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 Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy - Dan Istitene - Formula 1 

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy – Dan Istitene – Formula 1

01:29 PM

When was the last time we had the top eight within half a second?

Norris would have been third were his lap time not deleted…

Sky Sports F1 have not yet spoken to him.

That is a shocker from Bottas – and he had two goes at the cherry. Was just nowhere at all in the first sector, which cost him greatly.

01:28 PM

Verstappen reacts to a disappointing second

He, like Hamilton, starts on mediums whereas Pérez starts on softs. Cannot wait for the first lap.

01:26 PM

Hamilton reacts to his 99th pole in F1

01:25 PM

Having the quickest car is one thing…

…but when it is as close as it is here, you do have to make the most of it. Verstappen did not do that today, but tomorrow is another day.

Verstappen and Hamilton talk after the session - Getty ImagesVerstappen and Hamilton talk after the session - Getty Images

Verstappen and Hamilton talk after the session – Getty Images

01:22 PM

Perez reacts to best qualifying of his career

I think on ultimate pace he was probably a tenth or two behind Verstappen but Verstappen was the one who made the error on the final runs and he did not. Less than a tenth between the top three though.

01:17 PM

Verstappen ran wide in turn three

He put his front left onto the grass after getting a bit lairy at the start of the lap. That was probably the difference, there. Or it would have been pole. Those are the kind of mistakes you cannot make.

01:17 PM

That is hard to take for Norris

He exceeded track limits on his lap so that’s fair enough. But he could have been starting on the second row… but he starts seventh. Which is not sooo bad, but a lot worse than where he should have been.

Decent lap from Leclerc and also Gasly. Ricciardo ends up ahead of Norris despite being miles behind him all weekend. Them’s the breaks, I guess.

Poor old Lance Stroll didn’t even get a time on the board.

01:15 PM

Q3 – Classification and gaps

  1. HAM 1:14.411

  2. PER +0.035

  3. VER +0.087

  4. LEC +0.329

  5. GAS +0.379

  6. RIC +0.415

  7. NOR +0.464

  8. BOT+0.487

  9. OCO +0.799

  10. STR (no time)

01:13 PM

LEWIS HAMILTON TAKES POLE POSITION FOR THE 2021 EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX

Hamilton can barely believe it in the car, but he is very pleased. “That’s a surprise,” Pete Bonnington says on the team radio. He could not improve on his second lap but neither Verstappen nor Pérez could displace him. In fairness, that was a very good lap from him. Only 0.035s off pole… that is more like it.

Wonder what happened to Verstappen?

01:12 PM

Q3 – Perez and Verstappen about to cross the line

Perez goes second! For now…

Verstappen, what does he do? He cannot beat Perez! Or Hamilton! Only third!

It’s pole for Lewis Hamilton! Bottas in eighth!

01:11 PM

Q3 – Bottas does not improve much

He stays fifth…

Hamilton doesn’t improve.

Norris is going really well here. Quickest in sectors one and two…

Where does he finish! Second for now! Only 0.043s behind Hamilton…

BUT THE LAP GETS DELETED! OH NO!

01:10 PM

Q3 – Hamilton and Bottas on their hot laps

Bottas has a poor first sector, four-tenths off his team-mate in the first sector alone!

Hamilton doesn’t improve in sector one, either… but he is only 0.087s down after two…

Norris quickest in S1…

01:09 PM

Q3 – Drivers out for their final runs

This could be close – or can Verstappen pull something out of the bag? Bottas definitely needs to find some time. That looks a bit better from Pérez. Verstappen will be the last man to cross the line, but Bottas and Hamilton will be first and second. So it could be an interesting wait to find out who will take pole…

Two minutes remain.

01:07 PM

Q3 – Verstappen complaining about something there…

The throttle? He did not sound very happy though, definitely something to do with the car. Gasly, Ocon and Ricciardo all looked like their times were set on used tyres. I think Gasly has a bit of pace to burn on his second run.

Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy - Clive Mason - Formula 1 Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy - Clive Mason - Formula 1 

Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy – Clive Mason – Formula 1

01:05 PM

Q3 – Order and gaps after the first runs

  1. HAM 1:14.411

  2. VER +0.091

  3. PER +0.254

  4. NOR +0.464

  5. LEC +0.510

  6. BOT +0.597

  7. GAS +0.906

  8. OCO +1.491

  9. RIC +1.654

  10. STR (no time)

01:04 PM

Q3 – Verstappen close but only second!

O.091s in it but Hamilton has the advantage at the moment…

Leclerc fifth, just behind Norris, Bottas must have made a mistake to be sixth after the first runs.

