Valtteri Bottas beat Lewis Hamilton by less than a tenth of a second to grab pole position at Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Hamilton looked to be in charge after he took provisional pole with his opening lap of Q3, but in the final runs, Bottas found more pace in the first sector to set himself up for a lap that edged his team-mate by the small margin of 0.097s even as Hamilton also improved. Third place in the session went to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen with Pierre Gasly fourth for Alpha Tauri.
Bottas took top spot in Q1, with the Finn setting a time of 1:14.221. Mercedes team-mate Hamilton followed in P2 despite having a final flying lap deleted for a track limits infringement at Turn 9, while Verstappen made light work of the opening session with a lap of 1:15.034 that proved good enough for P3 at the end of the segment.
It was less straightforward for Alex Albon, however. The Thai driver took P8 with a lap of 1:15.539, but the time was quickly deleted due to a track limits infringement at Acque Minerale. That left him in P19 and requiring an error-free final flyer. And though Albon once again flirted with the limits at the same location, this time he made the lap count and he went through to Q2 in P8 with a time of 1:15.402.
There was no escape for Kimi Räikkönen, however. The Alfa Romeo driver jumped to safety with his final flyer but he soon plummeted back to P18 as his time was deleted for a track limits breach in Turn 15. He exited behind the Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. Behind Räikkönen, Latifi was eliminated in P19 ahead of the second Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.
At the start of Q2, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull sent their drivers out on medium tyres and again it was Bottas who went quickest in the session, with the Finn’s lap of 1:14.585 edging Hamilton by just under six hundredths of a second.
Progress to the final segment of the session was again tricky for the Bulls, though this time it was Verstappen who hit trouble. On his first flying lap he reported a loss of power and was forced to retreat to the pit lane with no time on the board. A faulty spark plug was swiftly diagnosed and though the cure was simple it left the Dutchman with just one opportunity to seal a place in Q3.
He made no mistakes, however, and a solid lap of 1:14.974, set on medium tyres, sent him through in P6.
Albon, meanwhile, sat in P11 after his opener on mediums and he was sent out again on softs to seal his Q3 place. Again, there were no errors and Albon sealed his place with a lap of 1:14.745 that was good enough for P4 behind AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.
In P11, however, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez missed out on Q3 by just one hundredth of a second as Mclaren’s Lando Norris edged past. Behind Pérez, Renault’s Esteban Ocon went out in P12 ahead of Williams’ George Russell, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
In the opening runs of Q3 Verstappen slotted into a comfortable third place as Hamilton took provisional pole ahead of Bottas.
It was the Finnish Mercedes driver who made the most of the final run, however, a purple sector setting him for a lap that saw him claim pole 0.097s ahead of Hamilton.
Verstappen too improved on his final flyer, finding almost three tenths of a second, and he took third place on the grid with a lap of 1:14.176.
At the start of the final session, Albon once again fell foul of track limits, this time at the Variante Alta chicane. His time was deleted and ahead of the final runs he sat in P10, with no time on the board.
However, the Thai driver aced his final flyer to claim P6 behind AlphaTauri’s fourth-placed Pierre Gasly and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. Behind Albon, Leclerc took seventh place for Ferrari ahead of the second AlphaTauri of Daniil Kvyat and the McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:13.609 6 240.084
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:13.706 0.097 6 239.768
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:14.176 0.567 6 238.249
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:14.502 0.893 6 237.207
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:14.520 0.911 6 237.149
6 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1:14.572 0.963 6 236.984
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:14.616 1.007 6 236.844
8 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 1:14.696 1.087 6 236.590
9 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1:14.814 1.205 6 236.217
10 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 1:14.911 1.302 6 235.911
11 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 1:15.061 0.476 6 235.440
12 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:15.201 0.616 6 235.002
13 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:15.323 0.738 8 234.621
14 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:15.385 0.800 10 234.428
15 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1:15.494 0.909 6 234.090
16 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1:15.918 1.697 10 232.782
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:15.939 1.718 11 232.718
18 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:15.953 1.732 10 232.675
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:15.987 1.766 12 232.571
20 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:16.208 1.987 8 231.896