Max Verstappen eases to Spanish GP pole, Sergio Perez out in Q2

MONTMELO, Spain -- Max Verstappen dominated a bizarre qualifying at the Spanish Grand Prix that saw the Mercedes drivers collide, Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez fail to make Q3 and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc finish up 19th.

Verstappen's fourth pole position of the season came as no surprise, but that constant underplays the drama of the session, which resulted in six different teams in the top six places for Sunday's grid.

Verstappen was 0.462s clear of Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz in second place, with Lando Norris taking a surprise third place for McLaren. Pierre Gasly was fourth fastest for Alpine ahead of the fastest Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in fifth and Lance Stroll's Aston Martin in sixth, but received two three-place grid penalties for impeding rival cars and dropped to tenth on the grid.

George Russell, who qualified 12th after failing to make the cut for Q3, appeared to cut across teammate Hamilton as they both started fast laps in the final minutes of Q2 and Sainz exited the pit lane to the left of Russell.

The collision, which occurred on the run down to Turn 1 where the cars are travelling in excess of 180 mph, resulted in damage to Hamilton's front wing that caused him to back off as he was pushed onto the grass. Russell completed his lap but did not advance to the top-ten shootout.

"I had front wing and I don't know what's damaged on the floor," Hamilton said of the damage after the incident. "Either way we couldn't have competed with the Red Bull, they're still in their own league. But we're coming."

Esteban Ocon secured seventh for Alpine, which will become sixth, ahead of a strong performance by Haas' Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso, who was outqualified by teammate Stroll for the first time this year. Alonso ran wide in the final corner during Q1 and appeared to damage the floor of his car as he ran through the gravel. He will start ahead of McLaren's Oscar Piastri, who was tenth fastest but will be promoted to ninth by the Gasly penalties.

For the second weekend in a row Perez underperformed in qualifying for Red Bull, missing out on a place in Q3 by 0.051s after running wide at Turn 5 on his second flying lap in Q2. The mistake resulted in a trip through the gravel and heaped the pressure on him to complete a lap before the session timed out. Ultimately, he fell short and faces another battle back the field on Sunday after qualifying last in Monaco one week ago.

"Once we lost it, the tyres were too warm, too hot and I couldn't get them back to a good temperature window," he said. "I just didn't have the grip on my final lap. It was a shame, conditions were tricky and I end up losing the car into Turn 5."

Perez will start ahead of Russell, whose final attempt in Q2 following the collision left him 0.113s off the Red Bull and only 0.074s faster than Zhou Guanyu's Alfa Romeo in 13th. Nyck de Vries will start 14th ahead of AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsuonda.

Charles Leclerc finished qualifying 19th after struggling for performance throughout Q1 and being shuffled down the order at the end of the session as track conditions improved. The Ferrari driver complained about an issue at the rear of his car and was 0.6s off his teammate Sainz in the same session.

Valtteri Bottas in 16th, Kevin Magnussen in 17th, Alex Albon in 18th and Logan Sargeant in 20th were also knocked out in Q1 and will make up the back of the grid along with Leclerc.