Hamilton beats Perez, Verstappen for 99th F1 pole

Lewis Hamilton on pole, 0.035s ahead of Sergio Perez - who outqualifies Max Verstappen; Valtteri Bottas only eighth in other Mercedes; Lando Norris misses out on third after track limits error; Yuki Tsunoda crashed out in Q1 in AlphaTauri

By Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 17/04/21 2:53pm

Lewis Hamilton secured a superb 99th Formula 1 pole position after edging out Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen in a frenetic and extremely close Emilia Romagna GP qualifying.

Hamilton had been quiet throughout the Imola weekend but burst into form in Saturday's shootout, with his first Q3 lap - a 1:14.411 - enough to hold off the competition as the seven-time world champion single-handedly carried the fight for Mercedes against F1's charging Bulls.

Hamilton was just 0.035s ahead of Perez, who out-qualified Verstappen on just his second race weekend in the Red Bull.

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"I definitely didn't expect us to be ahead of two Red Bulls," said Hamilton. "They have been so quick this weekend."

Perez, who will start on the front row for the first time in his 192-race F1 career, insisted: "I should have been on pole today."

Verstappen finished 0.087s back - beaten fair and square by a team-mate in qualifying for the first time since 2018.

0:34
Lando Norris was close to taking his first top three in qualifying but his Imola qualifying lap exceeded track limits.

Lando Norris was close to taking his first top three in qualifying but his Imola qualifying lap exceeded track limits.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc qualified fourth as, in a major surprise, Valtteri Bottas could only manage eighth in the other Mercedes. The Finn, who was on pole at Imola last year and topped both Friday practice sessions this year, made mistakes on both his crucial Q3 laps.

Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Norris will all start ahead of Bottas for Sunday's race, although Norris was downbeat after the session as he had a quick final lap deleted for infringing Imola's tight track limits.

The McLaren youngster's time would have been enough for third had it have stuck.

2:19
Rookie AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda crashes at the chicane during Q1 in Imola.

Rookie AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda crashes at the chicane during Q1 in Imola.

Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll were ninth and 10th as the young pair outqualified their multiple world champion team-mates, with Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel both knocked out in Q2.

Carlos Sainz was another shock exit from Q2 in the Ferrari.

Both Williams made it through from Q1 for the first time since the third race of 2020, although that segment was overshadowed somewhat by a big session-ending crash from AlphaTauri's rookie Yuki Tsunoda.

More to follow.

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