2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton takes 99th pole at Imola as Perez seals first start from the front row ahead of Verstappen


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Lewis Hamilton got the job done when it counted in a scintillating Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix qualifying session, beating Red Bull’s Sergio Perez by just 0.036 seconds at Imola, with Max Verstappen a tenth of a second off pole in third .
There was nothing to choose between Mercedes and Red Bull heading into the second qualifying session of the 2021 campaign, with both teams claiming the other was P1 favorites and playing down their own chances.

It was initially Valtteri Bottas who looked most comfortable on a track where he dominated all three segments of the hour-long shootout last time at Imola, but he failed to deliver in Q3 as his world champion teammate rose to the top of the pile with a brilliant first round in qualifying.

The seven-time world champion failed to improve in his second run, and that pole looked threatened as Lando Norris established a first purple sector, then a second purple to have at least a front row within reach. But he lost time in the last sector and although he finished second his time was canceled for going over the limits of the track.


1: 14.411

Red Bull Racing
1: 14,446

Red Bull Racing
1: 14,498

1: 14,740

1: 14,790
This allowed Sergio Perez, who was getting faster and faster as the session progressed, to squeeze in a brilliant second, securing his very first first row starts in his 193rd Grand Prix start. His Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen placed third, overqualified by a teammate (no penalty / red flag) for the first time since Daniel Ricciardo left the team at the end of 2018.

Ferrari, who brought Imola to a new level one race earlier than expected, showed an impressive pace over one lap all weekend, Charles Leclerc realizing that potential with an impressive fourth, beating Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri to position for the second consecutive race.

Daniel Ricciardo appeared to be struggling to train, and watched the slower of the two McLarens throughout qualifying, but finished higher on the grid in sixth place, with Norris’ second fastest lap just good enough to the seventh.

Last year’s pole-sitter Bottas was a disappointing eighth, falling out of the top seven for the second time in the last six races, with Alpine leader Esteban Ocon in ninth – after being knocked out in Q1 in Bahrain – and Lance Stroll closing in the top 10 for Aston Martin.

Highlights of the qualification: Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna 2021


Q1 – Tsunoda crashes as Williams brings both cars into Q2

AlphaTauri looked in good shape at the start of the Emilia Romagna weekend, but their team manager Franz Tost ended up with his head in his hands on the pit wall when rookie Yuki Tsunoda got it wrong at Variant Alta and slammed into the barrier, bringing out the red flag.

The Japanese rider escaped unscathed, but there was significant damage to the rear of his AT02, and that means he will either start last or from the pit lane on Sunday afternoon. His teammate Pierre Gasly put pressure on himself when he canceled his first lap time for going over the track limits, once the session started again, but he then moved on to Q2 with his next lap.

READ MORE: Tsunoda apologizes for ‘huge mistake’ after crashing in opening minutes of qualifying at Imola

Mercedes was the class of the peloton, with Bottas – who was the fastest in Q1 and Q2 before taking pole at Imola last year – the quicker of the two, with Lando Norris a very impressive third ahead of Red’s Max Verstappen Bull. Elsewhere, Williams brought both cars into Q2 for the first time since last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, with Nicholas Latifi bouncing back from his crash in Saturday morning’s practice to sneak in with George Russell also sneaking in.

There was bad news for Alfa Romeo, with both cars getting the first trunk doors. Antonio Giovinazzi was furious with the traffic because he failed to improve on his last heat and he will start 17th, behind his teammate Kimi Raikkonen but ahead of the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

KO: Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Schumacher, Mazepin, Tsunoda

Antonio Giovinazzi hit traffic and was knocked out in the first quarter

Q2 – Perez and Norris set a breakneck pace as Sainz and Alonso wrestle

The Mercedes pair and Max Verstappen’s Red Bull were so confident in their pace, they were the only ones running the midrange in Q2 with the aim of starting the race on this compound which meant they weren’t challenging the top of the platoon. Timesheets.

Instead, it was Norris who impressed once again, after a good outing in Q1, going to the fastest start before being usurped by Perez – also on softs – by just 0.002s.

Ferrari looked fast at the pace of a lap, with Charles Leclerc in third, and his teammate Carlos Sainz was about to join him, to attack the pavement too aggressively at the chicane, which cost him expensive and kept him from progressing. , ending the 11th session.

George Russell was a very impressive 12th, just a tenth of Q3, with Sebastian Vettel having another tough session, having first suppressed his time for going over track limits, then failing to pull it together when it mattered. to extend his streak. missing Q3 at 15 Grands Prix.

Latifi was three tenths behind Russell in a 14th career best result, with Fernando Alonso overqualified by a teammate for the first time since the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix, ending a streak of 27 consecutive races.

KO: Sainz, Russell, Vettel, Latifi, Alonso

Norris was looking for a starting place in the first row, only to lose his lap for going over the limits of the track

Q3 – Heartbreak for Norris as Hamilton delivers again

Hamilton set an impressive benchmark with his opening volley in Q3, with Verstappen and Perez just behind, and Norris confirming McLaren’s strong potential with a fourth.

The Briton failed to improve next time around, opening the door to an attack from elsewhere. Perez was flying – and it seemed too close to call just for the Mexican to come in second and his teammate Verstappen was also late.

There were celebrations in the McLaren garage when Norris crossed the finish line for second place, only for his time to then be removed for a track boundary violation, leaving him well down the field in seventh. square.

It was the closest qualifying session in years, with the top eight all setting times of 1.14m and separated by just half a second, with seven different manufacturers in the top 10.

Perez came close, but eventually Hamilton took pole at Imola

The key quote

“Obviously it’s been a great day,” said poleman Hamilton. “I certainly didn’t expect us to be ahead of the two Red Bulls. They’ve 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 has already felt a lot better since the start of this weekend. at the bottom of the window.

And after?

The Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna starts at 1500 local time, i.e. 1200 UTC. Hamilton may have the best starting position but struggles to stay on pole with two hungry Red Bulls just behind and his teammate Bottas comes back in eighth.

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