They say the third time’s a charm but for Valtteri Bottas his last three Formula 1 qualifying sessions have all been a charm as the Mercedes driver stormed to a sensational pole position in Barcelona.
Bottas will start at the front of the grid for the third successive race after he dazzled in rural Catalunya to blow away his team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes’ constructor rivals Ferrari.
Bottas had the edge over five-time world champion Hamilton throughout qualifying, before finishing the final Q3 session a staggering 0.634 seconds quicker than the Brit.
Mercedes maintained their front-row lockout after none of the Ferrari’s nor the Red Bull of Max Verstappen were able to improve on the lap times that they had initially run on the soft compound tyres in Q3.
Sebastian Vettel qualified 3rd for Ferrari and was 0.866 seconds adrift of Bottas leading time, with Verstappen following behind in fourth, just less than a tenth shy of Vettel’s fastest lap.
Charles Leclerc could only manage 5th to sandwich Verstappen after the Monegasque compromised his Q3 session by running wide at Campsa in Q2, thus costing him a set of soft compound tyres and also inflicting some minor floor damage to his Ferrari.
Pierre Gasly rounded off the top three constructors in sixth, whilst both Haas drivers excelled in Q3 thanks to their promised upgrades, with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finishing 7th and 8th respectively.
Daniil Kvyat earned his best qualifying result of the season with a respectable 9th for Toro Rosso, whilst Daniel Ricciardo was unable to achieve any higher than 10th on a relatively disappointing day for Renault.
The Aussie’s three-place grid penalty that he received from his reversing incident in Baku means that Lando Norris will start P10 despite missing out on Q3, after the McLaren driver was eliminated following Leclerc’s late improvement in Q2.
Alexander Albon ran wide at T5 and could only conjure up a time that finished 12th fastest, whilst Carlos Sainz Jr was one place below the Toro Rosso after he also made an error on his quickest lap.
It proved to be a difficult afternoon for the Alfa Romeo and Racing Point teams, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez’s best efforts yielding 14th and 15th place respectively.
Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest of those eliminated in Q1 in 16th place, 19 thousandths slower than team-mate Ricciardo.
Hulkenberg crashed at the turn 4 right-hander on his first run before he set a time, but was able to recover to the pits despite crunching his front wing.
He returned to the track in the closing stages and briefly lifted himself out of the dropzone with his first flying lap on the second set of options - although his pace was hindered by having switched to an older-spec front wing.
Lance Stroll continued his qualifying trend by finishing 17th for the fifth successive race, finishing just ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi.
The two Williams drivers of George Russell and Robert Kubica rounded up the pack, though their battle was impressively settled by Russell’s lap time - the Brit was 1.2 seconds quicker than his team-mate Kubica.