01:03 PM

Q3 – Gasly goes third, Perez quickest

Two-tenths up on Norris. That looks an okay lap, but how good.

Bottas only goes third as Hamilton goes quickest overall by 0.254s on Perez…

Verstappen on a hot lap, looking good at the moment. It’ll be close.

01:03 PM

Q3 – Norris looking tidy in sector one

As he has done all day long. He’s 0.4s up on Ricciardo… and a tenth up on Perez.

Norris heading to the top here for a little while at least. A 1.14.875 puts him quickest, Stroll was briefly top but had his lat deleted. Ricciardo is second, but over a second slower than Lando Norris…

01:00 PM

GREEN LIGHT – Q3 BEGINS

This should be a little less frantic than the first two.

12:59 PM

Well, that was interesting

And I think this final 12 minutes will be even more interesting. Norris, Leclerc and Gasly all have a great chance of taking a spot on the second row. It seems to be between Hamilton and Verstappen for pole but you cannot ignore Bottas…

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy - April 16, 2021 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen - REUTERS/Guglielmo MangiapaneEmilia Romagna Grand Prix - Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy - April 16, 2021 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen - REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy – April 16, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen – REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

12:55 PM

Q2 – Top 10 and gaps

These drivers are through:

  1. PER 1:14.716

  2. NOR +0.002

  3. LEC +0.092

  4. HAM +0.101

  5. VER +0.168

  6. BOT +0.189

  7. GAS +0.211

  8. RIC +0.317

  9. OCO +0.401

  10. STR +0.422

Not sure if Gasly made it through on mediums. He certainly ended the session on them. I think he did, which is a great result. Think he could trouble the second row here. Think Pérez will be a little concerned, though he is at least through to Q3 unlike in Bahrain.

12:53 PM

Q2 ENDS – Pérez quickest ahead of Norris

Drivers out…

11. SAI
12. RUS
13. VET
14. LAT
15. ALO

12:53 PM

Q2 – Final runs under way

Ocon moves up to eighth and Alonso cannot beat him… he is out!

Leclerc goes third, knocking Vettel out. And Carlos Sainz also out!

Russell does not make it through in 12th, but ahead of Vettel. Decent…

Stroll sneaks in… by 0.061s. Latifi even ahead of Alonso.

12:51 PM

Q2 – 2 mins remain

Drivers lining up their final runs here. Hamilton has a lot of clear space in front of him but Bottas has a fair few drivers directly in front of him. They are all on hot laps too so shouldn’t be a problem unless someone makes an error.

Latifi improving but will struggle to get out of Q2 here. On the softs this time – he goes 11th… ahead of Russell for now. He’s out.

Perez quickest now by just 0.002s. Gasly up into sixth and should be through…

12:49 PM

Q2 – Vettel out on his own trying to set a lap time

On the soft tyres, looking fairly smooth. His time is good enough for seventh but without a great deal of breathing room. Stroll, in eighth, is improving. Sergio Pérez back out and on a fresh set of soft tyres…

Stroll in the other Aston Martin goes seventh to knock Vettel down a spot. Russell now in the drop zone, as is Ricciardo, Alonso, Ocon and Latifi.

12:47 PM

Q2 – Lap was on the softs for Norris

But still nearly four-tenths quicker than Bottas who was on the mediums. And much quicker than Pérez who was on the softs. So that is encouraging. Still a mystery to Daniel Ricciardo’s poor performance. He needs to improve to get into Q3…

12:46 PM

Q2 – Order and gaps after the first runs: Norris leads Hamilton

  1. NOR 1:14.718

  2. HAM +0.099

  3. VER +0.166

  4. LEC +0.258

  5. BOT +0.380

  6. PER +0.388

  7. STR +0.693

  8. SAI +0.705

  9. GAS +0.760

  10. RUS +0.916
    DROP ZONE:

  11. RIC +0.942

  12. ALO +1.262

  13. OCO +1.397

  14. LAT +1.463

  15. VET (no time)

12:45 PM

Q2 – Norris goes quickest

Quickest by a tenth, but on the soft tyres. If Russell is 10th on the medium tyres then that is astonishing.

British Formula One driver Lando Norris of the McLaren F1 Team in action during the third practice 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. Formula One Grand Prix Emilia Romagna, Imola, Italy - 17 Apr 2021 - DAVIDE GENNARI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock British Formula One driver Lando Norris of the McLaren F1 Team in action during the third practice 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. Formula One Grand Prix Emilia Romagna, Imola, Italy - 17 Apr 2021 - DAVIDE GENNARI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

British Formula One driver Lando Norris of the McLaren F1 Team in action during the third practice 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. Formula One Grand Prix Emilia Romagna, Imola, Italy – 17 Apr 2021 – DAVIDE GENNARI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

12:43 PM

Q2 – Pérez goes fifth

Was quickest overall in sector one but got a bit of traffic and that cost him perhaps. Ended up 0.289s off Hamilton’s quickest time but he was on the soft tyres, so not great.

