Sir Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after edging out both the Red Bull’s of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen by eight-hundredths of a second. The seven times champion took his ninety-ninth pole position despite not improving on his final lap.
Throughout the weekend Hamilton has not managed to set the fastest time, while; Perez has proved competitive against his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. Following the race in Sakhir, many had predicted a close fight between Red Bull and Mercedes and Imola proved to underline how close the battle is this season.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas did manage to spilt the Red Bulls, however, his time was deleted for exceeding track limits which left him seventh. Bottas being top in all three practice sessions and fastest in qualifying five months ago made mistakes on all his laps as he challenged for pole.
Both Mercedes and Verstappen qualified on the medium tyres after successfully getting through Q2 on the yellow-walled rubber, which offers significantly better durability compared to the softs.
The test for Red Bull tomorrow is going to be to see whether the Verstappen/Perez line up allows them to mount a challenge to Mercedes. They made a decision to spilt strategy between Perez and Verstappen with the two Red Bull drivers on opposing tyre strategies.
Hamilton said, “I definitely didn’t expect us to be ahead of two Red Bulls. They have been so quick this weekend. They had 0.6secs on us at some times. But the car was already feeling a lot better from this weekend. Mad respect for the hard work from the team to narrow down.”
Verstappen added, “I just didn’t have a good lap. I mean, I went off in Turn 3 with two wheels. I know that Honda makes good lawnmowers but I don’t think this is suited for that. At least I tried.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc showed a step forward for the team at the circuit named after their founder and his son, going fourth fastest at the high-speed Imola circuit. Leclerc will have a tough task of keeping midfield rivals at bay without the assistance of a team-mate, with McLaren’s Norris a particular threat.
That put him ahead of Norris, who proved to be quick throughout the session and had the pace to challenge for the front row. But with both McLaren’s starting in the top ten that could be a headache for Leclerc and Gasly in an incredibly close midfield battle.
However, the Englishman had that lap deleted for exceeding track limits allowing Pierre Gasly to take fifth and teammate Daniel Ricciardo sixth. Norris was deemed to have gone to wide on his fast lap at Piratella and had his lap deleted.
But it did keep him ahead of Bottas, his error also leading to his time deleted. For Norris that seemed like a big statement to his more experienced teammate, as well as underlining that McLaren have a strong midfield car.
Behind Bottas the Alpine of Esteban Ocon out-qualified the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, both drivers beating their multiple world champions teammates Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, both knocked out in Q2. Carlos Sainz was another casualty the Spaniard starting eleventh ahead of George Russell.
The Williams drivers had a brilliant session with Nicolas Latifi also getting through to Q2, but Russell still managing to never be out qualified by a Williams teammate over the last two years. The Englishman’s improvement just before the red flag was enough to see both cars through to Q2 for the first time since Budapest last July.
Yuki Tsunoda will start from the back of the grid, the Alpha Tauri driver spun on his first lap at Variante Alta which sent him into the wall bringing out the red flag. With the rear wing and both rear wheels smashed, and debris littering the run-off area, the session was quickly red-flagged, followed by a near 10-minute delay as the incident was cleared up.
Along with Tsunoda, both Alfa Romeo’s and Haas’s were knocked out in Q1, with Kimi Raikkonen out-qualifying teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, ahead of the two Haas’s of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.