Nico Rosberg (1:20.718) won pole for the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix in a thrilling final lap duel with much of the rest of the Q3 field. Though he went out early in Q3 and in hindsight could have sat on that lap time, he went back out and improved to set a pole time nearly two tenths faster than second place qualifier and his teammate Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel qualified third, with Kimi Raikkonen fourth. Fernando Alonso could only go fifth fastest for his home crowd, while the biggest surprise was Mark Webber only eighth fastest.

Alonso (1:25.252) set the fastest time during Friday morning’s practice, setting that time near the end of the damp and drying session. He had been quickest earlier when the track was wet, but did not remain so as the circuit dried out during the session’s progression. Teammate Massa, Vergne, Grosjean, and Sutil rounded out the fastest five. Red Bull did not set quick times in the changing conditions, though both Vettel and Webber ran comparatively quickly earlier in practice. Despite the changing conditions, there were no major incidents, but a few spins.

Vettel (1:22.808) resumed his quick pace for the afternoon practice, pipping Alonso to the top spot. Webber, Raikkonen, Massa completed the list of the fastest five, though Hamilton was very quick in sixth, and only .332s covered the top six. Though Mercedes was fast in the early, hard compound running, Alonso and the Red Bulls had more speed in the fast, qualifying simulation runs at the end of practice. Again, a tyre delaminated during FP2, with di Resta the unlucky victim. His left rear shredded as he drove down the start finish straight. He parked his Force India in the grass and managed to set the tenth fastest time before ending his session early.

Massa (1:21.901) led the final practice Saturday morning, with teammate Alonso relegated to sixth in the late quali sim runs after having led most of the session. Raikkonen, Webber, Grosjean, and Vettel filled the running order between them.

No driver had queued to begin the twenty minutes of Q1 straightaway. The wind was quite strong; the sun shining brightly. Ricciardo finally got things going, nearly four minutes into the session. Maldonado followed quickly, as did Hulkenberg and Vergne. As the early drivers set times, other began trickling out onto the track. Raikkonen (1:23.087) led the way at halfway, with Grosjean, Vergne, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Maldonado, and Gutierrez the running order of men with times.

Alonso and Massa flew on their first flying laps, with the former taking nearly a second off Raikkonen’s time. Massa slotted between them. In the final seven minutes, many drivers were out directly on the medium, softer, tyres. As the final five minutes began, Alonso (1:22.264) led Massa, Raikkonen, Sutil, and Grosjean as the top five. Rosberg soon supplanted Alonso at the top. Meanwhile, neither Red Bull, McLaren, nor Hamilton had yet set a fast time. Perez managed seventh fastest on hi first lap, only to have Button jump up to sixth. That would no last long, as Vettel went second fastest on his own first lap. At the top, Hamilton replaced his teammate. Webber soon slotted into fifth fastest.

With three minutes to go, all drivers had finally set times and Hulkenberg, Gutierrez, Pic, Chilton, van der Garde, and Bianchi in the knockout zone. Gutierrez was even less perfectly situated for a great starting position with Button complaining that the Williams massively held him up on his own fast lap.

Hulkenberg managed to move up to tenth fastest and subsequently Maldonado returned to the knockout zone. In the end, Hamilton (1:21.728) led the session, with Rosberg, Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso, Webber, Massa, Grosjean, di Resta, and Vergne the fastest ten.

Knocked Out in Q1:
17. Bottas
18. Maldonado
19. van der Garde
20. Bianchi
21. Chilton
22. Pic

Gutierrez led the way to start the fifteen minutes of Q2, followed by Hulkenberg. Neither were right on the button as both waited nearly three minutes into the session to begin. Raikkonen (1:21.676) soon led the session, with Hulkenberg, Vettel, Gutierrez, and Webber the fastest five nearing halfway. Rosberg then made his way to second fastest as a number of times dropped in the pack. Alonso next went fastest, beating Raikkonen by three hundredths. Button could manage not better than fifteenth fastest on his first lap, more than two seconds off Alonso’s pace.

Most drivers popped into the garage for fresh tyres with five minutes remaining. At that point, Alonso led Raikkonen, Rosberg, Massa, and Grosjean as the top five. Vergne, Perez, di Resta, Sutil, Button, and Ricciardo were then in the knockout zone. The Red Bulls led the way back out when four minutes were left. Raikkonen would not go back out, unless necessary, according to a team radio transition.

The top five remained in the garage with two minutes to go. Vettel went straight to the top with his second fast run, taking four hundredths off Alonso’s time. Webber went fourth fastest. Di Resta looked to haul himself out of the knockout zone, and did, moving up to eighth with barely time for another lap. Ricciardo also moved up, to ninth. Vergne looked safe, but dropped out as Perez and Hamilton moved on to Q3. In the end, Hmailton (1:21.001) led Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, Webber, Rosberg, Perez, Massa, Grosjean, and di Resta moving on to Q3. Button could manage only fourteenth.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Ricciardo
12. Vergne
13. Sutil
14. Button
15. Hulkenberg
16. Gutierrez

Raikkonen went immediately on to the track as the ten minutes of Q3 began. Rosberg and Alonso soon followed. Raikkonen’s first lap (1:21.539) was a bit ragged, leaving plenty of room for Alonso to beat the early benchmark by three tenths. Rosberg was much quicker, setting a time seven tenths faster than Kimi. After their first runs, Rosberg led Alonso, Massa, Grosjean, and Raikkonen as both the top five and the only men with times at halfway.

