Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth pole position of the 2014 Formula 1 season by outpacing his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to take pole by 0.168 seconds in a tense final-lap battle for the Spanish GP at Barcelona.
With Mercedes continuing to make a mockery of the F1 field, the rest were battling for third and it was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo who emerged as best of the rest, a second slower than Hamilton.
As the conspiracy theory that F1 does not want Sebastian Vettel dominating anymore, his Red Bull lemon broke down again while his teammate's car (Ricciardo) never breaks down. Vettel qualified 10th after being unable to complete a lap during Q3 thanks to his Red Bull lemon grinding to a halt early in his run.
Valtteri Bottas qualified fourth for Williams, ahead of Romain Grosjean.
The two Ferraris lending up sixth and seventh with Kimi Raikkonen nipping teammate Fernando Alonso.
Jenson Button was eighth ahead of Felipe Massa, the latter looking set for a stronger grid position but for a disappointing Q3 lap.
Daniel Ricciardo (3rd, 1:26.285): "Without putting too much attention on Mercedes, I'm happy with what I'm doing, so I think today was pretty good and I wasn't too disappointed with the lap. I don't really see how I could have improved much more today, so I think we're doing the best we can, but now that we're around third or fourth I want to close the gap to the silver cars! Sorry for Seb, he's had a pretty rough weekend. I prefer it when we are both able to compete. Looking to tomorrow, then I think third is the best we can do. If Mercedes continue at the pace they had today then realistically we won't catch them, so then third, although it wouldn't be a victory, it would be really satisfying."
Sebastian Vettel (10th, No Time): "I left the garage for Q3 and lost drive in second gear; I still had third gear and above so we thought we could do the lap with that, but by Turn 1 I had lost all the other gears, so we couldn't continue. I was getting more in to the rhythm with each lap after missing yesterday's sessions. It was quite close between the cars after the Mercedes and I think I could have had a go for P3 today, but we didn't get that far. I'm of course quite disappointed."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "I certainly think today Daniel got every ounce that he could from the car and drove a very strong qualifying to line up third, and on the second row of the grid. It's a great shame that we didn't have Sebastian right there as well due to a gearbox issue that we're yet to fully understand, so we'll get the car back and see whether it's a software issue or a mechanical issue that's caused the problem."
Thierry Salvi, Renault: "We expected improvements here with programs having been conducted at the factory in different areas, including the ICE and energy management. There is a step compared to Shanghai but obviously everyone else has worked hard as well before Barcelona. It was not enough today in quali with Daniel securing 3rd place but not able to fight against the Mercedes. There is still a long way to catch the right performance level. Seb was unlucky as he had an issue after Q2 and was not able to complete Q3. It's always hard to accept but that's motorsport. A tough race is already planned for tomorrow!"
Lewis Hamilton (1st, 1:25.232): "I'm overwhelmed to get pole position because I've had a pretty tough day in the car, particularly after yesterday went so well. 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 P3 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."
Nico Rosberg (2nd, 1:25.400): "I had a good feeling throughout today and I quite enjoyed Qualifying. 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 tire 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."
Paddy Lowe: "It was great to get a dry qualifying session this afternoon, for only the second time this season so far, and to get a proper read on the performance of the cars and drivers without the uncertainty of wet conditions. Yesterday, Lewis was particularly happy with the car and Nico less so, but that situation had switched around this morning during practice. In the first two parts of qualifying, Lewis was still struggling quite a bit with the car, and we saw a few examples of this when he was trying to put together a fast lap in Q1. On the other hand, Nico was able to set strong lap times straight away. However, the balance swung again in Q3, when Lewis found a small edge over Nico with an impressive lap on his final run on new tires. It's positive to see such healthy competition in the garage and great to get the front row at such an important track for our season. Thank you to all the staff back at Brackley and Brixworth for their huge effort developing the car for this race. Looking ahead to tomorrow, key factors will be the start, tire strategy and reliability. It will be a tough race, as it always is here in Barcelona."
Toto Wolff, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Barcelona is a track where a strong lap time is all about the quality of your total package – and particularly about having efficient downforce. 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."
Kimi Raikkonen (6th, 1:27.104):
Fernando Alonso (7th, 1:27.140):
Romain Grosjean (5th, 1:26.960): "It's very positive for everybody in the team to be on the third row of the grid. It's where we want to be and there is certainly more to come. The race should be interesting. It's difficult to overtake on this track and we'll be looking to save the tires as much as possible in the first stint to see how far as we can go with them. We will see what we can achieve tomorrow but it goes without saying that it would be good to finally score some points."
