Qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix took place on Saturday afternoon at the challenging Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari where every driver throughout this weekend has been tested to their absolute limits, with some ending up off the track or in the barriers. But through it all, reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the ninety-ninth time in his career.
With such an intricate and mentally taxing race track, a cold track in a region where the locals are still required by law to have their Winter tyres on, and with the fight between teams in the midfield and the two main teams at the top of the timing boards, this qualifying session was sure to be an exciting one for Formula 1 fans around the world.
Q1 – Tsunoda Crashes, Both Williams’ Make it Through
In the first Qualifying Session, Sebastian Vettel had the first trip off track just before Yuki Tsunoda took too much kerb on the entrance to Variante Alta, was not able to gain full control of his car, and spun rear-first into the barrier. The incident caused a red flag and potentially means the young Japanese driver will have to start from the pit lane on Sunday as there seemed to be major damage to the Chassis and Gearbox.
A majorly disappointing crash for Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, who had been lapping extraordinarily well this weekend and were hoping for a potential top six start for both cars at the closest track to their team factory, which is just 10 miles away.
Once all the debris was cleared away, the weather and the track began to heat up with just ten minutes left, as Sergio Pérez, Nicolas Latifi and Pierre Gasly had their opening laps deleted by the Stewards for track limits, a subject that there has been much controversy over since the ending of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
In the final laps of the session Latifi put in an incredible lap to put himself through to Q2 in twelfth, with George Russell joining him in fourteenth. Nikita Mazepin got a good run off the last corner and a slipstream that meant he had to overtake Antonio Giovinazzi in the last seconds of the session, compromising the Italian’s lap in the process.
The five drivers eliminated were Tsunoda, after his crash, the Uralkali Haas F1 Team cars of Mazepin and Mick Schumacher and the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s of Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen.
Q2 – Sainz Eliminated, Russell Almost Makes it into Q3
Lando Norris set the fastest lap of the first runs of the session with a 1:14.718 on the soft tyre. Pérez went with a different strategy to his Red Bull Racing team-mate Max Verstappen as he took the Soft tyres, clearly showing he does not yet have the confidence in himself to be able to lap quickly on the mediums for Qualifying.
Daniel Ricciardo had a worryingly poor first lap, while Sebastian Vettel had his first lap deleted for Track Limits. George Russell communicated to his team that he felt more comfortable lapping on the medium tyres and that comfort showed as Russell put himself into p10 on his first lap.
On the crucial final laps of the session, Pérez put himself top of the session with a 1:14.716, as Carlos Sainz Jr. had his lap time deleted for going over the white lines at the exit of Variante Alta, meaning the Scuderia Ferrari driver fell outside the top ten and will start in eleventh on Sunday.
Amongst the five cars eliminated from Q2 was the Alpine F1 Team A521 of Fernando Alonso, while it as a great session for the two Williams’ of Latifi in a career best fourteenth and Russell in twelfth. There was more disappointment for Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team newboy Vettel in thirteenth, and finally the aforementioned Ferrari of Sainz.
Q3 – Hamilton Takes Pole, Pérez Beats Verstappen
In the first set of laps for the final session of Qualifying Hamilton went fastest, while his team-mate Valtteri Bottas making a mistake on turn two and only making it to sixth in his first run. Lance Stroll had his first lap deleted while Ocon and Ricciardo put in poor laps on used soft tyres.
Finally at the end of the session, the lap all fans truly focus on, Lewis Hamilton netted his ninety-ninth career pole on the thirtieth different track of his career with a 1:14.411, which seemed to majorly surprise the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team.
Pérez outlapped his team-mate Verstappen to take the first front row start of this career. Verstappen touched the grass and unsettled his car on turn 3, putting himself a place behind the Mexican in third. Charles Leclerc made good on the hopes of Ferrari and the Tifosi making his way into fourthe, and Gasly made up for his AlphaTauri team-mate’s crash in the first session by putting his car at the head of the third row of the grid.
In sixth and seventh were the two McLaren F1 Team drivers, with ahead of a disappointed Norris. Norris had put in an absolutely blistering lap that would have put him into third had he not exceeded track limits. Bottas had an awful session, ending up in eighth, with Ocon behind him, and Stroll, who didn’t post a lap-time after having both of his lap times deleted for track limits.
This sets us up for an interesting weekend as for once we see two Red Bulls challenging a lone Mercedes in the top three, instead of the typical opposite way around. It will be especially interesting with Pérez being on a different strategy to Verstappen.
Bottas will have a long race trying to make his way through the midfield scrap that is sure to happen. McLaren started the weekend off poorly but have really kicked off where it counts and will be hoping for another blistering Norris drive. AlphaTauri will be delighted with Gasly’s performance and will hope that Tsunoda can find a way through the backmarkers and pick up some more points. Williams also will be hoping to build on a fantastic weekend that really shows how the old giants have progressed.
The weather for tomorrow is currently uncertain with the possibility of rain on the horizon adding to the almost certainty that some kind of incident may cause a safety car. This is sure to be a fun race to watch.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:14.823||1:14.817||1:14.411|
|2||11||Sergio Pérez||MEX||Red Bull Racing||1:15.395||1:14.716||1:14.446|
|3||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull Racing||1:15.109||1:14.884||1:14.498|
|4||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||1:15.413||1:14.808||1:14.740|
|5||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:15.548||1:14.927||1:14.790|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||1:15.669||1:15.033||1:14.826|
|7||4||Lando Norris||ITA||McLaren F1 Team||1:15.009||1:14.718||1:14.875|
|8||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:14.672||1:14.905||1:14.898|
|9||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Alpine F1 Team||1:15.385||1:15.117||1:15.210|
|10||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1:15.522||1:15.138||No Time|
|11||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari||1:15.406||1:15.199|
|12||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||1:15.826||1:15.261|
|13||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1:15.459||1:15.394|
|14||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1:15.653||1:15.593|
|15||14||Fernando Alonso||ESP||Alpine F1 Team||1:15.832||1:15.593|
|16||7||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||1:15.974|
|17||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||1:16.122|
|18||47||Mick Schumacher||GER||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1:16.279|
|19||9||Nikita Mazepin||RUS||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1:16.797|
|20||22||Yuki Tsunoda||JAP||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||No Time|