Imola [Italy], April 17 (ANI): Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton got the job done when it mattered in a scintillating Emilia Romagna Grand Prix qualifying session as he beat Red Bull's Sergio Perez by just 0.036s at Imola, with Max Verstappen inside a tenth of a second of the pole in third.
There was nothing to choose between Mercedes and Red Bull heading into the second qualifying session of the 2021 campaign, with both teams saying the other was favourites for P1 and playing down their own chances.
It was initially Valtteri Bottas who looked the most comfortable out on a track where he dominated all three segments of the one-hour shoot-out last time out at Imola, but he didn't deliver in Q3 as his world champion teammate rose to the top of the pile with a brilliant first lap in qualifying.
The seven-time world champion failed to improve on his second run, and that pole looked under threat as Lando Norris set a purple first sector and then a purple second to have at least a front row in his grasp. But he lost time in the final sector and though he went second, his time was deleted for exceeding track limits.
That allowed Sergio Perez, who was getting quicker and quicker as the session went on, to slot into a brilliant second, securing his first-ever front-row starts in his 193rd Grand Prix start. His Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen slotted into third, outqualified by a teammate (without any penalties/red flag) for the first time since Daniel Ricciardo left the team at the end of 2018.
Ferrari, who brought a new floor to Imola a race earlier than planned, have shown impressive one-lap pace all weekend, with Charles Leclerc delivering on that potential with an impressive fourth, beating AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly to the position for the second successive race.
Daniel Ricciardo looked to be struggling through practice, and looked the slower of the two McLarens throughout qualifying, but ended up higher on the grid with sixth, with Norris's second-best lap only good enough for seventh. (ANI)