Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton achieved his 99th career pole position in Formula 1, beating the Red Bull Racing pair of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen. The top three drivers was just covered by 0.087 seconds.
Hamilton held on to take pole by not improving on his final flying lap, with his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas qualifying down in eighth, on spot ahead of Lando Norris, who lost a time that would have put him third due to a track limits violation.
Both Mercedes cars and Verstappen will start the race on the advantageous medium tyres after successfully getting through on the yellow-walled rubber, which offers significantly better durability compared to the softs.
Hamilton led the way after the first runs in Q3 with a one minute, 14.411 seconds, but could not recover time lost in the first sector on his second effort.
This meant he did not improve the pole benchmark, despite setting the fastest time in the final sector, but as his rivals did not improve by enough he held on to claim his first pole of the 2021 season.
Perez outqualified Verstappen in his second event for Red Bull, ending up just under 0.1 seconds adrift of Hamilton’s fastest time. But the Mexican driver had to use the softs to get through Q2 and faces a tougher opening stint if the race starts in dry conditions tomorrow.
Verstappen was arguably the favourite for pole after topping FP3 following his disrupted Friday running and although he set a personal best on his final Q3 lap – including the fastest time in the middle sector – he wound up 0.087 seconds adrift.
Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari fourth ahead of Pierre Gasly and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, with that trio starting ahead of Norris who looked to have secured a shock top three result.
But Norris’s one minute, 14.454 seconds was deleted as he was judged to have gone too wide exiting the Piratella turn in the middle sector and so his final time ended up as his first Q3 run.
That was still enough to keep him ahead of Bottas, whose personal best final Q3 effort left him well adrift of the typical Mercedes’ placings.
Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll rounded out the top ten.
In Q2, Carlos Sainz’s first race in Italy as a Scuderia Ferrari driver will start from outside the top ten as he was eliminated at the very end of Q2, finishing in P11 despite setting a personal best on his final lap.
Sainz failing to find enough time meant Stroll squeaked into Q3 for Aston Martin, the green cars running ahead of the rest of the pack as the middle segment of the session drew to a close.
George Russell finished P12, which shuffled Sebastian Vettel back to P13 and ensured Russell maintained his perfect qualifying record against Williams teammates continued – as Nicholas Latifi qualified P14 after impressing in Q1.
Fernando Alonso was another driver to set a personal best time right at the end of Q2, but that was not enough to elevate him from P15 in the final standings.
In Q1, Russell’s final lap improvement to ensure both Williams cars made it through the Q2 for this first time since last year’s Hungarian GP knocked out Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen – who also set a personal best on his final effort, but could not find enough time to make it through to the second part of qualifying.
Behind Raikkonen came his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, with the Haas duo saved from bringing up the rear of the field by Tsunoda’s absence from proceedings by the end of the session.
Tsunoda’s Q1 was over after just a few minutes when he crashed heavily at the Variante Alta on his first flying lap.
The Japanese driver lost the rear of his AlphaTauri between the two apexes of the chicane, with the car swinging around rapidly and going backwards into the barriers.
With the rear wing and both rear wheels smashed, and debris littering the run-off area, the session was quickly red flagged, followed by a near ten minute delay as the incident was cleared up.
So an exciting qualifying session with the Bahrain Grand Prix winner coming out on top with pole position. Sergio Perez recovered from his crash with Esteban Ocon in practice to claim second and for the first time, out qualifies his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. As for Lando Norris, it would have been incredible with this fantastic qualifying performance but track limits…
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:14.411
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:14.446
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:14.498
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:14.740
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:14.790
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:14.826
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:14.875
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:14.898
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:15.210
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes No time
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:15.199
12 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:15.261
13 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:15.394
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:15.593
15 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:15.593
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:15.974
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:16.122
18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:16.279
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:16.797
20 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda No time