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As it happened: Saturday - Qualifying
By Matt Beer, Edd Straw, Ben Anderson, Scott Mitchell and Dan Cross
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
08:31 Hello and welcome to AUTOSPORT Live's continued coverage of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

Our trackside team is ready to bring you the best insight from the paddock and in about 30 minutes we'll have cars on track for the final practice session before qualifying.

Fernando Alonso, Spanish Grand Prix

08:38 Yesterday was all about Mercedes. Well, Lewis Hamilton really.

The Briton was quickest in both sessions, bringing his timesheet-topping-tally to eight of the 14 practice sessions held so far in 2014.

Here are the full reports from yesterday:

button Hamilton leads first Friday practice

button Hamilton stays on top in second practice

08:42 At the other end of the F1 grid, though, the Caterhams of Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi were slowest of those to set a time in FP2.

It's been a tough start to 2014 for Caterham - and an even tougher one if you're Mark Smith.

He has been relieved of his duties as technical director and replaced with a 'technical committee' in the team's latest bid to move off the foot of the F1 grid.

Full story here:

Smith leaves amid Caterham technical reshuffle

08:46 Unless you are a Mercedes affiliate, yesterday seemed to be a day of pessimism.

Sebastian Vettel failed to register a lap in FP2 after an electrical issue in the opening session, while Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was frustrated to be so far behind the Silver Arrows.

Meanwhile, Renault revealed some customer teams are behind in their payments as the French manufacturer attempts to recover lost ground to Mercedes. Speaking of costs, Claire Williams said the financial situation in F1 had reached a critical level.

Oh, and Ferrari's Luca di Montezemolo declared himself surprised by the Prancing Horse's poor form.

All in a day of F1.

08:48 The bad news kept coming for Red Bull-related teams yesterday.

Wherever Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne qualifies later today, he'll be bumped 10 places on the grid for tomorrow.

That comes after his team also copped a 30,000 Euro fine after the Frenchman's car shed a wheel in practice.

08:53 If you want to know who is where for AUTOSPORT this morning, EDD STRAW has wandered trackside to evaluate which cars are on a knife-edge and which cars (ahem, Mercedes) look planted.

Meanwhile, JON NOBLE is scouring the paddock and BEN ANDERSON has an eagle eye over the on-track action and may head off to join the former for a spot of intrepid journalism too.

Grosjean08:54 BEN ANDERSON: A difficult day for Romain Grosjean yesterday, making this morning's final free practice crucial to get his Lotus in shape for qualifying. He at least could take heart from the encouraging pace of the sister E22 in Pastor Maldonado's hands.

"It will always hurt if you don’t do a proper Friday, so it’s not ideal but we can compare with the second car," he said.

"I think sometimes when you bring new carbon parts sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and you have to try a different one and then its good, so I think that’s a little bit what we had.

"Some of the other issues are we lost a sensor and we had a different brake system and the one I tried didn’t work so it’s just a few things, there’s no big deal."

08:59 Third practice is due to get underway in a couple of minutes. One man we will be keeping an eye on is Vettel, who only completed four laps yesterday due to an electrical issue.

09:00 We're off and running for FP3.

09:01 Plenty of drivers heading out onto the track early. Nico Hulkenberg opts for an immediate practice start at the end of the pitlane.

09:04 A host of cars duly return to the pits after an installation lap, but Kimi Raikkonen stays out in his Ferrari.

09:04 Only Massa's Williams and Magnussen's McLaren remained in the garage during the early flurry of activity.

09:04 Raikkonen brings his car into the pits and so doesn't complete a flying lap.

09:05 Second laps for Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Any chance of any early flier?

09:05 Rosberg radios in during his installation lap: "DRS is not working."

09:06 No flying laps after six minutes. Rosberg and Alonso pit before Hamilton follows suit with a minor issue of an off-centre steering wheel.

09:06 Confirmation that Hamilton is also having issues early on: "The steering is not straight."

09:06 That means all 22 cars are in their garages. Again, only Massa and Magnussen without an installation lap to their name.

09:08 And there goes Magnussen, out of the McLaren garage for the first time.

09:09 We have our first trackside report in from EDD STRAW...are you ready for this?

"At the chicane, and there's a pretty sparse crowd in the last sector. Probably reflects the Spanish economy as much as anything."

Gold dust.

09:09 Magnussen continues for a second lap, and he pushes through Turns 1 and 2.

Flying lap? Please be a flying lap. We're 10 minutes in now.

09:10 Rosberg is asked: "Everything OK with the car, Nico?" He confirms his earlier DRS issue has now vanished.

09:10 Magnussen really has to wrestle that McLaren through corners with a fast change of direction. It doesn't look an easy lap...but it is a flying lap!

It's a 1m29.959s.

09:10 BEN ANDERSON: This could be a tougher grand prix for Williams than the recent races. With apparent steps forward taken by McLaren and Lotus here, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa might be looking a bit more over their shoulders this weekend.

"It could be tough," said Bottas after yesterday's practice sessions. "We need to see tomorrow in qualifying how much the others really improved.

"Also from my side where I was in the practice is not where I will be tomorrow. It’s going to be really close and not an easy weekend but the target is to learn.

"It seems like some teams have made some steps but the positive thing today is the updates we tried in the other car worked like expected, so we made some progress. We need to see tomorrow what the real order is."

09:11 Replays show Magnussen running very wide at Turn 13 on his last lap.

09:11 Flying is a relative term. That Magnussen effort, which included that brief off right in front of our man EDD STRAW, was more than two seconds slower than his best from yesterday.

09:12 More drivers back out on track now. Ericsson, Grosjean and Vettel, to be precise.

Meanwhile, Magnussen cuts his best to a 1m29.115s.

09:13 EDD STRAW reports on that "wide moment for Magnussen exiting the corner before the final chicane":

"You could hear a slight lock up from him. The interesting thing trackside is you can hear small lockups that you wouldn't known about before, as only the more significant pickups create noticeable smoke."

09:14 Magnussen improves again, to a 1m28.771s. Minor lock up or not, keeping it tidy is obviously quicker.

