Valtteri Bottas snatched a fourth 2020 pole position from teammate Lewis Hamilton to lead a Mercedes front-row lockout at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.
Mercedes is in a class of its own in Imola, and after the first runs of the pole shootout Hamilton held a slender 0.031s advantage. But Bottas managed to slice more than 0.2s off his time with his second lap, to swing the momentum in his favor, and when Hamilton found less than 0.08s with his second attempt, it was the Finn who emerged on top by just 0.097s.
“It’s a great feeling to get pole,” he said. “I had the shakes afterwards.
“I knew in the last lap I had to risk it and go hard and the car responded. It’s a good place to start tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”
📻 "Haha, yesss! How close?" – Bottas
📻 "A tenth" – @MercedesAMGF1
📻 "That's enough" – Bottas
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 31, 2020
Hamilton admitted he put together a poor second lap, and the championship leader lamented the likelihood of processional race in which it’ll be difficult for him to pass for the lead.
“I’m pretty certain you’ll see a boring race tomorrow,” he said. “There is nowhere to pass, but hopefully with the DRS that will give us an opportunity to overtake. I’ll give it everything tomorrow.”
The Mercedes drivers were more than half a second quicker than Max Verstappen. The Dutchman was unhappily surprised by the size of the deficit, which he put down in part to a lack of momentum stemming from a spark plug problem that left him with time enough for just one lap in Q2.
“Not really a great qualifying because of that,” he said. “At the end of the day Q3’s not bad, but I personally expected to be a little bit closer, to fight them a bit more.”
All of the top three drivers will start the race on the medium tire, eliminating potential strategic differentiation early in the grand prix.
Starting alongside Verstappen on the second row is former teammate Pierre Gasly, freshly re-signed at AlphaTauri, after an impressive qualifying session for the Frenchman left him fourth and 0.3s on the Red Bull Racing car.
Daniel Ricciardo qualified fifth for Renault, topping Alex Albon in the second RB16 by 0.052s. Albon had only one timed entry in Q3 after his first lap was deleted for exceeding track limits.
Charles Leclerc was seventh for Ferrari and a second off the pace, 0.08s quicker than AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat.
McLaren teammates Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz complete the top 10 of the grid, 1.2s and 1.3s off the pace respectively.
Sergio Perez missed a top-10 berth by just 0.01s, qualifying 11th ahead of Renault’s Esteban Ocon.
George Russell turned his eighth Q2 appearance into 13th on the grid, promoted one place after Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had his fastest lap deleted for exceeding track limits, demoting him to 14th.
Lance Stroll was slowest of the Q2 drivers, the Canadian also suffering lap time deletion for abusing track limits.
Haas teammates Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen qualified 16th and 17th, the latter’s last lap spoiled by a trip through the gravel exiting the final corner.
Kimi Raikkonen was 18th for Alfa Romeo, though the Finn was set for a Q2 berth before having his final flying lap deleted for exceeding track limits at Piratella.
Nicholas Latifi qualified 19th for Williams ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi in the second Alfa Romeo car.