Last time Verstappen was out-qualified by a teammate dates back to 2018, not counting car issues or penalties
By Yuri Coghe
Lewis Hamilton finished the first race of the season on top, and that’s exactly where he’ll start the second one.
The seven-time world champion has set a 99th career pole position in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix qualifying, much to his and Mercedes’ surprise on team radio as they didn’t quite think they had the pace.
Hamilton expects tight competition for the win on Sunday as both Red Bulls followed to complete the top 3, with Sergio Pérez qualifying second. The last time Max Verstappen was out-qualified by his teammate, not counting Saturdays in which the Dutchman faced car issues or penalties, dates back to 2018 when Daniel Ricciardo was still driving for Red Bull.
“I love it, I love the challenge,” said Hamilton after the qualifying. “We’ve got the two Red Bulls there, I think it’s definitely going to make strategy harder, and they’ve got great race pace”.
Pérez, who took two races to outqualify his teammate Verstappen, will start on the front role for the first time in his career in his 193rd start. “Never expected to be here today with where we were yesterday. I should have been on pole today, I made a mistake on the final corner. Tomorrow is what matters,” he said.
The Mexican driver lead both Q1 and Q2 sessions, which explains his bittersweet feeling despite having set his best starting position in his ten-year F1 career.
Verstappen also wasn’t confrontable with his lap. “(My performance was) Not so good in Q3. A bit messy, not a good lap. Still, P3 is a good starting position. It’s gonna be interesting (Sunday’s race). We’ll try to make it difficult for (Mercedes),” he said.
Lando Norris, seventh, would start third on Sunday had he not exceed track limits during a fast lap on Q3 that saw him get two purple sectors and contend for pole. Ricciardo got the other McLaren to sixth place.
Early rivals to McLaren for third place in the constructors’, Ferrari saw more distance between their two drivers. Charles Leclerc will start fourth tomorrow while Carlos Sainz. Jr., eleventh, got knocked out in Q2.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who qualified fourth in Imola last year but had to retire on the race due to car issues, enjoyed another good session at the Italian track to set the fifth fastest lap of the Saturday.
The same thing can’t be said about Valtteri Bottas, 0s487 slower than Hamilton. The Finn only got his Mercedes to eighth place, followed by Esteban Ocon, ninth. The Frenchman’s teammate, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, will start 15th.
Ocon wasn’t the only driver to out-qualify a world champion teammate, as Lance Stroll will start 10th on Sunday, three positions ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The Canadian made it to Q3 but didn’t set up a fast lap in it, while the German is still struggling to adapt to the Aston Martin car.
Nicholas Latifi quickly bounced back from a free practice 3 crash as both Williams advanced to the Q2 for the first time since the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Canadian was fastest than teammate George Russell by 0s979 in Q1, but the Q2 reestablished the normalcy between the Williams duo. The Briton will start 12th on Sunday, two positions ahead of Latifi, who has yet to outqualify Russell.
Back of the grid
Rookie Yuki Tsunoda lost control of his car and crashed in Q1, putting an early end to his session. He had no time set and will start 20th on Sunday.
Both Haas and Alfa Romeo cars were also knocked out in Q1. Kimi Raikkonen will start 15th on Sunday, one position ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi. Mick Schumacher, 18th, out-qualified teammate Nikita Mazepin, 19th, for the second time in two races.
Minute of silence
A minute of silence in honour of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was observed ahead of Qualifying. Prince Philip, who had been married to Queen Elizabeth II since 1947, died at the age of 99 at Windsor Castle on Friday. He’s the longest-serving consort in British history.
Friday and Saturday’s schedule for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix has been changed out of respect for the funeral service.
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the second race of the 2021 season, takes place on Sunday at 9 AM Eastern Time, 6 AM Pacific Time.
See the full qualifying classification below