Norris now quickest in S1 and Ricciardo only in eighth overall after his first lap. Norris quickest after two sectors!

12:42 PM

Q2 – Early order and gaps

  1. HAM 1:14.817

  2. VER +0.067

  3. BOT +0.281

  4. STR +0.594

  5. RUS +0.817

  6. LAT +1.364

  7. GAS +31.195

12:41 PM

Q2 – Stroll a couple of tenths up on Vettel

Though Vettel loses his lap time for a track limits infringement, following Gasly. Russell ahead of Latifi after their first laps and Pérez is starting his quick lap on the soft tyre. Probably wise.

12:40 PM

Q2 – Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen on quick laps

Verstappen looking good to be quickest here, but plenty of time to be found in the final few corners.

1:15.098 for Bottas. Verstappen beats that by two tenths and Hamilton beats that by 0.067s!

12:39 PM

Q2 – Both Mercedes and Verstappen on the mediums

So are both Williams cars, which perhaps suggests they are lacking softs.

Anyway, hot laps now under way… Verstappen two tenths up on Bottas in the first sector, and nearly three-tenths up on Hamilton.

12:37 PM

GREEN LIGHT – Q2 BEGINS

15 minutes on the clock…

Both Mercedes out early.

12:34 PM

A fair margin from Raikkonen in 16th to Alonso in 15th

0.140 in the end. Russell sounded quite relieved to get through to Q2 there. Not the cleanest session from him and he looks like being out-qualified by Latifi for the first time together.

12:32 PM

Q1 – Bottas leads Hamilton

Order and gaps of top 15:

  1. BOT 1:14.672

  2. HAM +0.151

  3. NOR +0.337

  4. VER +0.437

  5. OCO +0.713

  6. PER +0.723

  7. SAI +0.734

  8. LEC +0.741

  9. VET +0.787

  10. STR +0.850

  11. GAS +0.876

  12. LAT +0.981

  13. RIC +0.997

  14. RUS +1.154

  15. ALO +1.160

Not sure what is going on with Ricciardo this weekend. But look how close that is from fifth to ninth! Just 0.074s in it.

12:30 PM

Q1 ENDS – Bottas quickest

That is both Williams cars through! Great stuff. When was the last time that happened? 2018?

Here’s who dropped out:
16. RAI
17. GIO
18. MSC
19. MAZ
20. TSU

12:29 PM

Q1 – The usual frantic end is coming up…

Sainz moves up to sixth, what can Ocon do from 10th? He moves up to fifth…

Latifi moves up to 11th! Alonso only 13th. Interesting… that is dangerous… Vettel 14th at the moment but what can he do? Ninth…

Raikkonen only goes 15th and Russell is going again… 13th, behind Latifi, knocking Raikkonen out.

12:27 PM

Q1 – Drivers lining up their final runs

As it stands, these are the cars that need to improve to get through: RAI, MSC, LAT, MAZ. Tsunoda too but he will not be improving as he put his car in the barriers.

12:26 PM

Q1 – 2 mins left

What does Russell do on his next lap? 14th quickest, so if he stays there he will go through but will he…? It could be hard work. Mazepin runs wide and is going to struggle to do anything but 19th here.

12:25 PM

Q1 – Seems like Russell made a mistake on his first run

Which explains why it was so slow – now eight-tenths behind Mazepin. Oh, Hamilton improved on a second run, too. But still 0.283s behind Bottas – who did actually improve by more than a tenth. More like 0.150s in the end.

12:24 PM

Q1 – Bottas goes even quicker

By a tenth of a second. Gasly posts a time seventh quickest, knocking Mick Schumacher into the elimination zone.

