Lewis Hamilton grabbed the 99th pole position of his career by the narrow margin of just over three hundredths of a second in taut and tight qualifying session for the FIA Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez scored the first front row start of his F1 career.
Hamilton laid down a stern marker of 1:14.411 in the opening runs of Q3, the final segment of qualifying but with both Red Bulls in close attendance it looked like the Briton’s claim on the top spot of the grid was far from secure.
But while both Red Bull drivers improved on their final runs neither could find a way past Hamilton’s time and the Briton claimed the 99th pole position of his career, despite making no improvement himself.
Pérez got closest to dislodging the Mercedes driver but in the end he feel short by 0.035s, later saying that a mistake in the final corner cost him pole. Verstappen’s hopes meanwhile ended in Turn 3 of his lap where a mistake sent him wide. He recovered but had to settle for P3 on the grid alongside Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
“Today’s been great,” said Hamilton. “I definitely didn’t expect us to be ahead of two Red Bulls. I think they have been so quick this weekend. There were times when they were six tenths ahead and we didn’t really know where we would be. But the car was already feeling a lot better from the beginning this weekend. So mad respect to the team for the hard work to really narrow down the window.”
At the start of the hour-long session, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was the early pace setter, with the Canadian setting a P1 time of 1:16.082.
However, six minutes into Q1 AlpahTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda crashed bringing out the red flags. The Japanese rookie got out of shape through the Variante Alta chicane and lost the rear end of his car. He slid backwards into the tyre barriers sustaining heavy damage at the rear of his AlphaTauri AT02.
The session resumed after an almost 10-minute suspension and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon were quickly to the fire before Verstappen took P1 with a lap of 1:15.109.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas then moved P1 with a time of 1:14.926 as Hamilton slotted into P2 with a lap of 1:14.955 and McLaren’s Lando Norris took P3 with a lap of 1:15.009. Perez then put him into P5 behind Verstappen with a second effort of 1:15.395.
At the other end of the order, Alfa Romeo’s Räikkönen was eliminated in P16 ahead of 17th-placed Antonio Giovinazzi, Schumacher, Mazepin and the unfortunate Tsunoda.
McLaren’s Lando Norris set the pace in the opening runs of Q2, with the Briton using soft tyres to claim P1 with a lap of 1:14.718. Behind him, on medium tyres were Hamilton and Verstappen who took P2 and P3 respectively.
Pérez opted for soft tyres on his first run and though he initially looked set to take P1 he came across traffic in the final sector and his time of 1:15.106 was only good enough for fifth behind Bottas. The Mexican then bolted on another set of softs for his final effort and this time he got a clear run to claim P1 with a lap of 1:14.716, two thousandths of a second ahead of Norris. Leclerc also used softs to jump to third place while Hamilton finished fourth ahead of Verstappen.
Eliminated at the end of Q2 were Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in P11 followed by Williams’ George Russell, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, Nicholas Latifi in the second Williams and Alonso.
In Q3 Hamilton took provisional pole with a lap of 1:14.411, while Verstappen slotted into P2 less than a tenth off the Mercedes driver, while Pérez took third place with a lap of 1:14.665.
Hamilton failed to improve on his final run and though both Red Bull drivers made gains in the final runs they ultimately couldn’t eclipse his time. Pérez’s lap of 1:14.466 left him 0.035s behind Hamilton.
Behind the top three, Leclerc took P4 in qualifying for the second race in succession, while Pierre Gasly grabbed an excellent fifth place on the grid for AlphaTauri. Daniel Ricciardo will start sixth for McLaren, while team-mate Lando Norris will start seventh. The young Briton might have started third had his final lap of Q3 not been deleted for a track limits infringement. Bottas will line up in eight place ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
2021 FIA Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:14.411 6 237.497
2 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:14.446 0.035 0.047 6 237.385
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:14.498 0.087 0.117 6 237.219
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:14.740 0.329 0.442 6 236.451
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:14.790 0.379 0.509 6 236.293
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:14.826 0.415 0.558 6 236.179
7 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:14.875 0.464 0.624 6 236.025
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:14.898 0.487 0.654 6 235.952
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:15.210 0.799 1.074 6 234.974
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 6
11 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:15.199 0.483 0.646 6 235.008
12 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:15.261 0.545 0.729 6 234.814
13 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:15.394 0.678 0.907 6 234.400
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:15.593 0.877 1.174 6 233.783
15 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:15.593 0.877 1.174 6 233.783
16 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:15.974 1.302 1.744 10 232.611
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:16.122 1.450 1.942 9 232.158
18 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:16.279 1.607 2.152 12 231.681
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:16.797 2.125 2.846 12 230.118
Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 2