HomeFormula 1“Max”imum attack once again as Sainz and Norris bag...

“Max”imum attack once again as Sainz and Norris bag 2nd and 3rd at Spanish GP qualifying.

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Come to Spain, they said and expect to see possibly a closely fought three-way fight for the the top honours in qualifying. 

Both Red Bulls, it was felt, would be involved in a hotly contested tussle in which the twin Mercedes as well as the two Ferraris would give it possibly everything. 

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Perez, it was felt, would have bounced back especially after enduring a tough race weekend at Monaco. 

And the Mercedes of George Russell that had finished once again behind that of teammate Lewis Hamilton’s in the previous race at the Principality, would be in for the front row fight. 

Alas, that’s not what quite happened at the conclusion of Q3 where, barring the usual front running Red Bull of Max Verstappen, habitual of eating up the rest of the grid, only the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz jr. was able to emerge at the front. 

Besides a brilliant 24th career pole for Max Verstappen, the front runner for 2023, the Ferrari of local hero-if not an absolute favourite for the race win- Carlos Sainz was able to find his first front-row start of this season.

However, the biggest surprise package of the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying battle was the ballsy McLaren of Lando Norris, who found great grip and managed a fighting third on a challenging Saturday. 

It would be his first top three start to any Formula 1 Grand Prix this season. 

Lewis Hamilton, down in fifth, was beaten by the Alpine of Pierre Gasly, who registered his best start of the season as also the best qualifying performance since joining his new team. 

Anyone who’d had argued that come 2023 and we’d begin to see a seven time world

champion trumped by a much younger although highly capable driver in an Alpine would’ve been laughed at. But then, Spain’s qualifying battle was such a leveller- wasn’t it?    

But the surprisingly interesting results didn’t end just there. 

Lance Stroll, quicker than his more experienced double world championship winning teammate Fernando Alonso all weekend, when it was Alonso who was expected to come out all guns blazing this being his home track , captured a P6. This was undoubtedly the Canadian’s best performance all season. 

Meanwhile, the driver who bagged a valiant third at Monaco, Esteban Ocon took seventh ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Haas, Fernando Alonso in the other Aston Martin and finally, Oscar Piastri in McLaren. 

All that told, the most gripping, if also surprising facet of the 2023 qualifying at Spain was that while one didn’t get to see the twin Ferraris or the twin Mercedes or even the two Red Bulls slogging it out in Q3, which was the standard expectation, one definitely saw mouth watering entertainment courtesy both McLaren and Alpine drivers having made the cut in the final slugfest for the top ten. 

But then, drama as well as unexpected occurrences that took their own course had panned out much earlier than the start of Q3. 

The first qualifying run had not even reached the first five minutes when, Alonso, out on a hot flying lap beached his Aston Martin, sliding into the gravel of a tricky corner and resultantly, sustaining some scruffiness in the car’s underfloor. 

Seconds later, Alex Albon of Williams would make a visit to gravel at around the slippery corner at turn 5. Then, it was the turn of Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo. 

The third spin and slide being a bit too much in that it brought tiny fragments of the gravel onto the track, which meant that the session had to be red flagged. 

Alonso’s car, that has been a wild animal all along in 2023 had, from that point in time (given the slip up into the gravel), suffered, which certainly hampered his speed. 

But the biggest disappointment and also a bit unprecedented outcome of Q1 was the sheer lack of pace demonstrated by Leclerc, who was, lest it is forgotten, the pole sitter here last year. 

The Monegasque just couldn’t relive himself from the banishment of being down in the bottom five. He was knocked out in Q1 and just couldn’t make it to Q2. This became Charles’ first ever Q1 elimination since Monaco 2019 with Ferrari. 

Leclerc’s unhappiness was for all to see when not long after being knocked out, he confessed in a quick chat “The left hand side corners were undriveable. I just don’t have any answers right now.” 

But was all of that surprising since Ferrari received upgrades sidepods just ahead of the Spanish GP qualifying? 

That didn’t mean that there were no troubles out there for Mercedes with the coming up of the next round; on account  of the rain prior to the start that had dampened the track at some places, Russell was complaining about his tires. 

A lack of grip would further worsen his Saturday in Q2. 

Then came the ultimate nail in the coffin for both Russell as well as Perez, who was on the podium here the last year; the Mercedes and the Red Bull lads got knocked out in Q2. 

Perez, resultantly, finding another dull weekend after Monaco’s forgettable run just last week. 

But while there were disappointments, there were also wide eyed smiles for the rest in Q3. 

Verstappen, the pole sitter, brought out a flying lap so dominant that he’d emerge nearly half a second ahead of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. 

Was that scintillating qualifying pace a curtain raiser to what could yet be a bigger full blown attack over the Scuderia on Sunday? 

We don’t know anything for sure. What we know, however, is that Norris given his bright smile and that immense self confidence knows that he’s in for a cracker of a race. Who knows, but the exceedingly fast pace of the McLaren in the high speed corners May actually be too much for the Smooth Operator. 

There’s so much to look forward to at Catalonia, with hopefully a belter of a race up ahead of us!

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Dev Tyagi
Dev Tyagi
Dravid believer, admirer of - the square drive, Drew Barrymore, Germany, Finland, Electric Mobility, simplicity and the power of the written word! Absolutely admire contributing to KyroSports

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