The summary of this qualifying pretty much sums up the ridiculousness of the Imola qualifying session as both Mercedes failed to make Q3 and as drivers made some rookie mistakes during the three sessions.
Q1 – Hamilton almost out in Q1
The Mercedes drivers made a last minute attempt to get through to Q2 after it looked like they’d both be knocked out after poor pace early in the session, however they found the pace and scraped through.
The session was red flagged with 12 minutes remaining as Alex Albon’s right-rear brake went up in flames and spread red-hot debris in its wake. He limped it back into the pits but the Williams was out of qualifying.
Leclerc setting the best time of 1m 18.796s – Verstappen half a second behind and Sainz close in P3. Zhou was next up for Alfa Romeo, leaving Perez fifth for Red Bull.
McLaren’s Ricciardo took sixth, Norris eighth, sandwiching Haas driver Magnussen. Alonso took P9, just behind Norris, while the Aston Martins were next up, Stroll 10th and Vettel 11th.
Russell finished 12th ahead of Mercedes alumnus Bottas, who put his Alfa Romeo 13th. Schumacher shrugged off an off-track excursion to take P14 in Q1, safely through by 0.050s.
Hamilton’s last-gap effort put him into P15, 0.004s ahead of AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda, who missed out on Q2. “How far are we off, man, that’s crazy?!” exclaimed Hamilton before learning of the 1.6s gulf between himself and P1.
Q2 – Tsunoda, Gasly, Latifi, Ocon, Albon park up as Rain Looms
Carlos Sainz was told that he had one timed lap from his engineer who started the dash to set a benchmark on the slick tyres before the rain arrived. Sainz went second 0.197s off Verstappen who was in 1st at the time before spinning out and crashing in the final left hander.
This brought out the red flag again with 11 minutes to go and as the heavens opened, the umbrellas did too and the hopes of the bottom five, Russell, Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou and Stroll were pretty much drowned.
Q3 – Red Flags Rule the Session
One flag to rule them all and that flag was the red one. Magnussen was the first to bring out the red flags as his car played peek-a-boo with the sand trap eventually freeing itself and getting underway again. Commentators felt that the flag was perhaps brought out a bit too early.
The track was truly damp by this time and with five minutes left, the lap times were coming in thick and fast. Leclerc went a 1m 28.778 with Verstappen just 0.020 behind him. Verstappen then improved to a 1m 27.999 just after Bottas crashed to bring out a red flag after going into Turn 16.
On the restart Verstappen led Leclerc out but before either driver could improve on their lap time Norris crashed out with 40 seconds left sealing 3rd place for himself, Verstappen in 1st, Leclerc in 2nd for the Saturday Sprint Race.
“It was tricky out there with the rain… It was very slippery to get the tyre temps to work. It was a hectic, long qualifying but of course at the end happy to be here. It’s an amazing track, it also really punishes you if you make a mistake, you know you can go in the wall. That’s what we like to make it really hard and difficult.
“Very pleased of course with pole position. I know tomorrow and Sunday will be different in terms of weather conditions but at least it’s a good start to the weekend” – Max Verstappen, Red Bull