Hamilton takes pole for Imola Grand Prix

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Imola, Italy (dpa) – Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes took a sensational pole position for Sunday’s Formula One Emilia Romagna Grand Prix by beating Red Bull’s Sergio Perez by 0.035 seconds.

The seven-time world champion was surprised after he clocked 1 minute 14.411 seconds, around the 4.959-kilometre Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola to secure the 99th pole of his career on Saturday.

“I didn’t expect to be ahead of two Red Bulls, they’ve been so quick this weekend. The car is feeling much better, I want to thank the team for their hard work,” Hamilton said.

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes-AMG Petronas in action during the qualifying session of the Formula One Grand Prix Emilia Romagna at Imola race track, Italy, 17 April 2021. The Formula One Grand Prix Emilia Romagna will take place on 18 April 2021. EPA-EFE/DAVIDE GENNARI

“I love the challenge, having two Red Bulls will definitely make strategy harder.”

Perez in second will have his first front row start and out-qualified team-mate Max Verstappen, who will start the race in third.

“We should have been on pole today, I did a mistake on my final corner,” Perez said.

But Verstappen also went wide at Tamburello and that cost him time.

“Not so good in Q3, it was a bit messy, just not a good lap. You can’t be good all the time,” said the Dutch who had narrowly lost the season-opener in Bahrain against Hamilton three weeks ago.

Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri close the top 5 on the starting grid.

Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas will be far behind in eight, while McLaren’s Lando Norris had to settle for seventh place after a a fast lap was deleted for exceeding track limits.

Ferrari, who had strong practice sessions, had their other driver Carlos Sainz out of Q3 in 11th.

The session was red flagged after around six minutes when Yuki Tsunoda spun at the Variante Alta and crashed. He was unharmed, but his car suffered huge damage.

“I was just too excited. For me, that was a silly mistake, so I feel really sorry for the team,” Tsunoda said.

At Alpine, Fernando Alonso finished 15th and for the first time since the Malaysian Grand Prix 2017 he was out qualified by a team-mate after Esteban Ocon finished ninth.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was 13th as he’s yet to have a good run with his new Aston Martin team.

Williams showed progress and managed to have both cars in Q2, something they haven’t achieved since the Hungarian Grand Prix in July 2020. George Russell was just over a tenth away from a Q3 place and will start the race in 12th.

Mick Schumacher didn’t escape Q1 and will start the race in 18th, with team-mate Nikita Mazepin in 19th.

A minute’s silence was observed before qualifying in honour of Britain’s Prince Philip, who died last week aged 99.

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