Formula One has returned to Imola for the first time since 2006. Now racing as the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, qualifying around the Italian track went down to the wire. Valtteri Bottas in the final moments of qualifying pipped Lewis Hamilton to take pole position for Mercedes. Max Verstappen will start from third for Red Bull with Pierre Gasly alongside from fourth in the AlphaTauri.
After a single elongated practice session earlier during the day for a two day weekend, Qualifying 1 went underway. While most drivers kept within the track limits, some, unfortunately, found it difficult. Hamilton topped the session, but Bottas and Alex Albon in the Red Bull struggled to stay within track limits. But thankfully made it through to Q2 eventually.
Kimi Raikkonen, the only driver on the grid to have driven a Grand Prix at Imola before also found it difficult. His final lap being deleted left the Finn in the Alfa Romeo to be eliminated after Q1. Raikkonen will start from 18th, behind the two Haas cars of Romain Grosjean in 16th and Kevin Magnussen in 17th. The other two drivers who did not make it through to Q2 were Nicolas Latifi in the Williams who will start from 19th as well as Antonio Giovinazzi in the second Alfa Romeo who will start from the back of the grid in 20th.
Q2 started as a horror story for Red Bull. Verstappen on his out-lap was complaining of loss of power. While Albon had a spin on his hot lap. within the 15 min session, Red Bull mechanics managed to take the Honda engine apart. They changed a spark plug which caused the problem and got Verstappen out with ample time for a hot lap with confidence on a medium tyre. However, Serio Perez failed to make it through to Q3 and will start from 11th for Racing Point. Esteban Ocon will start alongside for Renault in 12th ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel in 13th, George Russel in 14th for Williams. Lance Stroll’s time was deleted for exceeding track limits and will start from 15th for Racing Point.
On their first run, Hamilton had a less than perfect lap. But Bottas being faster through the first two sectors was just a whisker slower to cross the line. Hamilton was on provisional pole. On their second run, Hamilton improved on his time. But Bottas pulls done out of the bag in the last moment to beat Hamilton to take the 15th pole position of his career. Hamilton was second fastest with Verstappen overcoming gremlins to claim the third spot on the grid for the race on Sunday.
Alongside him, Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri (Junior Red Bull team) based a few miles from the track will start from fourth on the grid. Behind him on the third row, Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault will start from fifth and Alex Albon will start from sixth. Charles Leclerc, Daniil Kvyat, and the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz will start in that order on the grid from seventh to 10th respectively.
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