Mercedes in pole seat for milestone

Mercedes in pole seat for milestone

IMOLA • With Lewis Hamilton as his teammate, Valtteri Bottas knew that it would be extra hard work on the track every qualifying session.

But the Finn powered to pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola yesterday with Formula One leader Hamilton locking out the front row for dominant Mercedes.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified third, after a power unit scare in the second phase sent mechanics scrambling to fix his car, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly a stunning fourth on the grid.

“You always have to (fight for it). They are never easy pole positions,” said Bottas.

“Really enjoyed it. This track when you push flat out is beautiful. I knew I had to improve in the last lap and found those small gains that were needed.

“It’s a great feeling when you get those.

“It’s going to be a good fight. It’s one of the longest runs in the calendar into Turn 1.

“No doubt Lewis and Max will be chasing me, but it’s a good place to start.”

Mercedes need only one of their cars to finish fourth in today’s race to secure a record seventh successive constructors’ world championship.

The pole, in 1min 13.609sec and 0.097 of a second faster than Hamilton, was the 13th in 13 races this season for the champions.

Today’s race will be the first grand prix at Imola since 2006, with the track returning to flesh out a calendar ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the third in Italy this season.

    EMILIA ROMAGNA GP GRID 1ST ROW

    1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes

    2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes

    2ND ROW

    3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull

    4 Pierre Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri

    3RD ROW

    5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault

    6 Alex Albon (Tha) Red Bull

    4TH ROW

    7 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari

    8 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) AlphaTauri

    5TH ROW

    9 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren

    10 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren

    SELECTED

    11 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point

    12 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault

    14 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari

    18 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo

Hamilton, with 256 points, leads Bottas by 77 points, having won eight times so far this season.

He is closing on a record-equalling seventh drivers’ title, although he will have to wait at least until Turkey in two weeks for a chance to clinch it.

“Valtteri did a great job. It was a pretty poor lap from myself. These things happen, you can’t always get it perfect,” said Hamilton, who had been quickest after the first flying laps in phase three.

“But what a beautiful place we’re in here in Italy and the track is unbelievable, the speeds that we’re going around this track. Grateful to be here and grateful for the performance we have, which is really remarkable.

“It feels better than it did in the last race. It was a real challenge out there, I enjoyed it.”

Verstappen, meanwhile, felt he did not get the best out of himself and his car due to the power unit problem.

The Dutchman said: “It wasn’t a great qualifying because of the issue, we didn’t have a lot of laps.

“It was a bit tricky. The mediums got through, we seemed to be struggling a bit, not a lot of grip. The second run was a bit better.

“P3 is not bad but personally, I wanted to be a little but closer.

Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and Alex Albon in the second Red Bull will fill up the third row today.

Charles Leclerc took seventh spot for Ferrari with Daniil Kvyat eighth in the second AlphaTauri, ahead of the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE