Formula 1

2024 Spanish Grand Prix: What the Drivers are Saying after Qualifying

11 Mins read
Photo: McLaren Media Centre

Lando Norris took his second career pole position on Saturday at the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix, leading Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton

Norris, who hadn’t secured a pole position since Sochi in 2021, trailed Verstappen after the first attempts in Q3. But a phenomenal final time of 1:11.383 seconds saw him edge out the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver by a mere two-hundredths of a second.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team translated their promising practice pace into strong qualifying results. Hamilton outperformed teammate George Russell for just the second time this season, grabbing third on the grid for Sunday’s race, with Russell right behind in fourth.

Charles Leclerc and local favourite Carlos Sainz Jr. settled for fifth and sixth, respectively, in another closely contested session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Pierre Gasly impressed with a stellar performance, taking seventh place for BWT Alpine F1 Team.

Sergio Pérez, despite finishing eighth in his Red Bull, will start three positions lower due to a penalty from Montreal. This promotes Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine car and McLaren F1 Team’s Oscar Piastri, who had a challenging Q3 and couldn’t set a time.

Lando Norris — McLaren F1 Team — 1st

“I’m super, super happy. We’ve been close to the front all weekend, but needed to have a perfect lap, and I think we delivered that. We’ve been quick for the last two months, and we’ve probably missed a pole by not having that perfect lap. Today, for the final run, we made a few changes, found some places to make tiny improvements and it all worked out.  

“We’re in a great position to convert pole into a victory but it’s going to be incredibly tough against Max, against Lewis and everyone behind them – but we’ve been strong since Miami, we’re here to win, and that’s definitely the target.”

Max Verstappen — Oracle Red Bull Racing — 2nd

“We made some good set up changes going into qualifying and the car was a lot better. I think we really maximised that and the car felt more connected and nice to drive. We were strong into the high speed and I felt really comfortable there and the high speed corners were really quick. 

“We have had a clean weekend and have been fine tuning the car throughout the week. During the practice session I felt like we were not the quickest out there but qualifying felt really good. McLaren were quick the whole weekend and we have been a little bit behind them, so we need to look at what we can do to optimise the performance tomorrow and be more competitive. 

“Looking to tomorrow, I think it will be very tight; it will be about how we approach the tyres, especially with the high degradation. It will be a close and exciting race tomorrow. We need to analyse a few things but qualifying has been good so we can aim to fight for the win.”

Lewis Hamilton — Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team — 3rd

“This is another encouraging result for us as a team. Everyone has been working so hard to bring updates and improvements to the car, making incremental gains and small steps over the season so far. We are starting to become more consistent too and that is huge for us. That is down to every member of the team putting in the extra hours and I want to say a big thank you to them. 

“The car is getting more enjoyable to drive. Today, the gap was three tenths, but I think in reality it was less as we didn’t get everything out of the car on that last lap.”

“I am going into tomorrow focused on trying to fight for the win. We are in a good starting spot with that long run down to turn one. Degradation will also play a key role tomorrow and I think our long runs in practice looked strong in that respect. I hope that translates into Sunday and we can have a good afternoon.”

George Russell — Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team — 4th

“The car has been feeling great this weekend. Our pace was strong throughout practice, and we felt confident going into Qualifying. A second-row lock-out is a decent result but the gap to Norris and Verstappen was slightly bigger than we expected. Both mine and Lewis set good laps, but I don’t think either of us felt that we maximised them. 

“Getting the tyres perfectly in the window around a challenging track like this is so difficult. I think those ahead managed to do that and maybe we didn’t today.

“On a circuit like this, the ultimate race pace of a car will always win out. I think our race pace looked good throughout the weekend so far and I hope we can fight for the podium and potentially victory. The recent steps we’ve taken with the car are clearly helping and we’re looking forward to building on that momentum.”

Charles Leclerc — Scuderia Ferrari — 5th

“It’s a bit disappointing, because we were further from pole than we expected. On the other hand, my team and I did a good job changing the set-up of the car completely from yesterday to today, which helped me to find the right feeling again. 

“However, the pace just was not there. Our target will be a podium and if the weather is tricky, we will take any opportunity to go for something even better.”

