Bottas pips Hamilton to pole in another Mercedes-dominated qualifying

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Emilia Romagna, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrariit

Valtteri Bottas came out on top of a close fight, beating his teammate Lewis Hamilton to the pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ended up third, over half a second behind the dominant Mercedes cars.

Track limits - Q1

The majority of the field was in a rush to hit the track when the action started in the qualifying session as the narrow track was always going to highlight traffic issues.

Ricciardo was the last to set a timed lap and he was in a rush to get himself through into the next qualifying segment. It was all about track limits for Albon and Bottas with both drivers losing important lap times for exceeding the boundaries at Turn 9, named Piratella.

Kimi Räikkönen also fell victim of the track limits. The Finn posted a time that was good enough for a place in Q2, but he exceeded the track limits at the Piratella corner and as a result he had his best lap time deleted. The Finn, who has just put his name on the dotted line in his new contract with Alfa Romeo Racing, will therefore start tomorrow’s race from P18.

Bottas topped the session with a late push lap while Albon and Ricciardo also succeeded to earn a place in Q2 with their very last hot lap.

For Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, a single run was enough to get themselves through into the next session, but the reigning champion decided to head out for a second run to conduct further practice on the soft tyres.

Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Kimi Räikkönen, Nicholas Latifi and Antonio Giovinazzi were eliminated at the end of the first qualifying session.


Race strategy in mind - Q2

When the lights switched to green, Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull drivers headed out on Pirelli’s yellow-walled medium tyres to try and qualify on the C3 compound that is expected to turn out the best race tyre.

The Mercedes drivers easily flew to the top despite being on the harder medium boots, demonstrating their muscles in terms of outright pace.

Albon had a spin on his first run, but he was able to put in a good performance on the second stint to set the fourth fastest time.

Verstappen was battling with engine problems at the start of Q2 with a spark plug issue hindering his first run. The Red Bull mechanics were able to find remedy for the technical gremlin, sending the Dutchman out on the medium rubber for a single-lap stint. That was enough for the Hasselt-born and made it through into Q3.

Although Leclerc managed to get himself through into Q3 on the medium tyres at Portimao, he was unable to replicate that performance this time out and was forced to use the soft compound on his final run. He did not fail to impress, but it was over for his teammate Sebastian Vettel who could not qualify for higher up than P14. The German’s best lap time was enough for P13, but he had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits.

The session also saw the two Racing Points car fail to get out of the second qualifying segment.

Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon, George Russell, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll were knocked out at the end of the second qualifying segment.


Close fight behind the dominant Mercedes - Q3

After the first push laps, Hamilton led the way from Bottas with Verstappen seven tenths of a second off the actual pole position time. On the next run, the Briton found another tenth of a second to improve his previous best time, but Bottas could snatch the pole position away by posting a time of 1m13.609.

The Belgium-born Dutchman managed to shave off a few tenths of a second of his time to cement his P3 starting position, but he was still a long way behind the dominant Mercedes cars.

Continuing his impressive run of results, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly secured P4 for the Faenza-based team which is located just ten miles away from the legendary Imola circuit.

After struggling for pace in the one and only practice session, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo put in a good effort to finish fifth ahead of the Red Bull of Albon.

Ferrari endured a slight drop in form with Leclerc ending up only seventh fastest. The fabled Italian outfit brought new parts to Imola following its three-stage upgrade programme at the previous grands prix, and the condensed schedule for this weekend might have played a part in making it difficult for the Scuderia to fine-up its setup for the upgraded package.

Although both McLaren cars earned a place in Q3, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz only secured the P9 and P10 starting positions in the extremely close and fierce battle in the midfield.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarQ1Q2Q3Laps
177Valtteri BottasMERCEDES1:14.2211:14.5851:13.60922
244Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES1:14.2291:14.6431:13.70622
333Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA1:15.0341:14.9741:14.17616
410Pierre GaslyALPHATAURI HONDA1:15.1831:14.6811:14.50219
53Daniel RicciardoRENAULT1:15.4741:14.9531:14.52018
623Alexander AlbonRED BULL RACING HONDA1:15.4021:14.7451:14.57221
716Charles LeclercFERRARI1:15.1231:15.0171:14.61620
826Daniil KvyatALPHATAURI HONDA1:15.4121:15.0221:14.69621
94Lando NorrisMCLAREN RENAULT1:15.2741:15.0511:14.81417
1055Carlos SainzMCLAREN RENAULT1:15.5281:15.0271:14.91119
1111Sergio PerezRACING POINT BWT MERCEDES1:15.4071:15.06116
1231Esteban OconRENAULT1:15.3521:15.20114
1363George RussellWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:15.7601:15.32318
145Sebastian VettelFERRARI1:15.5711:15.38520
1518Lance StrollRACING POINT BWT MERCEDES1:15.8221:15.49416
168Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI1:15.91810
1720Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI1:15.93911
187Kimi RäikkönenALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI1:15.95310
196Nicholas LatifiWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:15.98712
2099Antonio GiovinazziALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI1:16.2088