Ericsson gets on the board, 7s back. Sutil, Kobayashi and Maldonado are now on track as well.

09:15 More from EDD STRAW who is loving watching the new-era F1 cars in action:

"Vettel is struggling to get the power down exiting the chicane. There was also a big rear end slide in the last corner by one of the Lotuses. It shows that even with a slow approach there is skill to the final corner."

09:15 More times on the board, with Magnussen still on top.

Grosjean is second on a 1m29.129s with Vettel behind on a 1m29.299s.

Ericsson has improved to a 1m32.067s.

09:16 Kobayashi takes to the track and gets on to the timing board in fifth, 10s off the pace on his first run. Understandably, mind.

Magnussen's back in, but Bianchi, Chilton and Kvyat get involved in the on-track action.

09:16 Raikkonen's on track and flying. He's purple in the first two sectors...

09:17 ...and Raikkonen completes the lap in 1m28.595s to go quickest so far.

09:18 Another EDD STRAW update, this time on Lotus:

"Grosjean [third, 0.6s behind Raikkonen] is having a hard time in the Lotus. Rear end grip seems lacking and unstable on the brakes. Maldonado looks much more comfortable."

09:21 A dozen names on the board, with Raikkonen still circulating after going top but not yet improving his 1m28.595s.

Behind the Finn is Magnussen, Maldonado, Vettel and Grosjean. Kvyat and Vergne are next up, with Sutil, Bianchi and Chilton completing the top 10.

Ericsson, who had a big lock up into Turn 1 but got away with it, and Caterham team-mate Kobayshi are last of those to have set a time, 4 and 6.2s off the pace respectively.

Just over 20 minutes into the session now.

09:21 Problems once again for Grosjean, who reports: "There's a problem with braking. The car doesn't go straight when I brake."

09:22 Aha, Alonso scuppers that round-up.

The Spaniard goes quickest of all on a 1m28.152s.

09:22 An explanation from EDD STRAW on Raikkonen's inability to improve: "Raikkonen just locked up and went wide off the track exiting the corner before the chicane."

09:23 Of those not to set a time yet, Gutierrez, Button and Rosberg are on track now. And Rosberg, unsurprisingly, goes quickest in the first sector.

09:23 Still no sign of Massa in this session.

09:23 Hamilton's steering wheel has been realigned and he rejoins the action.

09:24 Another purple sector in the middle part of the lap for Rosberg as team-mate Hamilton emerges.

09:24 Rosberg goes top. A 1m27.057s...that's miles quicker than anyone else. But still 1.1s slower than the quickest lap we've seen this weekend.

09:26 Kvyat manages to save a big moment at Turn 9, while team-mate Vergne goes wide at Turn 4.

09:26 He's 1.1s slower than Rosberg, but Alonso has impressed EDD STRAW.

"Alonso is struggling with rear tyres but was spectacular through the chicane. He had to make loads of adjustments but still able to carry respectable speed despite the back of the car being all over the place."

09:27 Hamilton's gone quickest of anyone in the first and second sectors of his first flying lap, but Rosberg's just shaded him in sector one...

09:27 Despite a little wobble at the start of the final sector, Hamilton goes quickest on a 1m26.756s.

But then...

09:27 Gutierrez is given some advice: "In low speed corners, you're using a lower gear than Adrian. Try using a higher gear."

09:28 ...Rosberg decides that just won't do. On his second flying lap, the German shades his team-mate by just over 0.2s.

A 1m26.534s, if you must know.

09:29 Hulkenberg's on a flying lap and when he finishes that we'll run through the order. It's the mid-point of the session and the Force India driver is one of five without a laptime to his name. Yet.

09:29 "Another big, flamboyant rear-end slide mid-chicane from Alonso as he heads into the pits," reports EDD STRAW. "Certainly enjoyed by the crowd."

09:30 Five AUTOSPORT Live points to anyone who sends in a picture of EDD STRAW doing a one-man Mexican wave in the Barcelona grandstands whenever Alonso goes past.

09:30 Back to the on-track stuff, and Hamilton's quickest of anyone so far in sector one. But the middle sector is not a personal improvement.

09:31 Button is worried ahead of qualifying: "Bit of a worry for this afternoon. The grip is already very low at the rear."

09:31 Vettel runs wide and takes a brief trip across the grass at Turn 4. No harm done.

09:32 The reigning champion is the only driver to have experienced the medium tyre compound this morning.

09:32 Back into the pits for both Mercedes. No greens or purples on the timing, as Massa leaves the pits for the first time, we'll do a little update for you. Our treat.

09:34 Half an hour in and the top six are:

1 Rosberg 1m26.534s; 2 Hamilton +0.222s; 3 Vettel +1.551s; 4 Alonso +1.618s; 5 Button +1.837s; 6 Raikkonen +2.061s.

09:34 Magnussen, Kvyat, Maldonado and Perez complete the top 10, though the gap from Rosberg to the Force India is a massive 2.5s.

Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Vergne, Gutierrez, Sutil, Bianchi, Chilton, Ericcson and Kobayashi are those outside of the top 10 with times to their name.

09:35 Bottas, Ricciardo and Massa look set to post their first times of the session.

09:36 Jan Magnussen watches on as his son Kevin runs very wide at Turn 9.

09:36 That Massa lap was worth the wait. He goes straight into third on a 1m28.022s.

09:37 Ricciardo's first effort (1m28.299s) put him sixth, but Bottas' was a leisurely 1m37.750s.

09:37 The Mercs are well away at the front, but this would suggest the battle behind could be very interesting.

09:38 BEN ANDERSON: "Williams is still having issues with rear grip on the FW36. That's apparent as Bottas oversteers his way to 10th on the timesheet with that last lap."

09:39 That second effort from Bottas yielded a 1m28.733s, by the way.

09:42 Kobayashi almost enters the gravel trap at Turn 4. He currently sits in 20th position.

09:43 As expected for FP3, it's all a bit quiet. That's with the obvious exception of drivers getting it a bit wrong.

