Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas might have secured another easy front-row lock-out, but the qualifying session for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix delivered another thrilling battle between Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and AlphaTauri.
When Formula One was forced to rewrite its schedule for the 2021 season, nobody could have expected the sport to add such fantastic circuits to its heavily-upgraded calendar as Mugello, Portimao or Imola. The latter, the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit is not an unkown territory for the field, as several drivers raced here in junior categories. However, it is only the oldest driver of the field, Kimi Räikkönen who has memories of how to drive a Formula One beast on the circuit that is known for both highs and lows, including the black weekend of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
The condensed nature of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix deprived drivers of the usual Friday practice sessions. However, it was a great joy when they finally had their first taste of the 4.909km cirucit in today’s one and only practice session. The legendary North-Italian track has quickly seduced drivers who were taken aback by its fantastic, flowing, quick rhythm.Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:13.706
"Valtteri did a great job this afternoon and it was a pretty poor final lap from me, but these things happen and you can't always get it perfect. This circuit is unbelievable, it's a classic with amazing history, and the speeds that we are going round it are pretty mind blowing; I'm so grateful to be here and to have the performance that we have, which is really remarkable. The tyres are working better here than they did in Portugal last weekend but it was still a real challenge out there today. For tomorrow, I'm pretty certain we will see quite a boring race, because the track is quite narrow and there's nowhere you can really pass after the first chicane. So, it's going to be a tough challenge when following, but hopefully the DRS will give us opportunities into the first braking zone. We saw Max was very strong on his race runs this morning, so he will be a threat, and I'm just going to give it everything I've got tomorrow and see where we get to."Valtteri Bottas, 1st, 1:13.609
"It's never easy to get pole position but I'm really enjoying this track. When you push flat out, it's a beautiful feeling and I knew I had to dig deep on the final lap. For me, Turns 2 and 3 were something I really had to work on today, and I only got there right at the end; the same at the final corners, where I'd struggled with some instability but I knew I really had to push at the end, so I risked it and the car just turned in nicely. I was able to find the small gains I needed and it's a great feeling when you manage that - I definitely had the shakes after that one! Tomorrow, it's going to be a good fight: it's one of the longest runs of the calendar into Turn 1, so no doubt Lewis and Max will be chasing me. But it's a good place to start and hopefully the pace is good. Game on!"
Red BullMax Verstappen, 3rd, 1:14.176
“It was a bit of a messy qualifying in the end and the issue we had in Q2 took the rhythm out of the session. Normally throughout qualifying you know exactly where you still have time to gain and you can build up but I never really got into that because I had to nail one lap on the mediums in Q2. Then after that, going into the first bit of Q3, still not having a perfect reference on the soft tyres made it all a bit more tricky. I think P3 was the maximum we could have done anyway and I didn’t expect to beat Mercedes but I would have liked to have been a bit closer, which I think was possible if we had a cleaner qualifying. After the session I said a big well done to the mechanics because it was impressive again to get my car back out in Q2. They always try their best even if it looks impossible and we should be very proud of that. The track is really cool and it’s enjoyable to drive. I initially thought it was going to be too narrow for these cars but it’s fine so let’s hope we can have a good race tomorrow.”Alex Albon, 6th, 1:14.572
“It’s very tight out there and just one tenth would have put me fourth. Overall, it was not a bad qualifying and we can have a good race from sixth. The session started off quite difficult but then it just got better and better. I got track limits with my first Q3 lap so that was deleted and with the final Q3 lap there’s always a bit of a risk versus reward factor so I think if I had a lap time already on the board I would have risked and pushed harder, but the time was not too far off in the end. I think with the narrow track and tyre degradation, overtaking could be quite tricky in the race tomorrow but it’s a new circuit and no one really knows how it’s going to play out, which is kind of exciting, so let’s see.”
