Verstappen Takes Pole at Spanish GP Ahead of Sainz; Alonso 9th

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, center who clocked the fastest time, poses with Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz of Spain, right, 2nd fastest and McLaren driver Lando Norris of Britain, 3rd fastest after the Formula One qualifying session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, just outside of Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, June 3, 2023. (AP)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, center who clocked the fastest time, poses with Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz of Spain, right, 2nd fastest and McLaren driver Lando Norris of Britain, 3rd fastest after the Formula One qualifying session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, just outside of Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, June 3, 2023. (AP)
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Verstappen Takes Pole at Spanish GP Ahead of Sainz; Alonso 9th

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, center who clocked the fastest time, poses with Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz of Spain, right, 2nd fastest and McLaren driver Lando Norris of Britain, 3rd fastest after the Formula One qualifying session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, just outside of Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, June 3, 2023. (AP)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, center who clocked the fastest time, poses with Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz of Spain, right, 2nd fastest and McLaren driver Lando Norris of Britain, 3rd fastest after the Formula One qualifying session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, just outside of Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, June 3, 2023. (AP)

Max Verstappen breezed his way to pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday while his top rivals struggled on the damp track and will start well behind the two-time defending champion.

Verstappen didn’t even need to use all of his time in qualifying after he set an untouchable flying lap. Red Bull brought him back to the garage while his rivals fought for the rest of the spots.

He has four pole positions on the season and 24 in his career. He is also poised for another race win given the history of pole-sitters winning 23 of 32 races at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Red Bull teammate — and Verstappen’s top challenger — Sergio Pérez will start Sunday’s race from 11th place on the grid. Last weekend, Pérez crashed in qualifying for Monaco and had to start from the back of the grid.

Verstappen and Pérez have swept all six races this season. Verstappen leads Pérez by 39 points.

Fernando Alonso, third in the standings at 51 points behind Verstappen, could do no better than ninth. So it looks like his legions of Spanish fans may have to keep waiting for him to end his decade-long drought in grands prix.

Carlos Sainz of Ferrari gave the home crowd something to cheer about though by producing the second-best time right ahead of a surprising Lando Norris in third in his McLaren.

“The car was really good today,” Verstappen said. “The conditions were a little tricky early on with the weather, but it was a really enjoyable drive. I have a lot of great memories here and hopefully we can have another one tomorrow.”

Verstappen showed in 2016 that he would one day become a force in F1 when he became the youngest race winner ever at age 18 in his debut for Red Bull at the Spanish GP. The Dutchman also won here last year.

Charles Leclerc took pole last year but this time he will start from 19th after his Ferrari was perplexingly slow.

Rain during the third practice earlier Saturday left some wet patches that caused several cars to spin into the gravel early in qualifying.

Alonso's Aston Martin took some damage to the bottom after running through the gravel. Pérez also bounced off course into the gravel.

George Russell also had trouble and will start 12th right behind Pérez after complaining that his Mercedes was bouncing and he “had no confidence with tires.” He and teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was fifth, even touched at one point while trying to launch flying laps, causing bits of one of their cars to fly off.



UEFA Promises More Clarity for Fans and Players on Refereeing Decisions at Euro 2024

 France's Antoine Griezmann, right, and France's William Saliba head the balls during a training session in Paderborn, Germany, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP)
France's Antoine Griezmann, right, and France's William Saliba head the balls during a training session in Paderborn, Germany, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP)
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UEFA Promises More Clarity for Fans and Players on Refereeing Decisions at Euro 2024

 France's Antoine Griezmann, right, and France's William Saliba head the balls during a training session in Paderborn, Germany, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP)
France's Antoine Griezmann, right, and France's William Saliba head the balls during a training session in Paderborn, Germany, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP)

Clarity for players and spectators and zero tolerance for serious foul play and dissent — that’s what referees have been tasked with at the European Championship.

UEFA had already announced last month that it would do more to explain decisions to teams, requiring in turn that only captains can approach the referees to discuss them.

And that was emphasized on Wednesday at a media briefing on refereeing guidelines for Euro 2024 that took place at Munich’s Allianz Stadium, two days before host nation Germany kicks off the tournament in the same venue against Scotland.

"Only the captain will approach the referee, the other players they have to think about (playing). That’s it, finish," UEFA managing director for refereeing Roberto Rosetti said.

UEFA has promised that the referees will attempt to give the captains an explanation of key incidents during the match, including what was discussed with VAR.

Any teammate ignoring his captain’s role and approaching the referee showing any sign of disrespect or dissent will receive a yellow card.

Fans, meanwhile, will also get a better understanding of VAR decisions as they will be broadcast on the giant screens in stadiums.

"This is something new. I think it’s very, very, very interesting," Rosetti said. "So we want to give, after the opinion of VAR, a technical explanation for the public. In live, simultaneously, the UEFA expert will prepare the explanation, a technical explanation about what happened in the specific situation.

"For example, on-field review, the referee awards a penalty for handball...technical explanation: Germany number nine touch the ball with his left arm which was in an unnatural position above the shoulder and making his body bigger."

Rosetti has met with all the teams participating at Euro 2024 and their coaches to present the refereeing guidelines for the tournament, including hammering home that any dangerous tackles will be severely punished.

"One of the most important priority in refereeing guidelines is to protect the players," Rosetti said. "To protect the image of the game, but in particular to protect the safety of the main actors of the games.

"We showed them a couple of clips that we are asking to the referees to be very strong in these kind of situations," he added. "So for such situations we asked to the referees to be zero tolerant because this is something that we cannot accept."