But in terms of lap times, there's nothing serious going on. There are eight drivers on track at the moment, with just over 16 minutes remaining.

09:43 Sutil isn't very happy this morning: "Something is wrong with the car. It is completely different to yesterday. It's so unstable - a different car."

09:45 You can tell things have quietened down in terms of drivers pushing because of the lack of excited updates AUTOSPORT Live is receiving from EDD STRAW.

09:46 The number of cars on track dwindles from eight to six, but two of those are the Mercedes at the top of times.

Towards the tail of the field, the Marussia drivers re-establish themselves ahead of the Caterhams. Bianchi is 19th on 1m30.813s and Chilton just behind on a 1m31.002s.

09:47 Rosberg goes purple in the middle sector. This could be a new fastest lap.

09:48 It is a new fastest time! A 1m25.887s for Rosberg, which is slightly faster than he went yesterday.

It would have been much better but the first sector was pretty average. The other two were purple.

09:48 Hamilton...backs out of the lap and comes into the pits. He was looking rapid, but decided to pit after a bit of a slow moment through the chicane.

09:49 Chilton is in the gravel at Turn 5. Marshals run towards the stricken Marussia which is completely beached.

09:50 Only three drivers continue to circulate following Chilton's off. Rosberg, Vettel and Bianchi are the men in question with less than 10 minutes to go.

09:51 Chilton's car is winched away to safety and the yellow flags shouldn't be waving for much longer.

09:52 Magnussen and Maldonado decide this is a good time to get back on track.

09:54 Just over five minutes to go...and all hell has broken loose. Everyone bar Hamilton, Gutierrez and (obviously) Chilton is on track.

09:55 Magnussen goes third on a 1m27.806s while Button improves to fourth on a 1m28.006s. That's on the medium tyre, with the Williams of Massa that they have just overhauled setting its best time on the hard tyre.

It looks good for McLaren right now, but it's probably misleading.

09:56 Now Alonso jumps to third, 0.4s behind Hamilton but 1.3s behind Rosberg. That was a 1m27.188s for the Ferrari man.

09:56 Grosjean now gets ahead of the McLarens in fourth on a 1m27.682s - much better for Lotus, this.

09:57 Massa immediately demotes the Frenchman, though, with a 1m27.223s to go fourth.

09:57 Ricciardo splits the McLarens with a 1m27.808s to go seventh.

09:58 The gap from Alonso in third to Bottas in 11th is one second. This should be a good battle later on.

09:58 Maldonado goes straight on at Turn 1. Braking instability seems to be a common issue for Lotus this weekend.

09:59 That's it for Massa, who comes into the pits. The chequered flag is imminent, any late improvers?

10:00 Marussia reports a problem for Bianchi:

"Jules has a puncture & is forced to abort that run, so that's our session over before we're able to complete an option run."

10:01 Kobayashi experiences another off track moment at Turn 7, just as the chequered flag falls.

Rosberg remains atop of the timesheets, ahead of Mercedes team-mate Hamilton.

10:03 Here's how the top 10 stacked up in that third session:

1 Rosberg 1m25.887s
2 Hamilton +0.869s
3 Alonson +1.301s
4 Massa +1.336s
5 Grosjean +1.795s
6 Magnussen +1.919s
7 Ricciardo +1.921s
8 Button +2.119s
9 Maldonado +2.189s
10 Vettel +2.198s

10:05 Predictably, Vettel had the most productive session with 20 laps under his belt. The German keen to make up for yesterday's lack of running.

Rosberg10:10 Here's our comprehensive report from FP3, with Rosberg beating team-mate Hamilton to the top spot. Times and lap counts included.

button Rosberg leads Hamilton in final practice

10:14 Stick with us on AUTOSPORT Live as we keep you up to date with everything going on in Spain between now and qualifying.

10:27 Our F1 newshounds have done some digging on Renault's apparent loss of patience with late-paying teams.

You don't have to be Columbo to know Renault was hinting at Lotus and Caterham, but both outfits insist that they are up to date with their payments to the French car manufacturer.

button Lotus, Caterham not behind on payments

10:47 Hamilton looks odds-on favourite to claim his fourth pole position of the season today, but how is the 2008 world champion managing to cope with the pressure?

"You arrive and you switch on and you have got to leave and switch off into another zone," says Hamilton.

"This is a much more intense season so far and perfection is required every weekend to get that result, especially when you have a good team-mate who is also doing an exceptional job."

He also reckons he is a much more content this year.

"To come to race weekends and know that we have a car that we can compete with is a feeling that I don’t remember having for a long time.

"I'm enjoying every moment because you never know when it comes or goes again."

Alesi10:56 A number of drivers have struggled with low grip this weekend and we reckon they might want to listen to Jean Alesi's pearls of wisdom.

"The circuit is one of the most difficult in terms of tyres," says the Pirelli ambassador.

"It has abrasive asphalt, but also the high speed turns, which must be taken while accelerating, place the tyres under particular stress, especially those at the rear.

"An ideal set-up is fundamental in order to reduce wear - if they are too stressed, the driver ends up losing traction and lap times increase significantly."

11:07 Calamity trackside in Barcelona! EDD STRAW's attempts to send through his observations reached a telecommunications obstacle.

Fear not, because those messages have indeed filtered through. Somewhat belatedly mind, but they are still useful.

He noted mistakes from Raikkonen, Grosjean and Maldonado among a number of minor incidents at the final chicane and preceding corner, and also has an interesting point on the McLarens new-tyre pace:

"McLaren seems to come alive on fresh rubber - consistent with a car lacking in downforce. When there is the extra grip from the tyres it masks that disadvantage but once on rubber that has done a few laps the car returns to looking quite lazy."

11:14 Rear-tyre degradation was an issue for several drivers in FP3 but pacesetter and points leader Nico Rosberg is not too concerned. In fact, he's enjoying the 2014-spec Pirellis.

"Tyre degradation is still very similar to last year," he says. "It has been a factor in the last couple of races, even in China we saw it. But I think it’s a very good level where it’s at.