Finnish Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes-AMG Petronas in action during the third practice 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. Formula One Grand Prix Emilia Romagna, Imola, Italy - DAVIDE GENNARI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Finnish Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes-AMG Petronas in action during the third practice 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. Formula One Grand Prix Emilia Romagna, Imola, Italy - DAVIDE GENNARI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

Finnish Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes-AMG Petronas in action during the third practice 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. Formula One Grand Prix Emilia Romagna, Imola, Italy – DAVIDE GENNARI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

12:22 PM

Q1 – Order after first runs

  1. BOT

  2. NOR

  3. VER

  4. HAM

  5. PER

  6. LEC

  7. SAI

  8. OCO

  9. RIC

  10. BET

  11. ALO

  12. STR

  13. GIO

  14. RAI

  15. MSC
    DROP ZONE:

  16. LAT

  17. MAZ

  18. RUS

  19. GAS

  20. TSU

12:22 PM

Q1 – 7 mins remain, Bottas quickest

Pérez going for a second hot lap on these tyres. Needs to get one on the board and it cannot be all or nothing for his final run. This lap doesn’t need to be stellar but just needs to be enough to get him through. He goes fifth, 0.469s off Bottas.

12:21 PM

Q1 – What can Mercedes do?

Bottas goes quickest but Hamilton can only get within three-tenths of a second and only third, behind Verstappen. 0.183s the gap between Bottas and Verstappen in second…

Well, Verstappen was second, but now Lando Norris is! Only 0.083s behind Bottas.

Gasly also loses a lap time for track limits…

12:19 PM

Q1 – Pérez looking okay here

He gets a slipstream from Mazepin to go quickest of all. A 1.15.744 which is then quickly beaten by Leclerc and Verstappen. It gets worse – Pérez has his lap deleted for a track limits infringement…

12:18 PM

Q1 – 11 mins remain

Pérez the first man out, followed by Leclerc and Sainz, then Verstappen and Ocon, bit of a gap then to Ocon, Ricciardo and both Williams. Bottas and Hamilton follow, though with a big gap between them. Mick Schumacher is very close behind Hamilton.

Anyway, what can Pérez do?

12:16 PM

Q1 – SESSION RESUMES

A handful of midfield drivers had just started their hot laps, but nothing from Hamilton, Bottas or either Red Bull. The Mercedes were about to start a hot lap but the Red Bulls did not leave the garage, or at least did not set a sector time.

12:14 PM

Q1 – SESSION TO RESTART AT 1315BST

Not long to wait, 12.01 on the clock.

12:13 PM

Q1 – Only five drivers with a time on the clock before that red flag

So here’s the order and gaps. Not that it counts for much at this point.

  1. STR 1:16.802

  2. RAI +0.107

  3. MSC +0.724

  4. RUS +1.564

  5. MAZ +1.724

Lando Norris had just set the fastest first sector time of anyone, more than a couple of tenths better than the next best. Not sure what happened to Russell, but that does not look like a very good lap at all.

12:09 PM

Q1 – RED FLAG

12 minutes remain on the clock. Tsunoda’s rear end is pretty destroyed but he is okay. What happened? Lost it on entry at the chicane at the top of the track, rear end goes round and goes in to the barriers with it leading…

12:07 PM

Q1 – Russell with a not particularly impressive first sector

Vettel, a few cars behind, runs wide as he goes up the hill and aborts his lap..

Russell splits the Haas cars to go second before Stroll goes quickest of all, but just a tenth quicker than Raikkonen

RED FLAG – Tsunoda has made a right mess of his AlphaTauri at the Variante Alta.

12:05 PM

Q1 – Mick Schumacher exactly a second quicker than Mazepin after his first run

A 1.16.806 for the German. Next man across the line should be George Russell in his Williams. The rest of the pack are just leaving their garages and the pit lane now.

12:04 PM

Q1 – The Aston Martin does look good, you have to admit

Vettel and Stroll leave their garages to join a few others on track.

12:02 PM

Q1 – 17 minutes remain

Both Haas cars, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin are the first out. Anything but 19th and 20th would be a result for them today. And probably all season.

12:00 PM

GREEN LIGHT – Q1 BEGINS

Green light at the end of the pit lane. 18 minutes to go…

12:00 PM

Predictions?

I’ve just said Gasly to stick it into the top six, but I think Russell is going to qualify… unlucky 13th. That’s my big call. Reckon 0.2s between Verstappen and pole and the leading Mercedes.

11:57 AM

Nearly forgot to mention AlphaTauri…

… and in particular Pierre Gasly. Their factory and HQ is only just down the road in Faenza (literally 15km down the SS9). Gasly qualified fourth here last year and fifth in Bahrain. Reckon he has a decent chance of qualifying in the top six today; though it could be tight with the Ferraris.

Just a few minutes until Q1 begins, with five cars to be eliminated and positions 16-20 decided for the race tomorrow.

11:50 AM

The track has been catching a fair few drivers out, in fairness to Mazepin

Leclerc in the wall and Latifi also nudged it this morning, bringing out a red flag. Wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a repeat of this (though not necessarily from Latifi) this afternoon.

