Qualifying for tomorrow's Sprint Race at Emilia Romagna was a very interrupted affair due to mistakes and technical issues for various drivers. Verstappen ended up on top, sealing pole position ahead of Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris.
On the back of a damp practice session in the morning, the track ended up virtually dry for qualifying, even though off-line there continued to be wet patches. Nobody seemed to be too bothered though with no off-track excursions seen during the first minutes. The times did however gradually improve as qualifying went on.
Progress was suddenly interrupted when the right rear brake of Albon's Williams caught fire during his first flying lap. Albon went wide and then slowed down to try to get the car back to the pits, but that didn't stop the brake disc from exploding a few corners later. The blow left burning debris on the track and forced a red flag to allow for some cleaning.
WIth 10 minutes left on the clock, the track was rapidly extremely busy once the session got going again. Vettel, then Stroll, then Alonso were the first to shoot to the top of the timesheet, only to be later completely surpassed by the Ferrari duo as both distanced the competition to about 8 tenths.
All drivers continued for several laps on the same set of soft tyres, resulting in constantly improving times with both Ferraris consistently at the top of the board. The improving track conditions forced everybody to stay out and try to keep on improving. Tumbling times saw both Mercedes only save themselves in the dying seconds while Ocon, who returned to the pits several minutes before the end with a mechanical issue finished 19th, ahead only of Albon who could not set a time.
Q2 kicked off with everybody immediately going out as rain was coming, leaving room for just a single timed lap in the best conditions.
Sainz was one of the first ones in track and he was on it straight away, his time only beaten Verstappen. The Spaniard continued quickly the next lap until he crashed out in Turn 18. He spun and hit the barriers sideways, enough to break the front suspension and red flag the session.
A disaster for Sainz as he looked fit for a proper go at pole position. During the stoppage, Norris sat third, followed by Perez, Leclerc and Alonso. Rain arrived a minute later, basically locking in the positions as they were and eliminating Russell, Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou and Stroll.
When the final part of qualifying kicked off, rain had stopped but it had become too wet to use dry weather tyres. Though Leclerc said "the track is dryer than I thought", Verstappen ended up going through a bit gravel after being too courageous on the throttle on his warm-up lap.
When everybody was well in their first flying laps, Magnussen put a wheel on the white line and spun off through the gravel. As the Dane seemed stuck, the session was stopped again, only to see Magnussen get his undamaged car going again, making his was back to the pits.
Just like at the start of Q3, Fernando Alonso was the first to take to the track. The Spaniard made the same error as Magnussen when he crashed out minutes earlier, but the Alpine driver managed to keep it on the track.
Both McLarens were well on it and ended up 3rd and 4th when Leclerc and Verstappen went top. Magnussen then improved to third and Alonso to fourth until Bottas parked his Alfa Romeo before Turn 17 with an apparent technical problem. Verstappen interestingly lifted when passing Bottas but still massively improved on his previous lap to go 0.7s faster than Leclerc. Moments after Verstappen crossed the line, the session was red-flagged yet again, leaving 2 minutes and 58 seconds.
The session got restarted another 10 minutes later with Verstappen out first, followed by Leclerc. Before they were halfway, Norris ended up stuck in the gravel exactly where Magnussen went off before. With just 38 seconds left, that was the end of a very disrupted session.
Verstappen and Leclerc on the front row is therefore the stage for Saturday's sprint race that will decide the grid for Sunday.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:19.295||1:18.793||1:27.999||22|
|3||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:20.168||1:19.294||1:29.131||22|
|4||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:20.147||1:19.902||1:29.164||21|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:20.198||1:19.595||1:29.202||26|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:19.980||1:20.031||1:29.742||21|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:19.773||1:19.296||1:29.808||25|
|8||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:20.419||1:20.192||1:30.439||23|
|9||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:20.364||1:19.957||1:31.062||25|
|12||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:20.422||1:20.916||16|
|14||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:19.730||1:21.434||16|
|15||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:20.342||1:28.119||14|
|16||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:20.474||11|
|17||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:20.732||11|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:21.971||13|
|19||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:22.338||9|
|NC||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||DNF||3|