

2:08PM

Strange moment there when Hulkenberg came along the old track...

...in what used to be the final corner as George Russell's Williams was recovering from a spin. 

2:07PM

Q1 - Leclerc goes quickest...

...a 1.17.8, he beats Vettel by two tenths. 

Hulkenberg makes his way back to the pits but with his front wing detached and under his motor. He slid, very slowly, into the barriers at turn four. 

Nico Hulkenberg's damaged Renault Credit: Sky Sports F1

2:05PM

Q1 - Lance Stroll goes quickest (for a bit)...

...he beats Kubica's time by 2.7 seconds. Waiting for Ferrari...

Ooh and there's a yellow flag! It's Nico Hulkenberg in the barriers! He hasn't had too much of a hit, he keeps the engine running and gets it going back to the pits...

2:03PM

Vettel and Leclerc come out fairly early...

...as Kubica sets a 1.21.860. That will probably be five or so seconds off the final pole time. Ouch. 

2:01PM

Q1 begins!

Robert Kubica is first out. Will George Russell join him? Have the Williams mechanics been able to repair his car in time? He's got a new gearbox and will take a grid penalty for that. 

1:58PM

Tyre differentials...

...not even sure why they bother bringing the hard any more. Tyres made from porridge would be more popular. 

The tyres for this weekend Credit: Sky Sports F1

1:55PM

Mercedes have absolutely bossed the final sector...

...so far this weekend. Ferrari need to find a lot of time there. Perhaps they are holding something back. Still, a lot of time to find. 

1:47PM

Just under 15 minutes until Q1 starts...

...who will be joining both Williams cars in being eliminated? Could be three drivers from three different teams, really. But who? I am going to pick: Giovinazzi, Stroll and...Hulkenberg. 

1:44PM

If you want to understand how far Renault have lagged behind...

...look at the raw pace rankings below. They are calculated by taking a team's quickest single lap over the course of a weekend, relative to the overall quickest time. So a team that sets the quickest lap gets a rating of 100 per cent. 

Raw Pace Rankings 2019

 The good thing for them is that it is very close. The difference between fourth (Racing Point) and ninth (Renault) in Baku was within a percentage point. Or, under a second over a 1min40 lap. Excuse me not updating Force India to Racing Point either. 

1:40PM

So, as well as being a good circuit for measuring all-round car performance...

...the circuit in Barcelona tends to be where the teams bring their biggest updates of the year so far. So it's a lot of work for them to analyse what is working, what isn't and why. It's also a big test for the teams who have lagged behind a bit so far in the season, perhaps no more so than Renault and Ferrari, who have been well below the standards expected of them. 

1:37PM

Lance Stroll gets in Max Verstappen's way...

...so Max Verstappen gets in Lance Stroll's way. 

1:36PM

Williams working to get George Russell's car out in qualifying after a crash...

...he had actually shown half-decent pace out there in FP3, being within four tenths or so of Lando Norris. 

1:32PM

An onboard lap around the circuit

...that final chicane is awful, really. Those super heavy F1 cars with massive downforce look so clumsy going in and out of it. Still, I suppose it does do the job of bunching the cars up into the pit straight. 

1:29PM

How times have changed...

...in that video below, neither Pizzonia or Steve Sutcliffe (who was a half decent driver himself) are wearing helmets. Could have been a lot worse. The "no way" he says suggests he knew it was all over before it happened. 

1:25PM

This is worth watching...when Pizzonia wrecked a Jaguar road car in Spain...

...it was 2003 and Jaguar F1 driver Antonio Pizzonia took to the track to take a journalist on a hot lap. It didn't end well. 

 Think he may have misjudged his braking zone. A bit. 

1:22PM

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Credit: FORMULA1.COM

 Very familiar. Would it really be that terrible if we lost it from the race calendar? It rarely produces great racing. 

1:18PM

Can Haas be even better than the best of the rest?

