Sebastian Vettel admits he was surprised to see Lewis Hamilton alongside him as he returned to the track following his second pit-stop as he ultimately lost out to his title rival in the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver's 55th career win was hard-fought and tense, with Ferrari's Vettel seizing the lead from Hamilton at the start and in the hunt all the way as the tire strategies played out.
Vettel's mistake meant he had to settle for second, just 0.051s behind Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes, having been up on the Brit's time for most of his own lap.
The Red Bull cars once again qualified in fifth and sixth with last year's Spanish Grand Prix victor Max Verstappen ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
"I don't know, I've been coming here a long time but this was a tricky one for me". "This is what the sport needs to have at every single race, and this is why I race, and what got me into racing in the beginning".
After that poor showing in Russia, Hamilton felt that the team has taken a strong step forward and said his auto is in a much better shape than in the last race. Vettel tops the Drivers standings with 83 points, followed by Hamilton, who trials the German by 13 points. "I just really have to congratulate and thank my team".
However, the man in seventh stole the headlines as Alonso produced a stunning performance at his home race one day after a first-lap disaster in Friday practice.
"A busy morning and big thanks to the team as we had to change the engine last minute and the vehicle was just about finished".
Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen made it an all-Finnish second row, even though Raikkonen set the fastest first sector of all.
The four times world champion hesitated to obey the instruction, however.
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"I only feel sorry for Bottas whose engine blew up". "We had an issue this morning".
On a bump with Vettel at turn one, he added: "I felt like I ran out of road, but was alongside". Would have been nice to get them the pole but hopefully we can do well tomorrow. "Obviously, the main focus is on this year, that's not a secret and it's not a line that I drop, it's a fact for all of us inside the team". His Q2 lap hinted at what was possible and Alonso then posted a 1m21.048s that was enough to beat Sergio Perez by just 0.022s, with Felipe Massa and Esteban Ocon rounding out the top 10.
Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso), Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Romain Grosjean (Haas) rounded out the points.