Lewis Hamilton sneaks pole ahead of Valtteri Bottas

Spanish Grand Prix

Mercedes got off to a good start in Formula One's return to Europe, with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton setting the pace in practice for the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday. The upgrades on the McLaren are clear to see and he was just 0.045s off taking the "best of the rest" award (also known as seventh on the grid) from Kevin Magnussen in the Haas.

Both Ferrari's used the soft compound tyre for the second and final run in Q3, with the delta between soft and supersoft proving to be insignificant.

He banged in a lap of 1m16.173s to shave just over three tenths off his earlier time to secure top spot.

Vettel, who won three straight poles, will start third, followed by Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Driver of the day: Following his recent struggles, Hamilton held it all together to take pole position by 0.040s from teammate Bottas.

However, the four-time world champion was immediately put on the back foot by Hamilton, Ricciardo and Verstappen in Q3, and he could not respond.

The two Force India drivers struggled somewhat with tire performance and were also eliminated in the second part of qualifying, with Sergio Perez specifically finding conditions hard and dropping out in 15th place as Charles Leclerc got his Sauber between Perez and Esteban Ocon. That's largely down to the tyres being two steps softer than in 2017, but also a reflection of the relentless development race in F1 - Hamilton's time was also a second quicker than the best lap in winter testing. Max Verstappen ended up fifth, Ricciardo qualified sixth.

The two home favourites, Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz, gave the Spaniards something to cheer in eighth and ninth.

More news: Barcelona's Arda Turan gets 16-game ban for pushing assistant referee

Lance Stroll continued to struggle with Williams, going off track in the final minutes of qualifying. Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly finished 12th.

There was a surprise casualty in Q1 as Nico Hulkenberg failed to progress, with a fuel pressure issue to blame as the German aborted his first run and then dropped out in 16th place ahead of Marcus Ericsson.

Sunday's race, exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, starts at 2.10pm, with build-up from 12.30pm.

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

New Zealander Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso was not among the runners following his huge accident at the end of final practice, which left the rear end of his auto wrecked after spinning into the barriers at high speed.

Lance Stroll was 19th behind teammate Sergey Sirotkin and attempting to improve at the end of the session when he suffered a unusual crash at Turn 12.

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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