AlphaTauriPierre Gasly, 4th, 1:14.502
“It was a pretty busy session this morning! With only an hour and a half of practice, we had a lot of things to go through, but the car felt good from the first lap and we had a pretty good balance straight away. We did a few long runs just to get an idea on the tyre degradation for Sunday. We could extract also a bit more performance at the end with the soft tyres. We seemed quite competitive and we went into qualifying with a positive attitude. This track is amazing, I said it before coming here but now driving it on low fuel in qualifying mode it was just unbelievable. I put in some strong quali laps and equalled my best qualifying in F1 - P4 is pretty cool and I’m happy to do it here in Imola. We seem to be fast in Italy! Most of the work still has to be done tomorrow in the race, we’re starting in a strong position behind the two Mercedes and Max, so we need to keep the position at the start and go from there. Looking at the timesheets it’s going to be a tight battle and I’m excited about it.”Daniil Kvyat, 8th, 1:14.696
“This morning was a busy session, as expected. We did many laps and tried a few things to get a good rhythm. As for my qualifying, I was pretty happy with my lap, it was a tight qualifying and there were very small margins at the end of the session. I think I missed maybe a tenth and a half to have a great result, but I am still satisfied with my lap. We had to be very careful about the track limits today, I still prefer the old school tracks where you’re penalised for running wide by gravel, but once I got to Q3 I finally got on the limit and was able to push harder. We will try to do our best tomorrow, there are good opportunities starting from where we are, so we will try and capitalise on that.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 5th, 1:14.520
“I’m very happy with today’s result. We found speed as the session went on. I’d honestly say it was my best qualifying lap this season. This track is amazing. Qualifying fifth was also super important for track position as we can have a really good battle in the race tomorrow since the group around us is very close. If we make a strong start, then we could have a very solid race.”Esteban Ocon, 12th, 1:15.201
“I’m disappointed with the qualifying result today; I didn’t see it coming, especially as we had a good practice session this morning and we did Q1. It wasn’t the best first lap in Q2 and we have to review what happened on the second lap. Still, there is plenty of opportunity tomorrow. We have free tyre choice for the race and we’ll see what happens to come back into the points.”
FerrariSebastian Vettel, 14th, 1:15.385
“I was reasonably happy with my laps, but obviously we were not quick enough. In qualifying I was happier with the feeling of the car, I was a bit more comfortable than this morning and I tried to squeeze everything out of the package. I was taking a few more risks and for this reason I went wide in the chicane and in the end we lost one position to the track limits rule. We are starting at the back and therefore it will be difficult tomorrow to make up places, because overtaking is not so easy here. It will be important to look after the tyres and then we will see. I think we will be aiming for a one-stop race. Today was my first day at this track and I’m still getting totally familiar with it but I have to say that is a really nice track to drive. I hope we will come back here in the near future.”Charles Leclerc, 7th, 1:14.616
"I love this track, especially in quali, when you get to ride the kerbs a lot more. We struggled quite a bit today with the balance of the car and I am not really satisfied with my lap and the way I drove in Q3, but in the end we got P7, which is not terrible, but probably we expected something better. Everyone is very closely matched but looking at the gap to P4 it’s disappointing to see we are three places down.
"Tomorrow will be tricky, as it’s going to be difficult to overtake. We are starting on a set of soft tyres that has already done two laps in Q2, but after the first stint things should be fine. The race is tomorrow and that’s when the points are scored."
McLarenCarlos Sainz, 10th, 1:14.911
“A bit of a difficult quali for us today. After a positive free practice session this morning, we hoped for a better result because the car was feeling good on track. However, we didn’t seem to be quite there in quali. My first run in Q1 was a bit compromised and I had to run two sets. From there it just felt like we were playing catch-up in the midfield. Having just one set for Q3 wasn’t ideal and it wasn’t enough to put ourselves higher in the order.
“We struggled more than expected and we need to analyse why. However, we still got both cars into Q3 and there’s everything to play for tomorrow. We’ll do our best to find some performance overnight and hopefully score good points after a strong race!”Lando Norris, 9th, 1:14.814
“I want to say today was a good day – but it could’ve been a bit better. The car felt good, I think we made some good improvements from FP1 to qualifying. We were always quick but that last little bit of performance was difficult to extract from the car in Q3. I did a good first sector on my first run and then a much better final sector on my second run, but I just didn’t put it together. The car was quick, with the potential to be maybe one position higher, but not much more. I think the cars ahead of us were just quicker. We couldn’t have gone three tenths quicker like they both did. I’m happy overall, but a bit of a shame we couldn’t be that little bit higher.”
