2023 F1 Spanish GP Qualifying Had a Few Wild Surprises, Race Looks Promising

Following an interesting Friday practice, it's time for qualifying to take place and the grid order to be decided ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. But drivers got one more practice session in before trying to put the best time in while tackling the new layout of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Formula 1 Spanish GP Weekend 14 photos
Photo: Twitter / McLaren F1
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This final round of practice saw rain strike during the middle of the session, giving drivers a chance to put on some intermediate tires. That threw a proverbial spanner in the works as drivers were testing their cars' limits before qualifying.

And it didn't really offer anything in return, as the chances of rain during the race diminished as the weekend developed. Granted, in the slight off chance that a light shower hits the track, Fernando Alonso seems to be the one best prepared for it. The Spaniard beat Max Verstappen's time on the intermediate tire by about one-tenth of a second.

Now, let's move to the important part, the qualifying session, which did not start well, as a red flag was quickly thrown up. However, it was nothing too serious, with the FIA just being cautious regarding gravel thrown on the track after both Valtteri Bottas and Alexander Albon lost control of their cars and spun off the track.

The session then resumed just to quickly suffer another pause as six more drivers went off the track, including Fernando Alonso. Unusual as it may be to see so many mistakes made by Formula 1 drivers, even in the rain, the first qualifying session had yet to reveal its biggest surprises.

A few more unexpected events occurred, chief of which was Nico Hulkenberg taking the provisional pole in Q1. On top of that, Lance Stroll, motivated by recent failures, gave it his all to take P3. The final bewilderment offered by this session came courtesy of Charles Leclerc, who was knocked out, only managing a lowly P19, a completely unacceptable result driving a Ferrari.

Granted, other top drivers did not fare so well either, as Verstappen took P9, followed by Alonso in P12, and a lucky Sergio Perez, who just made it to Q2 in P15. And that's also where it ended for the Mexican, who slid into the gravel with only minutes to go before the end of Q2 and did not recover, ending up in P11 and out of qualifying. George Russell was the final driver from a top team to get knocked out before the last session, having to settle for P12.

With some of the fiercest competitors out of contention, Q3 proved just as surprising as the previous session. Lando Norris managed to shove his McLaren into third place, just behind Carlos Sainz, who delivered an outstanding effort in front of his home crowd. However, the other Spanish driver, Fernando Alonso, had a poor Saturday, ending up in P9, something that's certain to make holding onto his podium streak a daunting challenge.

The session was, of course, topped by Max Verstappen, who is slowly closing the door on Checo's hopes of mounting a title challenge. The pole time set by the Dutchman was a jaw-dropping 1:12:272, almost half a second faster than Sainz. Pierre Gasly, who had a fantastic session, will be completing the second row next to Lando. Next up is Lewis Hamilton, followed by Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg, and Fernando Alonso, with Oscar Piastri rounding out the top 10.
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About the author: Bogdan Bebeselea
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As a kid, Bogdan grew up handing his dad the tools needed to work on his old Citroen and asking one too many questions about everything happening inside the engine bay. Naturally, this upbringing led Bogdan to become an engineer, but thanks to Top Gear, The Fast and the Furious series, and racing video games, a passion for automotive entertainment was ignited.
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