"A lot of the racing we saw in Bahrain was because of the tyres. Because the tyres degraded, people were on different strategies or even between Lewis and I, he used his tyres a lot more in the first stint so I got a shot at him at the end because I had better tyres left.

"I really think it is a great level where the tyres are. It’s good for the sport, for everything, for us drivers. It’s a very interesting, and very complex challenge. Which corner is it where you are damaging them most? Which corners is it where you can go flat out because you won’t damage them at all? It’s a very very difficult challenge for us as drivers."

11:32 This is Spain, so all eyes on Alonso - as has been the case at Barcelona every year since 2003 (his 2001 Minardi brilliance wasn't quite enough to stoke national fervour).

Despite Ferrari's struggles so far in 2014, Alonso has managed to put the car in the top five on the grid for every race so far except the Bahrain GP.

And he's been in the top five in Barcelona qualifying every year bar the Minardi season, 2004 and '09, ending up eighth on those last two occasions.

His victory here from fifth on the grid 12 months ago was the first time anyone had won this race from so far back on the grid.

11:38 Enormous amounts of motorsport this weekend, and you can keep up with Rally Argentina on AUTOSPORT today too.

It's the centrepiece of Race Centre Live (which also features commentary from GP2, GP3, WTCC and IndyCar today) and this weekend for the first time you can also get WRC Live radio commentary via AUTOSPORT too.

Argentina is shaping up to be a thriller as well. Jari-Matti Latvala ended Friday pulling away from team-mate Sebastien Ogier, but the champion is not in a generous mood... And the South American stages are very tough ones, as yesterday's shunts for Mikko Hirvonen, Mads Ostberg and Ott Tanak showed.

11:44 The only man in the current field who has more than one Barcelona pole to his name is Kimi Raikkonen, who topped the grid here in both 2005 and '08.

Alonso, Massa, Button, Maldonado and Rosberg are all one-time polesitters here.

Hamilton has yet to try the view from pole at a Spanish GP - though he was quickest in qualifying here in 2012 before being disqualified because his McLaren ran dry and couldn't supply a fuel sample. Vettel hasn't tried Barcelona pole yet either.

The man with the most Barcelona poles is Michael Schumacher, who has seven to his name, including a streak from 2000-04.

11:51 Just 10 minutes to go until qualifying and it's a safe bet to say it'll be a Mercedes fight at the front. Surely it's too much of a gap for Ferrari, Red Bull and the rest to overcome?

Nonetheless, expect a furious fight between Rosberg and Hamilton - and an epic scrap for best of the rest honours as well.

11:57 The fight to get out of Q1 should be fascinating. The Lotus drivers are clearly much more competitive here than at any stage this season and the Sauber isn't cut that battle - underway in a couple of minutes - will be interesting.

12:00 Here we go then. The green flags fly and Q1 is underway.

12:00 A lot of bums in seats and the first to head down the pitlane is the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez. Not a massive queue to follow him...

12:01 The Mexican's team-mate Adrian Sutil does leave his garage, though. He's on the track, so too are the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.

12:02 Maldonado's Lotus joins the fray as Gutierrez crosses the line to start his flying lap.

12:02 Grosjean makes it two Lotuses on track.

The F1 cars came out for qualifying two-by-two, hurrah...

12:03 Bottas and then Massa continue the biblical pattern at the start of qualifying as they bring out their Williams.

12:04 EDD STRAW: "Each drivers has three sets of each tyre compound to use in qualifying and the race. So far, all those on track except Bianchi are on the hards."

12:04 Crash for Maldonado's Lotus, lots of damage at the front.

12:04 Gutierrez's first effort is a 1m29.257s, but he's immediately pushed back by Hulkenberg on a 1m28.856s.

12:04 Early times on the board for Sutil (1m30.610s) and Perez (1m32.980s).

12:04 Maldonado's Lotus's right-front corner is badly deranged, so once again he will be out in Q1.

That's prompted a red flag.

12:05 Replays show Maldonado ran wide through the long, fast Turn 3, tried to keep his foot in but spun back across the track into the inside wall.

12:06 Just before Maldonado crashed, the screens were showing replays of both Saubers having wild moments. Not as wild as the Lotus, though.

12:07 A JCB-style vehicle has arrived at Turn 3 to collect Maldonado's mangled car.

12:08 Quite a few drivers tried to get out of the pits to set a lap before Maldonado shunted. Those with 'laps' to their names without a time include Grosjean, Rosberg, Massa, Bottas and Raikkonen.

12:08 Sometime F1 reserve turned sportscar racer Sam Bird's Twitter verdict on Maldonado's tribulations:

"O dear pastor !:("

12:09 The session will restart in a couple of minutes. The clean-up operation is almost finished.

12:10 Slightly wild recovery process going on here, with the Lotus swinging around a bit ominously on the end of the hook while two marshals try their best to restrain it.

12:11 There we go, back underway again. Ericsson, Rosberg, Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Perez, Ricciardo among the first runners out.

12:12 EDD STRAW: "As you would expect, it's only the backmarkers who are running on mediums at the moment. As they are very unlikely to escape Q1, no reason to save the faster tyre. Both Marussias and Ericsson's Caterham are out on the mediums."

12:12 Grosjean, Massa, Kvyat, Raikkonen and Bianchi are also out - it's a busy part of qualifying we're about to enter.

12:12 Toro Rosso is reminding Kvyat that if he needs to make some space to cars ahead, it's better to back off in low-speed corners, not the swift ones.

12:13 That note from Toro Rosso is as good a chance as any to put EDD STRAW's attempted text from earlier out in the open.

What he wanted to say during FP3 was that watching at the chicane "was a reminder of how much scope there is for impeding in qualifying".

Hopefully that's not going to be the case...

12:14 Right, loads of lap times being clocked now...but let's start with the most significant. Rosberg goes quickest on a 1m26.764s.

12:14 EDD STRAW: "Interestingly, both the Toro Rossos have gone out on mediums. Probably feel that it's the safe option, as there's potential for cars to get in each other's way if there is a late flurry of medium runners trying to avoid going out in Q1 in this session. Gutierrez has done the same."

