Valtteri Bottas defeated Mercedes Formula 1 team-mate Lewis Hamilton in a close battle for pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.
Fastest in the first and second segment, Bottas trailed Hamilton after the first runs in Q3, but overturned his deficit to record his fourth pole of the campaign.
Hamilton had raised up a cloud of dust with his right-side tyres at the final corner on his first push lap in Q3, but his 1m13.781s was nevertheless three hundredths quicker than Bottas as he returned to the pits.
He improved this to a 1m13.706s with his second and final attempt, but Bottas eclipsed that moments later with a 1m13.609s.
Only the two Mercedes cars managed sub-1m14s laps. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen shrugged off a Honda engine scare in Q2 to qualify a distant third, more than half a second off the pace.
Verstappen reported a loss of power during his first Q2 run and had to return to the pits without setting a time, with the team identifying a misfire as the cause and making a spark plug change to salvage his qualifying.
He set his first time in Q2 with mere seconds left on the clock – on the medium compound of tyres – but progressed comfortably into the final segment and take his place on the second row.
There he will be joined by former team-mate Pierre Gasly, who starred for AlphaTauri – the team potentially benefitting from its Imola filming run earlier this year – and matched his career-best grid position of fourth.
He was 0.018s quicker than fifth-placed Daniel Ricciardo, who emerged on track later than anyone else in Q1 and only escaped elimination with his final attempt.
Verstappen’s team-mate Alex Albon salvaged a respectable sixth from a difficult, nervy qualifying.
Albon had a spin at Variante Alta and mounted late escapes from the drop zone in both Q1 and Q2, while a competitive first lap in Q3 was written off due to a track limits infringement at Piratella.
Nonetheless, he gathered himself back together and posted a lap that was better than his initial effort, albeit four tenths slower than Verstappen’s.
Charles Leclerc took seventh for Ferrari, ahead of Gasly’s team-mate Daniil Kvyat and the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Sergio Perez was the quicker of the two Racing Points but needed another 0.01s to make it to Q3. He will start 11th, four places up on Lance Stroll who had an error-strewn showing in Q2 as Racing Point missed the final segment for the first time since the second race of the season at the Red Bull Ring.
Esteban Ocon lapped over two tenths slower than Renault team-mate Ricciardo, and will join Perez on row six.
Williams driver George Russell outpaced squadmate Nicholas Latifi in Q1 and secured his eighth Q2 appearance of the season, but was displeased with his lap.
He improved substantially in Q2 for 13th place on the starting grid, seeing off Sebastian Vettel – who suffered his 10th consecutive qualifying defeat versus team-mate Leclerc – and Stroll.
And Stroll had been a tenth away from missing Q2 entirely, but ultimately the Q1 drop zone was made up of the usual suspects, and headed by Haas driver Romain Grosjean.
The other Haas of Kevin Magnussen was only a couple of hundredths behind, the Dane compromised by running through the grass on exit of the second Rivazza right-hander on his final attempt.
Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen had logged a laptime that was comfortably good enough for Q2 in the final seconds of the first segment, only to have it swiftly deleted for track limits.
This consigned him to 18th on the starting grid, although he was still narrowly ahead of Latifi and over two tenths clear of his team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi – who on Friday was confirmed by Alfa for 2021 alongside Raikkonen – in 20th.