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Leclerc storms to Barcelona pole

NEWS STORY
21/05/2022

Ahead of today's qualifying session the air temperature is 34.4 degrees C, while the track temperature is 47 degrees. It remains bright and sunny.

In all honesty, few would be against Charles Leclerc making it a clean sweep, the championship leader having set the pace in all three practice sessions. However, it is his race pace he is concerned about, that and tyre deg.

Max Verstappen was second quickest earlier, and whatever happens over the next hour it is that long drag to Turn 1 tomorrow that is likely to be uppermost in the Dutchman's mind.

The big question however, other than how their respective teammates will fare, is Mercedes and whether the German team has finally resolved its issues.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton within 0.2s off the pace earlier, but have Ferrari and Red Bull yet to turn the volume up to 11 Nigel Tufnel style?

As for the rest, well, you pays your money and you take your chances... for while Norris, Magnussen, Bottas and Ocon made up the top ten earlier, the look of the midfield is forever changing, and this, combined with the various reliability issues we are witnessing suggests that there could be a few surprises along the way.

Pierre Gasly and Mick Schumacher both had a smoky FP3, the German suffering a brake fire while the Frenchman had a heat shield failure. However, following sterling work by their engineers both are expected to take part in this session.

The lights go green. Zhou is first out, followed by Gasly and Tsunoda. With that nice long main straight we are likely to see a number of teams try and use slipstreaming as a means to benefit their drivers over the next hour.

Zhou posts a 21.065, Tsunoda a 21.836 and Gasly a 21.022 however, the Japanese driver has his time deleted for exceeding the track limits at Turn 12.

Surprisingly, Perez is out early. The Mexican goes quickest with a 20.447, in the process giving his teammate - on his out lap - a tow down the pit straight.

Verstappen subsequently posts a 20.091 despite it being quite a scruffy lap.

Two local heroes to cheer this weekend, and the first of these, Sainz, gets a huge roar as he goes quickest with a 19.892. However, moments later, Leclerc responds with a 19.861.

No sooner has Hamilton gone fourth with a 20.252 than Russell bangs in a 20.218 to claim the spot.

Bottas goes sixth - ahead of Perez - with a 20.355.

Alonso, the other local hero, goes 12th with a 21.043.

Zhou goes 8th (20.813) two spots behind his Alfa teammate.

With just under 5 minutes remaining, Albon, Stroll, Gasly, Schumacher and Latifi comprise the drop zone, with Ricciardo, Vettel and Tsunoda hovering.

The final assault gets underway, and Schumacher leads the charge, followed by Latifi, Magnussen and Stroll. The Mercedes pair also head out, though, strangely, seventh-placed Perez remains in his garage.

"We're going to miss the flag," Russell is warned.

Lots of greens in the opening sector as the drivers seek to improve.

Schumacher goes ninth, while Stroll fails to improve on 17th.

Vettel goes 13th, Gasly 11th and Ricciardo 10th.

It's a terrible lap for Alonso and as a result he fails to make the cut, as does Vettel. That's both Aston Martins out.

Replay shows that Alonso appeared to be impeded by Norris though the stewards say there is no need for any further investigation.

"You must be kidding," responds Vettel when told he is out.

Quickest is Leclerc, ahead of Sainz, Verstappen, Russell, Magnussen, Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Zhou and Ricciardo.

We lose Vettel, Alonso, Stroll, Albon and Latifi.

The lights go green for Q2 but there is no immediate rush to work.

Eventually, Schumacher breaks the deadlock, the Haas driver followed by the Mercedes pair. Soon all 15 drivers are on track.

"Rear tyres are really hot," reports Gasly, as the Mercedes pair waste no time in passing Schumacher.

Hamilton posts a 19.794 but Russell responds with a 19.470.

Schumacher goes third (20.436), ahead of Norris and Ocon, before being demoted by his Haas teammate who stops the clock at 20.429.

Perez goes third, Leclerc fourth and Verstappen sixth as the track temperature increases slightly.

Bottas is fifth, ahead of Verstappen and Sainz, while Magnussen, Schumacher and Norris make up the top ten.

Schumacher leads the way as the final assault gets underway. However, he is soon overtaken by Sainz who, in turn, is passed by Ocon. Last out are the Bulls, with Verstappen leading teammate Perez.

Russell, Hamilton and Leclerc opt not to run again.

On-board with Sainz and the porpoising is obvious. Quickest in the final sector, the Spaniard crosses the line at 19.453 to go quickest. The crowd's joy is short lived however, for Verstappen responds with a 19.219.

Magnussen goes fourth, Ricciardo ninth, with Norris subsequently going eighth.

However, the McLaren driver's time is deleted for exceeding the limits at Turn 12, which is good news for Schumacher who is promoted to 10th.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Sainz, Russell, Hamilton, Magnussen, Perez, Leclerc, Bottas, Ricciardo and Schumacher.

We lose Norris, Ocon, Tsunoda, Gasly and Zhou.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Barcelona, here.

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