Carlos Sainz Jr — Scuderia Ferrari — 6th

“Not an easy qualifying. I honestly think our laps were good, but we were clearly missing a little extra today to be further up the order. Tomorrow however, I think we could have an open race.

“We need a smooth start and with good strategies we can make up some places and hopefully fight for a podium, which would be the perfect reward for all the tifosi that came here to support us. We will do our best!”

Pierre Gasly — BWT Alpine F1 Team — 7th

“It’s a positive team result today with both cars in Q3 for the first time this season. We knew yesterday during Practice that there were some good signs but we were slightly cautious as we did not fully know the performance of others. Now, in seventh place, we confirmed that we were competitive and we ended just one and a half tenths from the top three. 

“We’ve had difficult moments this year, which we have and will continue to learn from, and it is equally as important for us to understand why we’ve had an increase in performance level like today. 

“The car felt good, I felt like we maximised everything and there are always things we can improve. Tomorrow will be a challenging race and it looks like the conditions could be different again. We have put ourselves in a great position to secure another good team result.”

Photo: BWT Alpine F1 Team

Sergio Pérez — Oracle Red Bull Racing — 8th (will start 11th due to 3 place grid penalty)

“I am not happy with my position today, the target was to be higher up. It was a tricky qualifying, we struggled initially and we burned through the tyres quickly unfortunately, which meant we weren’t able to extract the maximum out of it. 

“My final lap wasn’t as clean as it needed to be in Q3, I didn’t have enough of a rhythm or a pace. We needed more of a progression through the session and we didn’t have that, we will work hard to have that for the race. We have made some good changes so we should be on the right track for Sunday. 

“It will be a difficult race from P11 with the grid penalty and it will be very important to be patient and get the right opportunities, especially if it’s wet because anything can happen. We have to be ready to be out there when it matters. Hopefully we are able to secure some good points and take them away from our rivals.”

Esteban Ocon — BWT Alpine F1 Team — 9th (will start 8th due to Pérez’s penalty)

“This is a good result with both cars in Q3 for the first time this season. It is something we did not really see happening coming into the weekend and is slightly unexpected given we did not bring any upgrades to this event. 

“The car was competitive and performed well straight out of the blocks on Friday and that carried over to today. We had a challenging Free Practice 3 in the hot conditions but I think the cloud cover helped during Qualifying. 

“We need to analyse and understand why we are quick here, in these conditions at this particular track. Hopefully we can at least maintain position tomorrow and keep the other cars behind us and battle for points. It will be a long race and this track is particularly hard on tyres, so there will also be some degradation to contend with in the race.”

Oscar Piastri — McLaren F1 Team — 10th (will start 9th due to Pérez’s penalty)

“Not the best Qualifying, we just struggled with the balance of the car the whole way through. Obviously the car has pace so we’ll dig into what went wrong and work out how we can fight back tomorrow. Today was just one of those days, unfortunately.”

Fernando Alonso — Aston Martin Armaco F1 Team — 11th (will start 10th due to Pérez’s penalty)

“It was very close in Qualifying today with just a few tenths between several cars. We were slightly pessimistic heading into the session, so I think we have to be quite pleased with tenth position for tomorrow’s race following Sergio’s [Perez] penalty. 

“The support from the home fans has been amazing and I’m very thankful for this. While we would love to be fighting for something more, we’ll see what we can do tomorrow starting inside the top ten and try to maximise our race to score some points.”

Valtteri Bottas — Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber — 12th

“It’s good to see both cars getting into Q2: the feeling on track was good today, and the weekend has been quite decent so far. We definitely have a better car this weekend compared to previous events, I have felt confident with it all weekend so far; the new parts we have brought have surely played their role as well, allowing us to make a small, but concrete step. 

“I think this result was the maximum we could achieve today, that’s where we are with our pace at the moment – and it’s not that far from Q3 either, which is definitely encouraging. 

“I reckon this is the best chance at points we’ve had this season so far, but the job is obviously only halfway done: we need to be at the top of our game tomorrow, to convert this position into an actual shot at the top ten.”

