Bottas pips Hamilton to Emilia Romagna GP pole, Verstappen third

A superb last gasp lap from Valtteri Bottas meant that he pipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the Emilia Romagna GP, as Max Verstappen starts from his traditional third.

It had looked as though it would be Hamilton who would edge ever closer to an incredible 100 career F1 poles, but he saw his 1m13.781s effort bettered by 0.097s as Bottas collected his 15th career pole.

“You are never easily on pole position, so I really enjoyed it,” said Bottas afterward. “This track, when you push one out, is beautiful. I knew I had to improve on the last lap and I found those small things that were needed, and it’s a great feeling when you get those, and I definitely had the shakes after so it was good fun.

“For me, Turns 2 and 3 was something I was really working on today and I only got there in the end. The last couple of corners as well I struggled when I risked and went for it with instability with the car but I knew in the last lap, I have to try, so I risked it and the car managed to turn in nicely and it was good. It’s going to be a good fight. It’s one of the longest runs in the calendar into Turn 1, so no doubt Lewis and Max will be chasing me but it’s a good place to start.”

Hamilton will have to wait for his chance for a 98th career F1 pole and he confessed afterwards that it wasn’t one of his better efforts.

“Valtteri did a great job, and it was a pretty piss poor lap from myself, but you know, these things happen and you can’t always get it perfect,” reflected Hamilton. “But what a beautiful place we’re in in Italy and the track is unbelievable the speeds we’re going around it. Grateful to be here, grateful to have the performance we have, which is really remarkable. It feels better than it did in the last race but it’s a real challenge out there. I enjoyed it.

“They (Red Bull) are very strong on their race runs. What is unfortunate with this track is it’s so beautiful to drive but I’m pretty certain you’re going to see a pretty boring race tomorrow. You can overtake on this long straight but it’s quite narrow but you can’t follow it up. Once you get into Turn 1 it’s a train from there, there is no place to overtake anywhere else so it’s going to be a challenge for people following but DRS will hopefully give some overtaking opportunities into Turn 1.”

Whilst it was yet another front row lockout for Mercedes, arguably the performance of the day again came from Max Verstappen, who only had one chance of a flying lap to make Q3 as his engineers again did brilliantly to fix an electrical issue to get him out just in time.

“It wasn’t a really great qualifying because of that,” said Verstappen. “Of course I only did two laps because of that in Q1 and then you want to go out, get that run in Q2 but with the trouble a bit tricky.

“Okay, with the medium tyres we got through, we did our lap, but then it doesn’t give you a good reference to get into Q3 and we definitely seemed to struggle a bit with that. The first run in Q3 there was not a lot of grip. The second was a little bit better but at the end of the day P3 not bad but I personally expected to be a bit closer to be able to fight them a little bit more.”

Another driver who can rightly be happy with his performance is Verstappen’s former teammate Pierre Gasly, who will start alongside the Red Bull in his sister Alpha Tauri and ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Alexander Albon. Charles Leclerc will start Sunday’s race from seventh on the grid as Daniel Kvyat, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top ten.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.