12:14 That was on the hard tyre, Rosberg's effort. Behind him, Bottas has jumped to second on a 1m28.198s with Ricciardo 0.6s back in third.

12:15 Grosjean locks up and runs deep onto the run-off area at the hairpin at the end of the back straight.

12:15 Massa jumps to second but is 1.297s slower than Rosberg. Raikkonen slots into fourth - then that becomes fifth as Kvyat (on the soft tyre) goes third quickest.

12:15 Replays show Ricciardo having a big switch over the Turn 8 kerb too.

12:16 Hamilton had a moment on his first flying lap which limited him to the 21st (and slowest) time, a 1m39.784s. This lap is much quicker.

12:16 And Hamilton is having adventures too - replays show the Mercedes running onto the grass but escaping a crash.

12:16 Vettel leaps to second on a 1m27.958s but that becomes third when Hamilton completes his first representative effort and goes 0.474s slower than Rosberg.

Hamilton then has another moment at Turn 5!

12:17 BEN ANDERSON: "The Mercedes advantage is such that it appears the drivers can make big mistakes on their quick laps and STILL make it comfortably into the top two on the timesheet."

12:17 Everyone who can has set a time, and this is the top 10:

1 Rosberg
2 Hamilton
3 Vettel
4 Massa
5 Kvyat*
6 Bottas
7 Alonso
8 Gutierrez*
9 Vergne*
10 Raikkonen

*Used the softer tyre.

12:18 Ricciardo's verdict on the Red Bull's handling right now: "We still struggle for a bit of rear grip at the end of the lap. The front is a bit weak. Slightly better turn-in than the morning, the rest is unchanged."

12:18 Those in the drop zone, in reverse order, are:

Maldonado; Grosjean; Kobayashi; Ericsson; Chilton and Bianchi.

12:19 EDD STRAW: "Now both the Force Indias have to use mediums. Shows that car is struggling for single-lap pace even though it has looked pretty handy on the long runs."

12:19 Hamilton's next lap produced a new benchmark first sector but a slower time in sector two. He's now approaching the end of the lap.

12:19 Hamilton decides to come into the pits. Second to Rosberg will do for now.

12:20 Bianchi is closest to avoiding the drop and his Marussia is 0.3s behind Perez's Force India. That's on the medium tyre, mind, and when the midfield runners fit the same rubber they'll likely pull clear of the bottom five.

That said, Grosjean is 21st and that's not representative at all.

12:20 Sutil is adamant his Sauber is broken: "There's something wrong with the car. There's really something wrong with the car. It's all over the place."

12:21 Dropzonewatch. Perez, 16th, sets a personal best in the first sector on the medium tyre. He backs up with a personal best middle sector, too. Everyone around him is in the pits at the moment.

12:21 EDD STRAW: "Big difference in track temperature now compared to this morning. It's up at 44C here. That's going to make a difference to the balance of the car, which explains why there are plenty of drivers complaining over the radio."

12:22 Perez jumps to 12th on a 1m28.529s. Sutil drops to 16th - he, Magnussen and Ricciardo (the next up from the drop zone) are all out of the pits.

12:22 Hamilton is not happy: "I'm not quite sure how, but we've made the car worse. It's a nightmare to drive."

12:22 Bianchi and Chilton emerge - can the Marussias spring a surprise?

Grosjean's about to drop them down further though...he does. He goes 12th fastest, and that drops Sutil to 17th.

12:23 EDD STRAW: "McLaren clearly nervous. Both Button and Magnussen now out on the mediums. So that's everyone apart from Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel and Ricciardo who have opted to bolt on the mediums."

12:23 Magnussen is 16th and on a personal best lap - although the first sector isn't stunning, given he's on the medium.

12:24 Force India tells Perez that Gutierrez is a tenth and a half faster and "we'll need to beat him." The two Mexicans are 10th and 15th right now.

12:24 Magnussen crosses the line and goes 11th, 1.6s off the quickest and drops Button to 16th. Sutil's on a personal best just below Button in 17th.

12:24 Big lock-up for Raikkonen into Turn 1 as he dodges a Toro Rosso coming out of the pits.

12:25 Bianchi, Chilton and Kobayashi are all green so far at the bottom of the timing screens - though none of them will worry the top 16 places.

12:25 Sutil improves, just barely, to a 1m28.563s. That puts him 16th though - although Button is on a flying lap and it's a personal best. Can he avoid the drop?

12:26 Button can - he vaults up to ninth quickest on a 1m28.279s. That's the flag - and Sutil's the 'big name' to miss out on Q2 as the chequered flag signals the end of the running.

12:26 So, to confirm the dropzone:

17 Sutil
18 Chilton
19 Bianchi
20 Ericsson
21 Kobayashi
22 Maldonado

12:26 Sutil's feedback: "It was a bit better in the first sector but a disaster in the last sector."

12:27 That was a good late lap from Chilton to leapfrog Bianchi in the Marussia battle. Grosjean squeaks through in 16th - less than a tenth quicker than Sutil who missed out!

12:29 EDD STRAW: "So, Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo all got through that session without touching their allocation of three sets of medium-compound Pirellis. That will help them later on in qualifying."

12:30 Maldonado made it all the way back to the Lotus hospitality area with his helmet still on. That suggests unhappiness.

12:30 BEN ANDERSON: "Really close in the pack behind Mercedes in Q1. Six tenths covering Vettel (third) to Sutil (17th), although it's worth noting neither Red Bull used a set of medium tyres."

12:30 This was the top 16 in Q1:

1 Rosberg
2 Hamilton
3 Vettel
4 Ricciardo
5 Massa*
6 Kvyat*
7 Hulkenberg*
8 Vergne*
9 Bottas*
10 Button*
11 Raikkonen*
12 Alonso
13 Gutierrez*
14 Magnussen*
15 Perez*
16 Grosjean*

*Used the softer medium-compound tyre

12:31 McLaren tells Magnussen that his sector three is strong but he needs to find another tenth in each of the other sectors to match Button.

12:31 Button asks McLaren if he would've been eliminated if he hadn't done that last run. The team confirms he would. "Good job!" Button replies.