Pastor Maldonado (22nd, No Time): "I had a big chance of doing well in the session but unfortunately I lost the car with big snap oversteer in the exit of the corner in turn 3. We need to have a look at what happened and work to get ready for tomorrow. We were quite competitive today in terms of pace and kept improving throughout the weekend. With tires available for the race we can work on the strategy and hopefully recover places on Sunday."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "Fifth on the grid is a good place to be. Fifth on the grid is a good place to be for tomorrow's race and it's thanks to a great job from Romain, the crew and everyone back at Enstone. It was a real shame for Pastor to miss out on the chance to set a lap in qualifying as he's shown strong pace all weekend. He will have his work cut out in the race, but we'll do everything we can to help him move up the order. Romain hasn't found the car the easiest for extracting pace here but we can see that it's coming together. It was a tricky day for him on Friday but we saw the potential in practice this morning when he was fifth fastest. To carry that pace through to qualifying itself underlines the progress made. In terms of tire strategy there aren't too many options as long runs seem possible on both compounds, so there are no particular pitfalls to avoid. For both cars we're hoping for strong starts and good race pace to finish as strongly as possible."
Jenson Button (8th, 1:27.335): "It's pretty tough for everyone out there – the track doesn't have much grip, so we spent each session working away at the car's balance to try and find something that works. We almost got there, but still had too much understeer for the final run. Still, it wasn't too bad: we probably could've found a little more time within the set-up but it probably wasn't going to be enough to make much of a difference. There's going to be lots of sliding in the race tomorrow. We've done a pretty good job in that we've saved a set of Options for the race – I'm not yet sure what strategy we'll adopt, but it's good to have some leeway on strategy. We've definitely shown signs of improvement this weekend, although we're still not yet where we want to be."
Kevin Magnussen (15th, No Time): "We've definitely made improvements to the car – it's just a shame I couldn't prove it to the team this afternoon. I don't exactly know what the problem was with my car. We had an issue with the power unit during Q1 that we tried to fix. But, in Q2, we decided to save the engine and retire the car. Tires are going to play a big role in the race tomorrow, so let's see how things pan out. I'll be aiming to work cleanly through the first lap, but I think we might struggle a little bit – our qualifying pace looks a little stronger than our race pace. It's a shame, but at least we have some tires saved for the race, so I hope we can do something positive."
Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "Although P8 is never satisfying, Jenson drove very well to achieve that grid slot here today. Kevin was extremely unlucky to have his qualifying run curtailed by a power unit issue, the cause of which we're still investigating. Prior to that, both yesterday and today, he'd matched Jenson for pace, so I'm sure he'd have been able to go through into Q3 this afternoon, as Jenson did. Having said that, strategy will play a very important part in tomorrow's race, and you can be certain that both Jenson and Kevin will race hard and fast in an effort to score as many world championship points as possible."
Nico Hulkenberg (11th, 1:27.685): "My lap was very good and I am pleased with the effort we put in during qualifying. We made some steps forward with handling and set-up compared to FP3 this morning, but we still ended up a little bit short of Q3. Considering that we haven't been totally comfortable with the car for most of the weekend, P11 is a very good place to start the race and gives us an extra set of medium tires compared to the rest of the top ten. I expect a very strategic race tomorrow, especially as most of the teams around us seem to be on a similar level when it comes to race pace. It's going to be a challenge for everyone and tire management will be a key point, but points are within our reach."
Sergio Perez (12th, 1:28.002): "I think we finished qualifying more or less where we expected. Maybe a place in Q3 was possible, but I did not manage to complete my final run in Q2 because my preparation lap was not ideal. There was too much traffic and my tires were not optimized, which is why I chose to abort my final quick lap and save the tires. Coming here we knew this track would be quite a difficult one for us, but we still believe we can be competitive tomorrow. I think the race will be all about getting the strategy choice right because it's so difficult to overtake on this track. Our race pace is looking promising so we have a chance to get back some positions tomorrow."
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal: "Starting the Spanish Grand Prix in P11 and P12 is a good effort on a track that has always been one of the most challenging for us. Both drivers have been chasing the car balance during practice and struggling to optimize the car. A place in Q3 was not too far away and starting from the sixth row of the grid means we can race for points. We expect to have a similar level of race pace to a lot of the cars around us and making the right strategy calls tomorrow will be critical to making progress in the race."
Esteban Gutierrez (14th, 1:28.280): "That was the maximum we could achieve today. Considering the difficulties I had yesterday, the team did an excellent job to put things right for today. We definitely still have issues which we have to solve, but being closer to the competition is motivating us. Obviously, we are not completely satisfied with today's outcome, but with some more work we can find the last tenths to be in the top ten. We need to take out the positive and analyze the negative. For tomorrow it will be a big challenge because the track temperature will probably be quite high, and the tires are difficult to handle under these conditions. As always, we will do our best."