Nico Hulkenberg — MoneyGram Haas F1 Team — 13th

“I feel like I left nothing out there, produced some clean laps, and I think this was our ultimate pace, that’s the picture today. The car has been okay, but also tricky at times, but we still need to work on the high-speed balance, and general grip. 

“I think on high fuel, all the weaknesses do get exposed a lot more, but everyone is in the same boat. I expect a close race tomorrow and probably some DRS trains.”

Lance Stroll — Aston Martin Armaco F1 Team — 14th

“We knew this was going to be a tough Qualifying, so I think two cars in Q2 was the most that was possible today. The car is just lacking the pace to fight with the top teams on this track. We got caught in a little bit of traffic in Q1, but we chose to go early and had a fairly clear track for my final Q2 run. 

“Our long run pace looks a little stronger than our qualifying pace, so we’ll see what we can do in the race tomorrow.” 

Guanyu Zhou — Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber — 15th

“It feels really good to have made it back into Q2 today but, while this is a good result, it’s equally important for me that the feeling in the car and my confidence are back. We knew that getting out of Q2 might be tough since we already used a new set of tyres in Q1, forcing us to start on used softs before switching to a new set., but we can’t complain with the final outcome. 

“We took a step back and made a bit of a reset this weekend: the last few races had been tough, so we opted for some significant changes, including swapping my chassis – and it feels like things are coming together much better now. 

“I am also happy to see that we have made a step forward and have been much quicker as a team this weekend: we’ll continue working hard to turn these better grid positions into a good result tomorrow, even though we know that the top ten looks very strong at the moment.”

Kevin Magnussen — MoneyGram Haas F1 Team — 16th

“We knew qualifying was going to be close, you need to get everything out of it these days in this tight field. If you miss your best performance by even one tenth, you pay for it massively. It wasn’t a clean session again for us today, there was traffic. We’d have been through with a little bit more pace, and you need to have something in the bank when those things happen. 

We’re P16 but we seem to have a decent race car, so I think we can fight from there tomorrow if we pick a few off and get into a good race from there.”

Yuki Tsunoda — Visa Cash App RB — 17th

“We’ve been struggling with pace this weekend and tried multiple things to try and improve, and in the end, I felt better in qualifying than in Free Practice. At least I’m happy with my lap and feel like I was able to maximise the current package. 

“The last races have been going well and even if it’s a shame, I think it’s important that we’re facing this more difficult moment together as a team. It’s a good opportunity to learn from our struggles and grow as a team. The most important thing is to remain positive, and we certainly will.”

Daniel Ricciardo — Visa Cash App RB — 18th

“It’s a tricky weekend. We have a lot of new parts on the car, and we still need to understand the best way to make them work. After yesterday, when we were still finding a bit of balance, we made pretty big changes overnight and today in qualifying the car felt much more together. 

“We made progress in terms of feeling and balance, but unfortunately, we’re still in a tough spot in terms of the stopwatch. Being out of Q1 with both cars, especially using three sets of soft each, shows that at the moment, we don’t have the pace. There’s still more to find and we’ll keep chipping away. 

“Tomorrow is going to come around quick, but we have a few races ahead of us with similar track characteristics, so we obviously need to figure out together the things we’re missing.”

Alex Albon — Williams Racing — 19th

“We knew that FP3 wouldn’t be representative, although we finish Qualifying a bit disappointed. The long corners at this track haven’t suited us for the past few years, but the car felt good today and we’ve made a huge step compared to last year. 

“There was maybe a corner or two where I could’ve squeezed more out of the car, but it felt good overall, and I think highlights how strong the midfield is at this stage of the season. It’s very close out there so we’ll see what opportunities come our way tomorrow.”

Logan Sargeant — Williams Racing — 20th

“Unfortunately, the cars weren’t the same spec in the end. The floors that we’ve brought are underperforming which is a shame. We’ve been working hard all weekend by trying to change things to get the floors to work as they should. 

It was slightly better in Qualifying than it was in FP3. We need to understand the problem and get it fixed for the future. It’s not great for me or the team and none of us want to be in this position. We’ll keep fighting no matter the situation.”

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