Rain and a drying track created the perfect scenery for a tricky qualifying session. As Verstappen took pole position and dominated throughout qualifying, Alonso continued his great form of FP3 to secure a front row grid start. Sainz and Hamilton will be behind on the second row.
The first part of qualifying started off in very wet conditions with several drivers immediately reporting limited visibility. As the cars lapped the circuit, the conditions improved gradually and better line formed on track where there were little to no wet patches, rather general wetness.
With everybody on full wets, Verstappen was soon near the top of the timing sheet and continued to be near the top as times tumbled lap after lap. Some clearly opted sometimes to skip a lap or two, awaiting for better conditions but risking to get eliminated if the session would come to an early halt.
Sainz, Alonso and also Ocon were very much among the better performing drivers in these wet conditions. Sainz also drew some negative attention late in the session as he reversed back on the circuit at Turn 4 after a mistake, thereby clumsily blocking Ocon. It didn't matter a lot for either driver, but it was still not the greatest of actions by the Spanish Ferrari driver.
In the closing stages the McLarens only just managed to get through, with Norris notably only improving to 15th on his final attempt, dropping Gasly, Vettel, Stroll, Latifi and Tsunoda out. For Vettel a particularly annoying experience following the solid performance and apparently very different behaviour of the Aston Martin in FP3 earlier today.
When Q2 started a queue formed again to get going, this time with several drivers opting to get going on the intermediate tyres. Alonso, Sainz, Ocon, Perez, Albon and both Haas drivers went out on the inters. Others chose full wets and Leclerc did not go out.
Alonso soon proved the intermediates were the way forward, beating Verstappen to first by half a second. This triggered tyre switches for everybody else. However, before Verstappen and Bottas managed to get out on track on the intermediates, Sergio Perez headed straight into the barriers at Turn 4 to create a red flag. Albon had by then also crashed out but he was more fortunately to be able to get away with it, reversing out of it and returning to the pits whereas Perez was stuck and had to get cleared.
When the session as restarted minutes later following the removal of the Red Bull and sorting the TecPro barrier it was clear that the track had further improved considerably. When 9 drivers had set their times, all on inters, Alonso's previous best was only good enough for 9th anymore.
Alonso then improved to second but that time too soon dropped down as drivers found nearly full second improvements on their following laps.
With 2 minutes 30 left on the clock, Verstappen sat first with a 1:26.270, followed by Russell, Sainz, Alonso, Zhou, hamilton, Magnussen, Albon, Ocon, Ricciardo, Bottas, Perez, Norris and finally Leclerc as he didn't run anymore due to the certainty of starting at the back anyway.
By the end of the session, Verstappen had further improved the benchmark to 1:23.746. Alonso, Russell, Sainz and Hamilton were his closest competitors. Both Haas also made it through. Bottas was pipped by the last car on track (Ocon) to 11th as Norris ended up 14th due to a battery issue.
In Q3, both Mercedes were first to take the track, perhaps a bit of a surprising take given the improving track conditions. Verstappen was up next as Alonso and Ocon opted to out later.
The result as a best time for Verstappen, followed by Sainz, then Alonso, Schumacher, Russell and Hamilton.
For the next lap, Alonso, Ocon and Zhou were the last cars to go out while Russell opted to go for the dry weather soft tyres for his final attempt. The Mercedes driver discovered on Turn 2 of his flying lap it was too early as he slid off the track, causing a yellow flag for a few moments until he managed to get going again.
Just before that time, Verstappen had improved yet again. Magnussen jumped up to third before Hamilton improved to go second fastest. Sainz was up next on the road and improved yet another time, just like Alonso, securing second for the Alpine driver and third for the Ferrari driver.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:32.219||1:23.746||1:21.299||30|
|2||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:32.277||1:24.848||1:21.944||29|
|5||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:32.957||1:26.254||1:22.960||31|
|6||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:33.707||1:25.684||1:23.356||31|
|7||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:33.012||1:26.135||1:23.529||30|
|9||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:33.636||1:26.375||1:23.749||30|
|10||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:33.692||1:26.116||1:24.030||31|
|11||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:33.689||1:26.788||21|
|12||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:34.047||1:26.858||21|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:33.929||1:33.127||14|
|14||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:34.066||DNF||15|
|16||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:34.492||11|
|17||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:34.512||12|
|18||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:35.532||11|
|19||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:35.660||11|
|20||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:36.575||4|