Adrian Sutil (17th, 1:28.563): "This was obviously not the result I had hoped for. But that's how it can be in qualifying. Unfortunately, we worked in the wrong direction today. In the third free practice I struggled to get temperature into the tires, but in qualifying it was exactly the opposite. The tires overheated significantly. We realized this after the second run and tried to improve it for the final run. We succeeded to a certain extent, but most of the settings were already done and we couldn't change much. I believe this cost us almost a second per lap and several grid positions. So we missed our goal. Nevertheless, we learned something today, and I am positive we can still achieve something from where I am starting. With a good pace in the race I will be where I should be at the end."
Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal: "Thanks to our improvements, which we brought here on the car, we managed to reduce the gap to the midfield contenders. However, it was clear to us this would not yet be reflected in our grid positions. Nevertheless, the team in Hinwil deserves a big compliment for getting this very comprehensive development package ready for this race. Obviously, we now have to do some further fine tuning, which we will be able to do in next week's test here in Barcelona. I expect we will be more competitive in the race than we have been so far. We have to be ready to grab any opportunities as they present themselves."
Giampaolo Dall, Head of Track Engineering: "The positive thing is we were able to reduce the gap to our midfield competitors. This was the first target we gave ourselves for this event. I'm not sure that we will be in a position to fight for points tomorrow, but they are not far away. We are not there yet with the balance of the car. It's clear the aero package has more potential, but it needs further fine tuning. The fact that the tires are too hard here didn't help either. Therefore it was not easy to get the maximum out of the car. For Adrian this worked better yesterday, and for Esteban today. Nevertheless, the good thing is we are now part of the midfield pack."
Daniil Kvyat (13th, 1:28.039): "I think we got the maximum out of the package today, even though we might have been able to do a few things better. But the race is tomorrow and we've seen from the past that we can still bring home points having started from P13."
Jean-Eric Vergne (16th, No Time): "It was part of the strategy not to run in Q2, save new tires and prepare for an aggressive race tomorrow. I think it was a sensible decision to take. It's true that this is not the best track for overtaking but I will do my best to pass the cars in front of me from the left, from the right, from everywhere, taking every opportunity to gain positions. The car has been a bit difficult to drive for the whole weekend, except for the long runs, so I hope for a good race tomorrow."
Phil Charles, Chief Race Engineer: "Qualifying was always going to be difficult with JEV's ten place penalty so we were a little bit disadvantaged with one car today. Daniil did a brilliant job on the prime tire, we just didn't maximize the option tire today. We will need to look into that and try to understand what we need to give him to optimize each of the tire type. He will start the race from thirteenth place and there's still a good chance to do well, so we will have a good look at the strategy tonight. Even though JEV has a ten place penalty, we know we can put some really good races together so we will all push hard for tomorrow."
Ricardo Penteado, Renault: "We knew coming into quali that it would be a hard task. Daniil's pace was good enough for the top 10 but could not realize it in Q2. With JEV's penalty the team decided not to run to save tires for the race tomorrow. It's going to be long but we'll still keep pushing for the points."
Valtteri Bottas (4th, 1:26.632): "It has been quite a tough weekend up until now. I had to build a lot of confidence but it all came together when it mattered and I managed to get a good lap. We have made some set-up changes since FP3 and they worked well but it will be even better in the race. It's difficult to overtake here and so qualifying is important. It's going to be a close race behind the Mercedes and so I am really looking forward to tomorrow."
Felipe Massa (9th, 1:27.402): "I am disappointed with my lap today as I lost the rear in Turn 10 after braking, it's nothing to do with the car, it was my mistake. I had been doing really well throughout the rest of the session so feel annoyed I didn't do it when it really mattered. The race is long tomorrow and the car has good potential so we have a lot to do."
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: "I am very happy as the session went really well. The pace of the cars was excellent. It is a hot track that demands a lot of downforce and the upgrades we brought here have really helped that. The pieces we have brought have worked really well. Felipe has qualified out of position as he was very fast in Q1 and Q2 but didn't quite get the best final lap. There is a lot of work to do for tomorrow, but we are looking positive and are after some good points."
Marcus Ericsson (20th, 1:30.312): "For me today's been both good and bad. I'm pleased I've qualified ahead of my teammate for the first time this year, especially because it's at a track I really like and one everyone knows well, but overall we're obviously not happy with where we are with performance and we need to improve. In both FP3 and quali I had similar low-grip issues to yesterday and that's costing a lot of laptime. The car behavior is unpredictable pretty much the whole way round the track and that makes putting together a clean lap very difficult. However, we have to put this behind us and focus on the race. Overall, we're starting from the same bit of the grid as we have for most of the season and we have to focus on having a clean race, maintaining the much improved reliability we've had since China and grabbing whatever opportunities come our way. I want to leave Spain on a positive note and we'll all do everything we can to give us the best chance of making that happen."
