The Malta Independent 1 October 2023, Sunday
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Verstappen takes pole at Spanish GP ahead of Sainz; Alonso 9th

Associated Press Saturday, 3 June 2023, 18:33 Last update: about 5 months ago

Max Verstappen breezed his way to pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday while his top rivals struggled on the damp track and will start well behind the two-time defending champion.

Verstappen didn’t even need to use all of his time in qualifying after he set an untouchable flying lap. Red Bull brought him back to the garage while his rivals fought for the rest of the spots.

He has four pole positions on the season and 24 in his career. He is also poised for another race win given the history of pole-sitters winning 23 of 32 races at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Red Bull teammate — and Verstappen’s top challenger — Sergio Pérez will start Sunday’s race from 11th place on the grid. Last weekend, Pérez crashed in qualifying for Monaco and had to start from the back of the grid.

Verstappen and Pérez have swept all six races this season. Verstappen leads Pérez by 39 points.

Fernando Alonso, third in the standings at 51 points behind Verstappen, could do no better than ninth. So it looks like his legions of Spanish fans may have to keep waiting for him to end his decade-long drought in grands prix.

Carlos Sainz of Ferrari gave the home crowd something to cheer about though by producing the second-best time right ahead of a surprising Lando Norris in third in his McLaren.

“The car was really good today,” Verstappen said. “The conditions were a little tricky early on with the weather, but it was a really enjoyable drive. I have a lot of great memories here and hopefully we can have another one tomorrow.”

Verstappen showed in 2016 that he would one day become a force in F1 when he became the youngest race winner ever at age 18 in his debut for Red Bull at the Spanish GP. The Dutchman also won here last year.

Charles Leclerc took pole last year but this time he will start from 19th after his Ferrari was perplexingly slow.

Rain during the third practice earlier Saturday left some wet patches that caused several cars to spin into the gravel early in qualifying.

Alonso's Aston Martin took some damage to the bottom after running through the gravel. Pérez also bounced off course into the gravel.

George Russell also had trouble and will start 12th right behind Pérez after complaining that his Mercedes was bouncing and he “had no confidence with tires.” He and teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was fifth, even touched at one point while trying to launch flying laps, causing bits of one of their cars to fly off.

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