12:32 EDD STRAW: "Toro Rosso ended up in sixth and eighth in Q1, which looks good on paper but it came at a cost. Both Vergne and Kvyat have used two sets of the medium Pirellis so that means that if either gets to Q3, they won't have a fresh set left over."

12:32 Back out then for Q2. Who will get knocked out here?

12:33 Hulkenberg is the first to blink and heads out in his Force India. He'll hope a set-up tweak will give him more confidence and be the catalyst for another Q3 berth.

Perez joins his team-mate on track.

12:35 As Hulkenberg prepares to clock the first time of Q2, the Williams and Raikkonen's Ferrari emerge.

12:36 EDD STRAW: "Both Williams drivers have gone out on the same sets of mediums they used in Q1, so if they aren't quick enough for the top 10 on first run times there will be a good step to come. So don't expect fireworks on these first fliers."

12:36 It's a 1m27.863s for Hulkenberg.

12:37 Perez comes through 0.139s slower than his team-mate as the medium-tyre-shod Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg appear. Vettel, Kvyat, Button, Alonso, Gutierrez, Magnussen and Grosjean are also out.

Button's on the hard tyre.

12:38 Ricciardo's also on track which means Vergne (yet to appear) and Hulkenberg are the only Q2 runners in the garage.

12:39 Purple and green everywhere.

Bottas goes quickest briefly on a 1m27.859s, before being knocked back by team-mate Massa on a 1m27.733s.

Raikkonen then goes fastest with a time of 1m27.454s.

12:39 Those times are about to be obliterated by the Mercs...

12:39 Rosberg duly goes fastest by some margin - it's a 1m26.088s. What about Hamilton?

12:40 Hamilton can't beat his team-mate, but he near enough matches him - just 0.122s back in second.

12:40 Hulkenberg remains a bit unimpressed with his Force India, but thinks the set-up now will do: "It's the best compromise. I don't really want to touch it, to be honest."

12:40 Alonso pops up into fourth, 0.15s slower than Raikkonen in third.

Vettel then jumps in front of both Ferraris on a 1m27.052s. That's just under a second slower than Rosberg.

12:41 Ricciardo pushes his team-mate back to fourth with the third-fastest time, a 1m26.613s - only half a second slower than Rosberg.

12:41 Hamilton's engineer tells him where he is losing time to Rosberg. Hamilton remains silent in response.

12:42 Those occupying the dreaded P11-P16 slots are:

11 Perez
12 Button*
13 Gutierrez
14 Kvyat
15 Magnussen
16 Vergne

*Used the harder-compound tyre.

12:43 The top 10 is:

1 Rosberg
2 Hamilton
3 Ricciardo
4 Vettel
5 Raikkonen
6 Grosjean
7 Alonso
8 Massa
9 Bottas
10 Hulkenberg

12:43 EDD STRAW: "Looks like Magnussen has some problems. He's not been out and is not in the car right now."

12:43 Grosjean tells Lotus that his car "completely pulled to the left" at Turn 10 and that it was "a very strange thing."

12:43 Magnussen, in 15th as you'll just have read, hops out of his car. It looks like, with three and a half minutes to go, he's out of the session - as is Ricciardo, but that's through choice with the Australian putting in a very good first lap.

12:44 Hulkenberg's already back out and Massa, now on a new set of medium tyres for the first time, joins him.

12:44 EDD STRAW: "Stage is very well set for lots of impeding complaints. Only two cars on track now, so we're going to see a very busy track, as you'd expect, in the last minute or two. Massa and Hulkenberg have decided to go a little early for their final runs, which might well help them get a clear lap."

12:45 Gutierrez, Bottas...and everyone else (sort of) flee from their garages. This is about to get busy.

12:45 BEN ANDERSON: "Apparent technical problems for Magnussen and Vergne have ruined Q2 for them. Shows the teams are still liable to suffer reliability issues with these new cars."

12:46 Only Rosberg (predictable), Hamilton (predictable), Ricciardo (we heard) and Vettel (almost certainly safe) are in the pits of the frontrunners.

Magnussen and Vergne aren't emerging.

12:46 Hulkenberg jumps to eighth with that lap, a 1m27.685s - but that becomes ninth as Massa vaults to fourth fastest, 0.9s slower than Rosberg's benchmark.

12:47 Everyone is on fresh mediums at the moment, so it's a straight fight to make the cut.

12:48 Bottas improves on a 1m27.563s and that puts him eighth - then Grosjean, Raikkonen and Button all improve and jump into the top 10.

12:48 Alonso doesn't improve - he's under pressure!

12:48 Kvyat, 13th, can't demote Alonso (10th) and the Russian's out in Q2.

12:49 Ferrari and Alonso will breathe a sight of relief...that's it for Q2 and the Spaniard sneaks through...just.

12:49 BEN ANDERSON: "Alonso only just squeezing through to Q3 there, 0.083s quicker than Hulkenberg's Force India. Would have been a disaster for the crowd if their home hero had been bumped."

12:50 Those out of Q2:

11 Hulkenberg
12 Perez
13 Kvyat
14 Gutierrez
15 Magnussen
16 Vergne

12:51 And the top 10:

1 Rosberg
2 Hamilton
3 Ricciardo
4 Massa
5 Vettel
6 Grosjean
7 Raikkonen
8 Bottas
9 Button
10 Alonso

12:52 So, in a nutshell: Mercedes dominant, Rosberg happy, Hamilton unhappy. A mega lap from Ricciardo, Grosjean and Button into Q3 with good efforts, and Alonso/Ferrari relieved.

Roll on Q3. An epic pole battle, a tight fight thereafter, awaits.

12:54 A curious Force India asks Perez how Button got past him on the out-lap. After the Mexican explains the Briton's move, and how it left him short on tyre temperature for his flying lap, he's told "well we have to learn from it mate."

12:55 Q3 is underway. Twelve minutes of flat-out one-lap wonders (we hope) begin.

12:56 We have a car on track - it's Rosberg's Mercedes. A statement of intent from the man who has topped every session or segment so far today.