Di Resta had set an out lap, completing the final two sectors, but all the drivers looked set for a single lap duel for pole. Vettel was the first back out, just at the three minute mark, with Raikkonen and a number of other drivers following. Everyone had made his way out with two minutes to go.

Raikkonen was very fast in his first sector. Vettel managed only second fastest on his first lap, crossing the line with time enough for a second lap. Raikkonen was just slower than Vettel. Hamilton, despite his early fast time in Q2, could not beat his teammate as Rosberg had improved his own time. Alonso managed only fifth fastest, with Massa just slower. Webber had a terrible lap, qualifying eighth. In the end, Rosberg could have sat in the garage on his provisional pole but went back out to be sure. His final lap was nearly two tenths up on his teammate.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix:

  Driver Team Time Laps
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:20.718 12
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.972 12
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:21.054 12
4. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:21.177 17
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:21.218 12
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:21.219 12
7. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:21.308 16
8. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:21.570 12
9. Sergio Perez McLaren 1:22.069 13
10. Paul di Resta Force India 1:22.233 17
11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:22.127 14
12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:22.166 12
13. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:22.346 12
14. Jenson Button McLaren 1:22.355 9
15. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:22.389 13
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:22.793 15
17. Valtteri Botats Williams 1:23.260 9
18. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:23.318 9
19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:24.661 6
20. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:24.713 6
21. Max Chilton Marussia 1:24.996 6
22. Charles Pic Caterham 1:25.070 6
  • Hmmm… no one has any opinion on Merc’s rise to pole in Spain? Really? This is a tad unexpected and it could play into the fact they felt the new hard compounds would suit them best this weekend. Could anyone two-stop this race?

    • UAN

      I’m not sure it was totally unexpected – the Merc has shown great one lap speed, especially in Sector 3. Their achilles heel has been race pace and they spent a lot of the free practices (including FP3) working on their tire degradation. In fact, after Lewis’s fastest lap in FP3 they had him do a race start simulation to see how those tires would hold up in the first few laps.

      What would be unexpected is that they don’t backward after the first few laps of the race. Should be interesting with Vettel and Kimi on their heels, and Vettel would be hell bent on getting in front – he’s also saved 3 new sets of hard tires (same as in Bahrain).

      I think Rosberg will over defend at the beginning and fade and Hamilton will fade a little slower (similar to China). I think it will be Vettel and Alonso on a 3 stop strategy and Kimi on 2 stops fighting it out. Kimi may come through similar to Australia, but even better by being closer to the front.

      I do think this may bode well for Merc in Monaco in two weeks and I’d tip maybe Hamilton for victory then.

      • Good point on Monaco…he who holds the pole, controls the universe!! :)

        • Rik

          Remember who “had” pole in Monaco last year.. Shumacher. Rosberg finished 2nd last year so qualifying well should not be a problem in Monaco. Keeping everyone behind, that’s another story.

  • Rapierman

    I think Mercedes has served notice at this point with the lockout. Their title potential is starting to go up a bit.

  • bfreelove

    I’m hoping the Merc can hang on a little bit better in the race tomorrow. With 3 pole positions in a row it’s clear that they have the strongest package over one lap. I think it’s too bad that the tyre situation pretty much renders that fact meaningless. I could be wrong but I can’t think of any other time in F1 where a car would have a half second advantage over the rest of the field but be left exposed in the race. DRS doesn’t help this much either.

  • Morton

    Marcs were very fast in the Sector 3. Does that mean they are extracting more from the tyres than their rivals? (meaning use them up faster than others?)
    Good to see McLaren doing well. (Button was 12th or 13th last year so about the same.)

  • AB345

    I think I heard somewhere that the thing that makes Mercedes so fast in qualification is what makes them uncompetitive over the race: namely, Mercedes is very aggressive on the rear tires, which gives them great grip (and speed) over qualification, and great degradation when time to race lap after lap. Probably not an accident that Lewis had the tire delamination, that Nico went backwards when tried to defend pole in Bahrain, that both Nico and Lewis go in for a quick lap to qualify because they know the above re qualifying and race and want to conserve what they can. I think this is why Nico at least is so cautious about tomorrow, and why Alonso discounts them as a threat tomorrow, as do other “experts”.

  • AB345

    Watching NASCAR. F1 has a ripe field in the US..

    • Rapierman

      They’re working on it.

  • dude

    If you watched the prequalifying coverage on BBC, Eddie Jordan after interviewing Bernie in which Bernie said Silverstone might have to go next year. Later commenting about Bernie’s bus/motorhome and said it looks like it had mosquito proof netting something. Suzie Perry said, “I think it would be better to have bullet proof.”

    Another reason why I prefer BBC coverage over Sky.