Mercedes set the pace in practice for Spanish GP

Alonso and the updated Mc Laren MCL33

Alonso and the updated Mc Laren MCL33

"I needed this pole", said the four-times Formula One world champion, whose performance was watched by Daimler chairman and Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche, in the post-qualifying interviews at the Spanish Grand Prix.

When it mattered in Q3, he set a blistering lap on his first run and with the pressure on, the 33-year-old promptly improved it, taking pole with a time of 1min 16.173sec.

First corner prediction: With Mercedes locking out the front row, Hamilton is the favourite tp lead the pack through Turn 1 but keep an eye out for Sebastian Vettel starting from the clean side of the grid behind the lead Mercedes.

Hamilton laid down a benchmark in Q3 with a 1:16.491 as all six contenders ran the Supersofts, before their strategies diverged for the second runs. This improvement meant that he was able to retain pole position, despite his rivals making significant improvements.

Lewis Hamilton took Mercedes' 90th F1 pole position as a constructor.

Neither Force India driver came close to the top 10, with Esteban Ocon 13th and Sergio Perez slowest in the second session - the duo split by Charles Leclerc, who built on his encouraging Baku display with another Q2 appearance. He was 0.132s behind Hamilton.

Both would switch to the Soft compound tyre for their second attempts, believing it offered better grip throughout the lap, and so it proved with the German moving up to third with his Finnish partner fourth.

Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for Red Bull ahead of Dane Kevin Magnussen and his Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean, Carlos Sainz of Renault and two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren.

Bottas's time of 1:18.148 in the morning was the fastest lap of a changeable and unpredictable day and eighth-tenths faster than his teammate's best. Verstappen also went off the track, as did Raikkonen shortly before enduring the mechanical problem.

Of note, Scuderia Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley did not take part in qualifying after a big accident in FP3. He foresaw an "interesting race" on Sunday.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was surprisingly eliminated in the first qualifying session on Saturday.

"I chipped away at my lap time by a few hundredths but it wasn't enough", Ricciardo said.

Those who feel that the current driver line up of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin is the worst in the team's history, could have their case strengthened this weekend.

Stroll almost hit the tire barriers after going off the track with about a half-hour left in the first session.

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