12:57 BEN ANDERSON: "Looks as though Rosberg has the edge going into the pole shootout, after the late stages of practice were derailed for Hamilton. Don't rule out the prospect of him pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat though..."

12:57 Hamilton joins his team-mate on track, and Bottas is out too. Massa gets in on the action, as does Alonso. They are all on the medium tyre.

12:58 Magnussen says it was an issue with the Mercedes power unit that sidelined his McLaren in Q2, but isn't sure exactly what the problem was yet.

"It's a shame as I think the team has made an improvement on the car and it would have been nice to show the improvement. It didn't happen so we'll have to try to do something tomorrow.

"[The problem] was there in Q1 as well so it's a shame but that's how it is."

12:58 Everyone bar Grosjean and Raikkonen on track, explained by the point about tyres.

12:59 Vettel grinds to a halt on track, reporting that he has no drive.

12:59 The session gets red-flagged.

13:00 Rosberg and Hamilton were pushing on that lap and that partially negates one of their saved, fresh sets of medium tyres.

13:00 It looked like everyone other than Button, Grosjean and Raikkonen were on fresh tyres there - though not everyone had started a flying lap.

13:01 Vettel is now on a moped heading back to the pits. He believes that was a transmission problem.

13:01 As Vettel does that, the recovery operation continues. His Red Bull is being lifted away.

13:03 Back underway with just over seven minutes remaining. This'll be a hectic end now.

13:04 Rosberg and Hamilton waste no time and are back out immediately, as are Ricciardo and Alonso.

13:05 Vettel radios Red Bull and asks the team to pass on his apologies to Hamilton for delaying him as his car slowed, saying he was distracted by the alerts on the dashboard.

13:05 It's an unspectacular first sector for both Mercedes drivers.

13:06 Hamilton is fractionally up on Rosberg on this lap, with Alonso and Ricciardo not a million miles away through sector one. They drop back in the middle sector, though.

13:06 Rosberg goes quickest on a 1m26.288s, but Hamilton is even faster and beats his team-mate's effort by 0.273s to take provisional pole.

13:07 Ricciardo draws first blood in the battle for third with a faster time than Alonso. The Red Bull driver, with slightly fresher tyres, is 0.314s slower than Hamilton and so only a fraction behind Rosberg.

Alonso is a bit further back, 1.2s from Hamilton.

13:08 Raikkonen's on track as the Mercs come in to take on a new set of medium tyres. Three minutes to go. All hands on deck!

13:09 Ricciardo's in, then out, and Grosjean's also out on track. Alonso joins them by heading back out on a new set of mediums.

13:09 We have nine drivers (no Vettel of course) on track fitted with a new set of medium tyres. Let battle commence.

13:10 Hamilton is fastest of anyone in the first sector, 0.2s quicker than Rosberg!

Raikkonen's the first to improve and goes fourth on a 1m27.104s.

13:11 It's another purple sector from Hamilton. He's set for pole here...

13:11 Rosberg comes through first on a 1m25.400s...

13:12 Hamilton goes quicker! It's a 1m25.232s.

13:12 Ricciardo jumps into third ahead of Bottas.

13:12 Grosjean is fifth ahead of Raikkonen (just).

13:12 Button finishes his lap and is eighth, 2.1s off of pole. Massa only manages ninth.

13:13 So, chequered flag, no more running. All that means:


13:13 Top 10:

1 Hamilton
2 Rosberg +0.168s
3 Ricciardo
4 Bottas
5 Grosjean
6 Raikkonen
7 Alonso
8 Button
9 Massa
10 Vettel

13:14 Rosberg looked set for pole position heading into Q3 but yet again Hamilton nails it when it counts.

13:17 Behind the Mercedes front row that is a fine effort from Ricciardo - strong all morning - and Bottas to occupy the second row.

Both are seeking a maiden podium in Formula 1 (one that counts, anyway) and will fancy their chances if they can get away well tomorrow.

13:19 Grosjean nets fifth in what was comfortably the best qualifying session of the year for Lotus. We'll ignore the other one that was stuffed into the wall in Q1...

Raikkonen will line up alongside his former team-mate on row three, but at least gets one over on Alonso - this'll be the second time he'll start ahead of the Spaniard in their five races together as Ferrari team-mates.

13:19 That's actually just the third time since the 2003 Spanish Grand Prix that Alonso has failed to qualifying in the top five.

He was eighth in 2004 and 2009, so seventh here isn't his worst result. But there's little for the partisan home crowd to shout about.

13:22 Missed qualifying? How frustrating! Want to check a small detail? No worries!

Whatever your need to relive qualifying we've got you covered with EDD STRAW's full report:

Lewis Hamilton denies Nico Rosberg pole for the Spanish Grand Prix

13:23 Intriguing instruction to Daniel Ricciardo over Red Bull team radio at the end of the session: "Remember what Charlie said about the photo".

Has the Aussie not been behaving well in the post-qualifying celebration pics...?

13:24 So this is how tomorrow's grid will shape up:

1 Lewis Hamilton
2 Nico Rosberg
3 Daniel Ricciardo
4 Valtteri Bottas
5 Romain Grosjean
6 Kimi Raikkonen
7 Fernando Alonso
8 Jenson Button
9 Felipe Massa
10 Sebastian Vettel
11 Nico Hulkenberg
12 Sergio Perez
13 Daniil Kvyat
14 Esteban Gutierrez
15 Kevin Magnussen
16 Adrian Sutil
17 Max Chilton
18 Jules Bianchi
19 Marcus Ericsson
20 Kamui Kobayashi
21 Pastor Maldonado
22 Jean-Eric Vergne

13:27 That's a 34th career pole position for Lewis Hamilton - meaning he now stands alone in fourth on the all-time list, having previously shared the same number as Jim Clark and Alain Prost.

Now he's 11 behind Sebastian Vettel, but some way off Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna. Good company indeed.

Nico Rosberg Spanish Grand Prix13:35 A very unhappy Rosberg, speaking immediately after qualifying, has bemoaned finishing second to team-mate Hamilton again.

