Mercedes driver George Russell surprised everyone by snatching pole position away in what seemed to become a Ferrari-dominated weekend. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc ended up second and third for Ferrari and will be looking to bounce back in Sunday's race.
On the back of a very wet third practice session earlier in the day, qualifying kicked off on a dry track. As the skies remained dark most teams did not take any chances and went out early to set some times. Ferrari on the other hand still opted to take a chance and only sent their drivers out when the likes of Red Bull Racing, McLaren, Alpine and Mercedes had all already set a time on the board.
It proved no problem for the Scuderia even though their pace was not as dominant as what they had displayed in the dry practice sessions on Friday.
During these Friday sessions the Mercedes were more or less nowhere, missing out on the Top 7 and being quite a bit off the pace. Today in qualifying on the other hand they finished Q3 on the sharp end. Hamilton and Russell ended up first and second a few minutes before the chequered flag, topping Sainz by 0.060s and Verstappen by 0.135s.
Alonso went through in 6th as Ricciardo jumped from 19th to 7th with his final effort. Leclerc followed up in 8th with Ocon 9th and Perez 13th. Sebastian Vettel in contrast was left disappointed with an 18th time only. 19th was Gasly after he got his fastest laptime deleted for going off track while Latifi ended up 20th and missed out on a better starting slow by messing up the final corner of his flying lap.
The second part of qualifying was even more confusing in terms of pace for Ferrari. After Leclerc and Sainz briefly went to top the timing sheet after Hamilton and Russell had done so with their first laps, 6 drivers improved on Leclerc's time with Verstappen going fastest, followed by Alonso at 2 tenths, then McLaren's Norris and Ricciardo. Zhou and Ocon were also faster than Leclerc's first lap, albeit very narrowly.
With 5 minutes left on the clock, Hamilton and Russell made a second effort during a calm moment on track. Hamilton improved to third at 0.332s of Verstappen as Russell ended up in between the McLarens.
Next up were the Ferraris, this time on fresh tyres compared to their first attempts on used softs. Leclerc and Sainz improved considerably and moved up to second and fourth respectively on the timing sheet, just when "a few drops of rain" were reported.
As they were safe, Ocon, Bottas, Stroll and both Haas were struggling to improve. Perez meanwhile was only 9th one minute before the end of the session after getting a time deleted for track limits. Ocon and Bottas both improved and dropped Perez down into 11th and therefore out of the final top 10 shoot-out.
Ocon was the first to take the track for the top 10 decider, followed by the McLarens and then Sainz and Leclerc. While the main contenders were immediately out on fresh softs, Ocon, Ricciardo, Norris, the Mercedes and Bottas went out on used sets to start with.
And then, out of nothing, Sainz put in a 1:17.505 to blast everyone away. Russell came closest but was already 0.463 seconds off of the Ferrari pace setter. Leclerc ended up third fastest at 0.480s, followed by Hamilton, Alonso and Norris. For Mercedes especially that was impressive given they were using used softs.
Max Verstappen totally messed up his first lap and also his set of tyres by locking up in Turn 3, resulting in a 7th best time and only faster than three drivers lapping on used softs.
The second laps were always to be a tense affair. Leclerc improved and ended up second at just 0.06 of his teammate. Sainz then further improved to distance his team mate again. 20 seconds later though it was Russell who surprised everyone by going fastest of all, taking Mercedes' first pole position of the season.
As most drivers improved, Ocon jumped up to 5th, Bottas to 8th and Ricciardo to 9th, leaving Verstappen swearing in his car to end up in 10th.
|4||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:18.653||1:18.121||1:17.769||19|
|5||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:18.866||1:18.216||1:18.018||20|
|6||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:18.716||1:17.904||1:18.078||17|
|8||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:18.935||1:18.445||1:18.157||20|
|9||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:18.775||1:18.198||1:18.379||19|
|10||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:18.509||1:17.703||1:18.823||21|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:19.118||1:18.516||16|
|12||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:18.973||1:18.573||16|
|13||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:18.993||1:18.825||18|
|14||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:19.205||1:19.137||16|
|15||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:19.164||1:19.202||16|
|16||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:19.240||9|
|17||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:19.256||10|
|18||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:19.273||10|
|19||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:19.527||9|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:19.570||10|