Hamilton grabs Imola pole ahead of Pérez and Verstappen

In a very tight qualifying session!

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By Olivier Ferret

17 April 2021 - 15:18
Hamilton grabs Imola pole ahead of (...)

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.

Pos.DriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 timeQ3 time
01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W12 1:14.823 1:14.817 1:14.411
02 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Honda RB16B 1:15.395 1:14.716 1:14.446
03 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RB16B 1:15.109 1:14.884 1:14.498
04 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF21 1:15.413 1:14.808 1:14.740
05 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda AT02 1:15.548 1:14.927 1:14.790
06 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes MCL35M 1:15.669 1:15.033 1:14.826
07 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL35M 1:15.009 1:14.718 1:14.875
08 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes W12 1:14.672 1:14.905 1:14.898
09 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A521 1:15.385 1:15.117 1:15.210
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 1:15.522 1:15.138 -:—.---
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF21 1:15.406 1:15.199
12 George Russell Williams Mercedes FW43B 1:15.826 1:15.261
13 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 1:15.459 1:15.394
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes FW43B 1:15.653 1:15.593
15 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault A521 1:15.832 1:15.593
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 1:15.974
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 1:16.122
18 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari VF-21 1:16.279
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari VF-21 1:16.797
20 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda AT02 -:—.---

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