Racing PointSergio Perez, 11th, 1:15.061
“I’m disappointed to be starting in P11, especially because the margins out there in qualifying were so tight and just a hundredth would have meant a place in Q3. But on the positive side, I’d rather start in P11 than P10. It means we have a free tyre choice and that may turn out to be an advantage for us. I think with hindsight, we probably set the car up more towards the race and that compromised us in qualifying, but hopefully that means we will have a strong car tomorrow. We need to move up the field and score points because it’s such a close fight in the championship. While the result isn't ideal today, I really enjoyed driving at Imola for the first time. It’s a great challenge and I think all the drivers feel the same.”Lance Stroll, 15th, 1:15.494
“Great to be back at Imola. One of the coolest tracks of the season – it’s old school, quick and flows nicely. Unfortunately, it was a difficult day and especially challenging with just 90 minutes of practice before qualifying. It’s the same for everyone, but it’s not easy to learn about the car, the tyres and the track in such a short space of time. I thought we looked more competitive this morning, but I struggled for grip in qualifying so that’s something we will try and understand. It was a very tight session and we were just the wrong side of the midfield fight today. A deleted time for track limits in Q2 didn’t help either. The reality is that we’re starting further back than we would want. It’s been a frustrating day, but we will fight hard to gain places in the race tomorrow and hopefully end the weekend on a high.”
"I am really pleased with that qualifying session. It was a proper thrill out there today, we need to come to more tracks like this because it is exhilarating for the driver, pushing the car right to the limit. After practice we weren’t sure what others had done with their fuel loads, but we didn’t look so promising and we didn’t expect Q2, so to be in the position that we are in and to qualify P13 is great. Tomorrow we want to fight, go forwards and although it will be difficult, I will be getting my elbows out and doing my best."Nicholas Latifi, 19th, 1:15.987
"We had a tricky practice session this morning that was very interrupted as I had a brake-by-wire issue on my qualifying simulation. We lost quite a lot of time unfortunately and we had to make some quite big decisions on where to go with the car without having many references. It wasn’t ideal going into qualifying, but I was satisfied with my laps. I closed the gap from practice and was only a tenth and a half off making it into Q2 in qualifying, so I can be pleased with that. It is an amazing track to drive, I am looking forward to the race tomorrow and we will try and grab a good result."
Romain Grosjean, 16th, 1:15.918
“A lot of places can learn from these older tracks. When you drive here, or places like the Nürburgring or Mugello, it’s so bloody good. I’ve really enjoyed it. Yes, we don’t have the fastest car, but every lap here is fun. It’s tough not to get to Q2, especially after such a good lap. Kevin (Magnussen) is the same – we push each other so hard and we get to the absolute limit of the car. Unfortunately, today that’s only good enough for 16th and 17th. We’re normally better in the race than we are in qualifying. We obviously need to see how tyre degradation plays a role tomorrow, but we will try for sure. We’ll give it 100 percent.”
Kevin Magnussen, 17th, 1:15.939
“I enjoyed the session. It’s a really cool track to drive. Of course, I’m not too happy with the result – though I think this weekend we appear to be a little bit stronger. We should have been through to Q2, but I didn’t have a smooth qualifying. I had traffic and I had a gearbox problem – nothing serious, but it cost me lap time on my fastest laps. The gap to get through to Q2 was very small, so it’s a bit frustrating when you look at that. Anyway, we are where we are. I’m looking forward to a fun race, and as I said – it’s a really cool track, so I’ll enjoy that at least. I’ll try to do my best as always to get something out of it.”
Alfa RomeoKimi Raikkonen, 18th, 1:15.953
“The car improved a lot from the morning to the afternoon and it felt quite good. We would have made it to Q2 with our fastest lap, but unfortunately it got cancelled: what happened is disappointing, especially because this seems to be one of those tracks where the field is really bunched up, but complaining about how things went won’t change the end result. The race, starting where we are, won’t be easy but we have to do what we can and see where we end up.”Antonio Giovinazzi, 20th, 1:16.208
“The potential we had in the car would have warranted a much better result but we weren’t able to get a clear lap. The first run was okay and we were looking quite good, but both my push laps in the second run were compromised by traffic. We knew this would be an issue here but it’s still really frustrating. Starting at the back is not ideal, of course, but from last we can only go ahead. We will give it our best shot: overtaking will not be easy, we need a good start and a good strategy to make up some ground.”