Valtteri Bottas struck late to snatch pole for 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola from Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton as Formula One bundled Practice and Qualifying into a packed Saturday.
Hamilton dominated Practice but Bottas fought back throughout Qualifying to eventually clinch his fourth pole of the season by 0.097 seconds, ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen whilst the midfield fight saw a surprise best of rest leader as Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly produced a surprise performance to qualify fourth on the grid.
Now here is a full roundup of Saturday’s action at Imola which saw a 90 minute Practice session followed by Qualifying.
With this session representing the only opportunity for teams to practice ahead of Qualifying, everyone with exception of Williams’ George Russell were quickly out onto the circuit, with Verstappen setting the initial pace on hard tyres which quickly tumbled to a 1m 15.912 within the opening 20 minutes.
Bottas had to alter his programme after an early flat-spot but managed to better Verstappen’s time in the 28th minute with a 1m 15.783 on mediums, whilst the midfield scrapped over the middle positions within the top ten as McLaren’s Carlos Sainz suffered a hairy wide moment on the exit of Rivazza after clipping the inside kerb.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi soon afterwards suffered a brake-by-wire failure which kept him in the pits for a while as Hamilton put his Mercedes just 0.008 seconds off Verstappen who had improved to a 1m 15.338 just two minutes earlier.
Several drivers then proceeded to focus on the soft tyres with graining proving a popular complaint early on with Charles Leclerc and Albon finding that the compound affected the performances of their Ferrari and Red Bull respectively.
Bottas went top with a 1m 15.218 in the 54th minute only for Verstappen to instantly go faster by 0.195s, whilst Hamilton needed two flying laps on his soft run to post a session topping 1m 14.726 just before the hour mark.
Renault decided to run their soft programme out of sync which paid dividends as Esteban Ocon went fourth only to be instantly knocked down a place by Daniel Ricciardo, who had gone 0.106s quicker than the Frenchman.
Several teams spent the closing stages focused on long runs whilst Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly decided to unleash a late second soft tyre qualifying simulation in the final moments, which was enough to put him fourth and ahead of Leclerc who soon decided to try the same approach to put himself fifth.
Leclerc’s teammate, Sebastian Vettel endured a torrid session as he fell foul of track limits but eventually managed to propel himself off the foot of the timesheet into 12th with a last-gasp flier.
Hamilton ultimately finished fastest from Verstappen, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Ocon, Daniil Kvyat, Albon and Lance Stroll, with just 0.164s separating those from seventh-placed Kvyat down to Sergio Perez in 11th heading into Qualifying.
A slow start saw cars slowly filter out onto the circuit with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen setting the first timed lap of a 1m 17.186 but as times tumbled, Kvyat went top before Hamilton then Leclerc went quicker until Verstappen posted a 1m 15.034 to go fastest.
Hamilton then fought back on his second flier to lead with a 1m 14.574 as Albon and Bottas had their laps deleted after exceeding track limits, leaving them provisionally set for the back row ahead of Daniel Ricciardo who hadn’t set a lap time halfway through Q1.
Ricciardo however soon afterwards posted a 1m 16.056 to go 11th with Bottas soon afterwards climbing to second with Albon seventh, although Bottas improved on his second flier to top Q1 with a 1m 14.221.
Down in the elimination zone, both Haas cars were eliminated ahead of Kimi Raikkonen who will start from 18th on grid after his fastest lap was deleted at the flag for track limits, having signed a new contract yesterday to stay with Alfa Romeo next season alongside Antonio Giovinazzi.
Giovinazzi however struggled to 20th on the grid behind Williams’ Nicholas Latifi on the back row as the Canadian was again outqualified by George Russell, with the Brit now 34-0 in Williams Qualifying head-to-head.
Almost everyone headed straight out with Bottas setting the early and ultimately session topping pace on a 1m 14.585 on mediums ahead of Hamilton whilst Ferrari tried the same strategy, only to find themselves in the danger zone which forced a switch to the soft tyre.
Red Bull endured a torrid opening half of Q2 as Verstappen encountered ERS related issues which prevented him from posting a first lap whilst Albon’s first lap was only enough for 11th, just ahead of Stroll, Russell, Vettel and Verstappen.
Ultimately, both Red Bull drivers survived at the death as Albon went fourth ahead of Verstappen who had been knocked down to sixth, as Perez, Ocon, Russell, Vettel and Stroll were knocked out with the latter two seeing their fastest laps deleted after exceeding track limits.
Perez only just missed out on Q3 by just 0.010s to McLaren’s Lando Norris who had messed up his final Q2 lap with a mistake.
Everyone was straight out at start of Q3 for single lap runs with Hamilton posting a 1m 13.781 to go 0.031s quicker than Bottas despite distributing gravel across the exit of Rivazza, as Verstappen, Gasly and Leclerc rounded out the initial top five after Albon had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits despite being enough for fifth.
Hamilton then improved to 1m 13.706 on his final lap but Bottas extracted more time from his Mercedes to claim pole with a stunning 1m 13.609, although tomorrow will be the acidic test after failing to convert his last two pole positions into race victories.
Verstappen qualified a comfortable third ahead of Gasly as Ricciardo and Albon demoted Leclerc to seventh with Kvyat, Norris and Sainz rounding out the top ten for tomorrow’s grid.
Speaking post session on snatching pole, Bottas said; “It’s never easy getting pole.”
Bottas however admitted that his pole lap was a “risk”, saying;” I struggled a little with the stability of the car but I risked it on the last lap and it worked.”
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1m 14.726|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+ 0.297|
|3||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+ 0.492|
|4||Pierre Gasly||Alpha Tauri||+ 0.907|
|5||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+ 0.962|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||+ 1.113|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Renault||+ 1.219|
|8||Daniil Kvyat||Alpha Tauri||+ 1.240|
|9||Alex Albon||Red Bull||+ 1.335|
|10||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+ 1.356|
|11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+ 1.383|
|12||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+ 1.441|
|13||Romain Grosjean||Haas||+ 1.824|
|14||Carlos Sainz||McLaren||+ 1.834|
|15||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+ 1.838|
|16||Lando Norris||McLaren||+ 1.945|
|17||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+ 1.958|
|18||George Russell||Williams||+ 2.054|
|19||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+ 2.334|
|20||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+ 3.053|
|1||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1m …..|
|2||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+ 0.097|
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+ 0.567|
|4||Pierre Gasly||Alpha Tauri||+ 0.893|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||+ 0.911|
|6||Alex Albon||Red Bull||+ 0.963|
|7||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+ 1.007|
|8||Daniil Kvyat||Alpha Tauri||+ 1.087|
|9||Lando Norris||McLaren||+ 1.205|
|10||Carlos Sainz||McLaren||+ 1.302|
|11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||1m 15.061|
|12||Esteban Ocon||Renault||+ 0.140|
|13||George Russell||Williams||+ 0.262|
|14||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+ 0.324|
|15||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+ 0.433|
|16||Romain Grosjean||Haas||1m 15.918|
|17||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+ 0.021|
|18||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+ 0.035|
|19||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+ 0.069|
|20||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+ 0.290|