Romain Grosjean finished in P5 and Kevin Magnussen finished in P6 in final practice. Their pace suggests they should be through to Q3 without too much problem. But what can they do once (and if) they make it there? They finished ahead of both Red Bulls but it'd be a surprise if that happened in qualifying  - Max Verstappen's quickest lap involved a bit of traffic, so it's fair to say he lost out a couple of tenths. Pierre Gasly - again - was way down in P14, over two seconds off the pace. 

Romain Grosjean finished fifth in final practice on Saturday Credit: Getty Images Europe

It would not be too much of a surprise. I think Haas have a pretty good car all-round and this is a circuit that rewards good all-round performance. Where they have struggled most is on Sundays, tyres being the biggest issue. A good chance, then, for a decent points haul.  

1:11PM

Weather forecast for the session...

...so we might see a few drops. But I wouldn't hold out too much hope. 

Weather forecast Credit: ACCUWEATHER

1:06PM

Bottas spins in final practice...

...it cost him a fair bit of time. It happened on his out lap. 

Sebastian Vettel also had a spin at the final chicane, though was a country mile away from beaching it in a gravel trap.  

1:04PM

The Sky Sports F1 dream team

MB, JB and Lazen-B. 

Sky Sports F1 presenting team Credit: SKY SPORTS F1

12:56PM

Ayrton Senna graffiti (or should that be graffito?)

12:52PM

Final times after FP3

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 16.568secs
  2. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:17.099
  3. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:17.123
  4. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:17.172
  5. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:17.192
  6. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:17.530
  7. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:17.558
  8. Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17.864
  9. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:17.969
  10. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) McLaren 1:18.003
  11. Daniil Kyvat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:18.105
  12. Nico Hulkenburg (Ger) Renault 1:18.350
  13. Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:18.656
  14. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 1:18.693
  15. Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:18.734
  16. Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:18.740
  17. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:18.974
  18. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:19.007
  19. George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:19.421
  20. Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:20.570

12:16PM

Good afternoon F1 fans...

We are back with the first proper European F1 race of the year in (well, just outside) of Barcelona. There are those of you who may say that Baku is, in fact, in Europe but you are, in fact, wrong. Yes, the Eurovision Song Contest was held there and the Europa League final will be held there this year. But it's not in Europe. 

Anyway, to the racing. We return to a track where Ferrari were the class of the field in winter testing. A lot has changed since then, though, with Mercedes racing off with four 1-2 finishes in the first four rounds of the year. Whatever problems the Silver Arrows had there in testing have been ironed out. Could this be a track where Ferrari make a comeback? As much as they need to, I can't see it. 

Valtteri Bottas tries - and fails - to get his Mercedes car out of the gravel in final practice Credit: AP

Indeed, the times in all three practice sessions indicate that they are behind Mercedes. And perhaps even further behind them than ever. Valtteri Bottas was quickest on Friday whilst Lewis Hamilton showed Mercedes prowess in final practice this morning by setting a time five-tenths of a second quicker than anyone else. It is a track where he has started on pole for the last three seasons, winning the last two. Still, Bottas left a bit of time out there but Hamilton looks like the man to beat. Ferrari - with Sebastian Vettel in fourth and Charles Leclerc in second - will be worried. 

Elsewhere, Haas look to be the best-of-the-rest and may even perhaps be able to challenge the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly. In fact, I am going to say now that one Haas will finish ahead of Gasly. It was a session that was red flagged twice, with Valtteri Bottas spinning his Mercedes at turn five on his out lap, beaching it in the gravel. Then George Russell's Williams went backwards through turn four and into the barriers, ending the session.

With track conditions cooler today than yesterday - and a 50 per cent chance of rain during the session - there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Can Bottas keep the screw turned on Hamilton? Can Ferrari edge their way closer to Mercedes? Will home favourite Carlos Sainz be able to take decent points for McLaren?

I'll be here for the next few couple of hours to find out...