"Very disappointed," he says. "I don’t particularly enjoy coming second to Lewis, there we go. So, I am of course disappointed but in the end it was a good lap, Lewis did a better job – that is the way it is."

Cheer up, Nico. It's only qualifying. Ah, he knows that...

"There is still all to play for tomorrow, still it is only a little bit away from optimum, all it takes is a good start and I am in the lead tomorrow, so it is still all to play for."

13:36 That said, Rosberg is delighted with the progress Mercedes has made over its rivals since China - though he stops short of saying they are in the clear.

"I wouldn't say that, but it looks like we have managed to keep gap consistent," he said. "That is an achievement already, a great job from the team - our ambition is to make the gap bigger, not try to be shaky.

"We want to grow the gap [and have] made it consistent. That is fantastic to see."

Spanish Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg Daniel Ricciardo13:42 While Rosberg wasn't happy to be beaten by Hamilton, the poleman is delighted to end the day quickest after struggling with his car's balance.

He described it as "on the edge", but is more confident for the race - and has said they have to be wary of the man on the right of this picture, too.

"Yesterday I had such a great day and was really happy with my car...but today the car was a real handful, lots of oversteer and inconsistent corner to corner. I was generally struggling, that is why Q1 was half a second off Nico. But I managed to do it by the skin of my teeth.

"I am not worried for tomorrow, [my] concern [was] for today with balance being tricky. My long run yesterday was good but the track went away from us, from everyone, yesterday. We can adjust some things on the settings and the front wings, hopefully I will get that right for the race."

13:50 The GP2 Series main race is about to get underway at the Circuit de Catalunya. You can follow it as it happens on AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live.

13:55 JONATHAN NOBLE is down at Ferrari, and reports that Alonso is in realistic mood after qualifying seventh.

The home hero says the biggest frustration is the massive 1.908s deficit to Mercedes, not his row-four spot.

13:59 EDD STRAW has been hearing from the Marussia boys, and found Max Chilton sounding very content with life.

The young Brit said he has taken a different approach to this weekend, trying to build up his pace and work within the limitations out of the car.

His reward was a good qualifying lap that beat team-mate Jules Bianchi.

14:00 Bottas qualified an impressive fourth for Williams and said it "feels really nice."

Overtaking has historically been quite difficult at Barcelona and the Finn remains somewhat optimistic that he will get a decent result in tomorrow's race.

"It's always good to qualify well and I think it's going to be close tomorrow.

"Of course Mercedes is unbeatable, Red Bull is really quick, but after that, it should be a good race and we should get some good points."

14:01 Back at Marussia, the outqualified Bianchi reckons he spoiled his best lap by braking too late for Turn 10.

14:07 Raikkonen is now talking to the press, and JONATHAN NOBLE says the Finn remains unhappy, still struggling to get the best out of the car.

14:20 Button is relatively happy with his performance in qualifying after struggling for grip.

"It was very low grip out there today," said the 2009 world champion.

"I had a very unexpected balance in Q1, so we had to work through qualifying to try and find something that works and we almost got there.

"There is still too much understeer in the car, but eighth isn't too bad."

He reckons he has an ace up his sleeves for the race in the form a brand new set of the medium compound tyre.

"We've saved a set of options, which is quite nice. I don't think anybody else has up front, so it's quite important that we're P8 and have saved a set of tyres."

14:27 EDD STRAW has been getting Pastor Maldonado's explanation of his Q1 crash.

The Venezuelan said it was an unexpected moment mid-corner that put him wide on the exit, and reckoned it might have been down to tyre pressures or temperatures not being where he wanted.

He's disappointed but says it's easier to be upbeat this time as the car's shown it's quick enough to be in the top six, which is where his team-mate Grosjean starts.

14:33 Jean-Eric Vergne didn't do a lap in Q2 and starts from 16th. He's confirmed that this was always part of the plan once he had picked up a 10-place grid penalty yesterday following that practice two wheel loss.

"It was part of the strategy not to run in Q2, save new tyres and prepare for an aggressive race tomorrow. I think it was a sensible decision to take.

"It's true that this is not the best track for overtaking but I will do my best to pass the cars in front of me from the left, from the right, from everywhere, taking every opportunity to gain positions."

14:41 Vergne adds: "It wasn't possible to be P1 and start P11, so it was better this way."

14:42 BEN ANDERSON has been hearing from Sebastian Vettel, who reveals that initially he was going to have a crack at a Q3 lap with a gear missing, before his Red Bull failed completely.

"I left the pits in Q3 and selected first gear to leave then went up to second and I lost drive in second gear.

"I went to third and had third, so decided to keep on going without second gear.

"By Turn 1 I got stuck in fifth gear and couldn't go up nor down so lost drive and had to stop."

14:43 Vettel does not expect a gearbox-change penalty as he says the gearbox itself is not damaged.

14:46 Daniil Kvyat is a very disappointed man, reports EDD STRAW. The Russian starts 13th and says he didn't get the best out of the Toro Rosso.

14:50 Felipe Massa has held his hands up over his qualifying result. The Brazilian says the reason he's only ninth on the grid when Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas is fourth is because he lost the rear end under braking at Turn 10.

15:22 EDD STRAW is currently at Mercedes' press briefing, hearing from a very relaxed and contented Lewis Hamilton.

He admits it was a pole he thought he might not get, but he certainly enjoyed the lap that earned it, including a few oversteer moments.

16:33 So that's it for us here. Thanks for joining us for our live coverage on qualifying day at Barcelona.

We'll be kicking off our live coverage of the race tomorrow at 11.30am UK time (BST). Until then, why not open a new window for AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live and follow the resumption of Rally Argentina (6.45pm BST) and also IndyCar's Indianapolis Road Course race (8.45 BST)?

Thanks again for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow to find out if anyone can stop the Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes juggernaut.

Lewis Hamilton Spanish Grand Prix

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Friday 09 May Start GMT
 Friday - Practice 07:30
Saturday 10 May
 Saturday - Qualifying 08:30
Sunday 11 May
 Sunday - Spanish GP 10:30