Kamui Kobayashi (21st, 1:30.375): "Another difficult day with more of the same grip problems I had in both practice sessions yesterday. We made quite a few changes to the car for FP3 but it still didn't improve things enough, so we went into quali with a package we knew we'd be struggling with. In quali we went for two single lap runs on options and the first was ok, but on my quick lap on the second run I lost a bit of time behind Bianchi and had the same sort of balance problems I'd had in all the practice sessions so I just couldn't get any more out of the car. Maybe with a completely clean lap I'd have been a couple of tenths up, but not enough to be where we're aiming for."
Cedrik Staudohar, Renault: "There isn't a huge amount to say about performance today. We got the maximum from the Power Unit and ran the optimum program and settings over FP3 and qualifying but the positions are what they are. Some other drivers are starting out of position tomorrow so the goal is to be reliable and be there to capitalize on what may happen in the race."
Max Chilton (18th, 1:29.586): "I'm really happy with that. I'm not sure we got the balance exactly where we would have liked it, but in the end my second quick lap was pretty together and it all came good when it counted. That session showed we have made a step forward with our new developments; there's no doubt that we are closer to the Saubers – and to Q2 contention – and we've pulled away from the Caterhams by a good margin. As I say, there was definitely more to come from the car, so I'm pretty optimistic for the race tomorrow. I think we can have a good fight."
Jules Bianchi (19th, 1:30.177): "Such a shame. My second quick lap was really coming together and I had gained a lot of time in the first two sectors, but I braked too late into turn 10 and ran wide. I was just pushing a bit too hard, but we had the car and today we could have been close to a place in Q2, so we had everything to push for. As ever, we have to take the positives and today they are that we have confirmation that we have made a good performance step towards the Saubers and we can really focus on the cars ahead now, not those behind. I have some work to do at the beginning of the race but if I can get a good start I am sure we can pull something special back, so I'm really look forward to tomorrow now."
John Booth, Team Principal: "It's good to have ended today with more positive signs from the upgrades we have put on the car this weekend, however we are still a little disappointed that we haven't quite yet seen the true potential of these fully realized. FP3 was a difficult session, with neither driver able to complete their options runs, Max due to a trip into the gravel at turn 5 and Jules due to a puncture picked up on his out-lap on his option run. The puncture was actually a very good early observation from his engineering team, as it surely could have resulted in a big issue had he embarked on his timed lap with it. In qualifying we had little knowledge of the cars' performance on the option tire, so we reverted mainly to the set-ups we had run in FP2. The red light obviously affected our initial plan to give the drivers a slightly longer first run in the session and cost Jules an out/in on a set of option tires. Jules was progressing significantly on his second lap and unfortunately went off at T10, having outbraked himself. This was a real shame, as that lap would have seen us close the gap significantly to the Saubers. Max finished the session well and most importantly both our cars sit comfortably ahead of the Caterhams. I am sure that both drivers can have a good race tomorrow; we were pleased with our long run pace on Friday and all the indications are that we can have a good fight with the cars around us."
1. Lewis Hamilton Britain Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 25.232s
2. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 25.400s
3. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Red Bull-Renault 1m 26.285s
4. Valtteri Bottas Finland Williams-Mercedes 1m 26.632s
5. Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault 1m 26.960s
6. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 27.104s
7. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 27.140s
8. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1m 27.335s
9. Felipe Massa Brazil Williams-Mercedes 1m 27.402s
10. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault no time Q3
11. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Force India-Mercedes 1m 27.685s
12. Sergio Perez Mexico Force India-Mercedes 1m 28.002s
13. Daniil Kvyat Russia Toro Rosso-Renault 1m 28.039s
14. Esteban Gutierrez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari 1m 28.280s
15. Kevin Magnussen Denmark McLaren-Mercedes no time Q2
16. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Renault no time Q2*
17. Adrian Sutil Germany Sauber-Ferrari 1m 28.563s
18. Max Chilton Briton Marussia-Ferrari 1m 29.586s
19. Jules Bianchi France Marussia-Ferrari 1m 30.177s
20. Marcus Ericsson Sweden Caterham-Renault 1m 30.312s
21. Kamui Kobayashi Japan Caterham-Renault 1m 30.375s
22. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Lotus-Renault no time Q1
107% time: 1min 32.837secs
all times unofficial
* denotes driver due to take ten-place grid penalty