10 minutes until Q1 begins.

11:49 AM

Fair to say that Nikita Mazepin is having a rotten old time in F1 so far

Spun a lot in Bahrain, barely lasted three corners in the race and was spinning around and into the wall yesterday, too.

11:41 AM

A few things to note before qualifying

  • What can Ferrari do? Looking like they are a possibility to lead the midfield, with perhaps their best performance on raw pace since 2019

  • Williams look to be relatively competitive, with chances for one or both cars to be out of Q1

  • Daniel Ricciardo was well down the order in FP3 and has had a bit of a frustrating weekend, without setting a very good lap together

  • Mick Schumacher has been going well, would be a major result if he could get it off the back row

11:33 AM

Constructor standings after one round

11:25 AM

What of Vettel and Alonso this year?

Can they get the best out of cars that – at least in Bahrain – looked to be towards the back of the midfield? In my column yesterday, I argued that it could be a long and painful year for both men on their new starts in 2021 – Alonso returning after two years out and Vettel at new team Aston Martin.

Red Bull-Renault driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (L) raises his finger to make the "number one" sign in front of second-placed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso of Spain (R) on the podium after coming third in the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 9, 2011. - AFP/TORU YAMANAKA Red Bull-Renault driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (L) raises his finger to make the "number one" sign in front of second-placed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso of Spain (R) on the podium after coming third in the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 9, 2011. - AFP/TORU YAMANAKA 

Red Bull-Renault driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (L) raises his finger to make the “number one” sign in front of second-placed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso of Spain (R) on the podium after coming third in the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 9, 2011. – AFP/TORU YAMANAKA

Read the full piece here.

11:15 AM

What a great setting for a race

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Ital - Getty Images Europe /Bryn Lennon Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Ital - Getty Images Europe /Bryn Lennon 

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Ital – Getty Images Europe /Bryn Lennon

11:04 AM

Driver standings after one round: Top 10

10:50 AM

Final times from third practice

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull 1:14.958

  2. Lando Norris, McLaren 1:15.414

  3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes GP 1:15.515

  4. Sergio Perez, Red Bull 1:15.551

  5. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari 1:15.738

  6. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri 1:15.890

  7. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari. 1:15.908

  8. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes GP 1:15.908

  9. Fernando Alonso, Alpine 1:16.186

  10. Esteban Ocon, Alpine 1:16.228

  11. Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri 1:16.230

  12. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin 1:16.245

  13. Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren 1:16.253

  14. Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin 1:16.389

  15. George Russell, Williams 1:16.427

  16. Mick Schumacher, Haas F1 1:16.448

  17. Nicholas Latifi, Williams 1:16.537

  18. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo 1:16.612

  19. Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo 1:16.803

  20. Nikita Mazepin, Haas F1 1:17.398

10:38 AM

Good afternoon F1 fans

And welcome to our coverage for qualifying for the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix from Imola. After 13 years without a Formula One race at this track we have been lucky enough to have two in the past six months. It’s a great track and hopefully this year’s race will be as good as last year’s. Narrow track, yes, but absolutely thrilling and there was a surprising amount of overtaking in November.

So what is the outlook so far this weekend? Well, it is difficult to tell. The Mercedes certainly looks less problematic than it did in Bahrain and indeed in pre-season testing. Red Bull will be looking to avoid what happened in Bahrain last time round, being quickest throughout the weekend, taking pole by a significant margin but failing to convert that into a win.

Valtteri Bottas led Lewis Hamilton in both sessions on Friday as Max Verstappen missed most of the second hour’s running with a driveshaft problem. At that point you wondered what real pace Red Bull had. Well, this morning we found out.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy - Dan Istitene - Formula 1Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy - Dan Istitene - Formula 1

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy – Dan Istitene – Formula 1

It took a while but Verstappen ended the hopes of Mercedes topping all three practice sessions in final practice this morning, with a lap that was around half a second quicker than second-placed Lando Norris in the McLaren. Hamilton was a further tenth back from his fellow Briton with the other Red Bull of Sergio Pérez in fourth and within a tenth of the defending champion. Does this make Red Bull favourites for qualifying? Yes, but I am not convinced the gap will be quite so large. In any case, there is uncertainty, which is great.

Hopefully it is tight at the front, but it was immensely close in FP3 behind Verstappen. From Norris in second down to Mick Schumacher in 16th there was little over a second. Decent lap by the rookie German, too, splitting the Williams cars and quicker than both Alfa Romeos. Looks like it could be another cracker.

Qualifying gets going at 1pm BST and we will be here for all the build-up, action and reaction from Imola.

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