After the three-week break after the Chinese Grand Prix, all eyes were on the updates brought to the Circuit de Catalunya that other teams hoped would close the gap to Mercedes at the front. After qualifying however, it was Lewis Hamilton once more taking pole position from team-mate Nico Rosberg, while the gap back to the rest seems to have increased.
Hamilton’s lap time of 1:25.232s was a full second clear of third placed Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, and the Brit was happy to grab pole after struggling initially to match Rosberg, especially in the final tricky sector three.
“I’m overwhelmed to get pole position because I’ve had a pretty tough day in the car, particularly after yesterday went so well,” said Hamilton. “I was really happy on Friday and we changed a couple of small things overnight, just the tiniest of tweaks. But it was a real handful today because track conditions had changed.
“Nico had a strong free practice 3 and first two sessions of qualifying, so we were making small adjustments to the differential to try and make improvements to how the car was handling for Q3. On that final run, I really had to eke out everything and more from the car and myself to get pole and I’m so happy that I managed it.
“The hard work from the team and the development step we have made this weekend are totally inspiring for me – I haven’t experienced this level of performance before. I’ve never won at this circuit and I would love to, because my support in Barcelona has been growing every year and I have some amazing fans here in Spain. We are going to give it everything we can tomorrow to get the win.”
For team-mate Rosberg, the World Championship leader was happy to qualify second on the grid but admitted he could and should have been on pole position. He hopes to get a good start so can challenge his team-mate for the win. ”I had a good feeling throughout today and I quite enjoyed Qualifying,” admitted Rosberg. “I had a good lap at the end but Lewis just did a better job in Q3. Starting second is a bit of a disadvantage but it’s such a long straight down to the first corner, so I will hope to have a better start than Lewis tomorrow and overtake him. It’s also a long race where tyre degradation will be a key issue so there may be some opportunities to take advantage.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow and I’ll be giving everything to take advantage of this amazing Silver Arrow that we have at the moment and hopefully extend my lead in the Championship.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff praised the whole Mercedes team after qualifying, acknowledging that its dominance during the sessions was satisfying. He also admitted that he was delighted to have two drivers in his team that were capable of pushing each other extremely hard.
”Barcelona is a track where a strong lap time is all about the quality of your total package – and particularly about having efficient downforce,” said Wolff. “That makes today’s result really satisfying and full credit goes to everybody in our team who has worked so hard to deliver it.
“It has been a close battle between our two drivers this weekend so far, with swings in performance each way, and Lewis came out on top this afternoon. That’s one of our keys right now: we have two drivers who are pushing each other really hard which is crucial for delivering this kind of team performance.”