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Imola sees Hamilton take pole position number 99

NEWS STORY
17/04/2021

For a brief while yesterday it looked like Bahrain was likely to be as good as it got.

With Max Verstappen sidelined by a driveshaft issue, the Mercedes pair effectively ran riot, topping the timesheets in both sessions.

Yes, AlphaTauri and Ferrari showed promise, but the fact is that Mercedes appeared to have resolved its previous issues.

Thankfully, based on this morning's evidence, we still have a fight on our hands.

Verstappen led the way, with Lando Norris second, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly, while Valtteri Bottas was eighth.

This combined with zealous marshalling of track limits, not to mention traffic and unseasonably low temperatures that are causing major grip issues, leave us confident that this afternoon could be fun.

Taking it as read that the Haas pair won't get beyond Q1, the big question is who will join them. While we would normally expect the dubious honour to go to the Williams drivers, the fact is that both drivers have been going well thus far this weekend.

Having been impressive yesterday, the Alfa Romeos were nowhere to be seen this morning, while the Aston Martin duo and even Daniel Ricciardo must be concerned... and even if they do make the cut, Q3 seems an impossible dream.

Other than the aforementioned track limits we expect traffic to be an issue this afternoon, particularly in Q1, but this can only add to the excitement.

Pole is important here, indeed Ricciardo made it clear yesterday that grid position is vital and that all his work is directed at today's one lap pace for qualifying mid-pack means your race is basically over before it has begun.

Ahead of Q1 the air temperature is 12.8 degrees C, while the track temperature is 25.7 degrees.

Before the session gets underway, the teams and officials gather for a minute's silence is respect of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Haas pair are first out, probably aware that they will have limited running this afternoon.

Schumacher posts a 16.806, while Mazepin responds with a 17.806, the exactly one second apart.

This is the cue for a whole load of their rivals to head out.

Earlier, we saw a number of drivers improve on their second flying lap so it will be interesting to see if that is the case this afternoon. At this stage drivers are struggling to get heat into their tyres.

All but Verstappen, Perez and Latifi are on track.

Oh dear. It's all over for Tsunoda who has crashed at the Variante Alta.

The session is red-flagged.

Before his crash, which was caused by hitting the inside kerb and losing the back end, Stroll had gone quickest, ahead of Raikkonen, Schumacher and Russell.

Asked if he is OK, the Japanese driver sheepishly acknowledges that he is. Which is more than can be said of his car which has sustained a lot of damage to the rear.

So, that answers the question in terms of at least one driver who will join the Haas pair in missing the cut.

The session resumes, and Perez heads the queue in the pitlane, ahead of the Ferrari duo.

Perez sets a blistering pace on his flying lap, while Bottas is also looking good.

Perez posts 15.744, but this is beaten by Ocon, Leclerc and Verstappen, while the Mexican's time is subsequently deleted.

Bottas posts 14.926 and Hamilton 15.186 as the Mercedes pair sandwich Verstappen.

Gasly is fourth (15.445), ahead of Leclerc, Ocon and Sainz, but all are demoted when Norris goes second with a 15.009. However, Gasly's time is deleted.

As Leclerc looks set to improve, Perez goes fifth with a 15.395. Leclerc remains sixth on 15.413.

Bottas goes quickest in S2 and again in S3, crossing the line at 14.672.

Gasly improves to seventh (15.548) and this time it appears to be legal.

Currently, the Williams pair are in the drop zone, with the Alfas, Stroll, Alonso and Vettel hovering.

With three minutes remaining there are just four cars on track, however, they are soon going to have company. Indeed, Sainz is the first to head down the pitlane ahead of the final assault.

Stroll improves to seventh with a 15.522 as Schumacher's latest time is deleted.

Russell goes 14th, which demotes Raikkonen in to the drop zone.

Sainz looks set to improve as do Ocon and Vettel. Hamilton also.

Sainz goes 6th, Ocon 5th, while Hamilton aborts his lap.

Alonso goes 13th, Vettel 9th and Raikkonen 15th. However, Russell improves to 14th and thereby demotes Raikkonen. With Latifi 12th, both Williams are through.

Quickest is Bottas, ahead of Hamilton, Norris, Verstappen, Ocon, Perez, Sainz, Leclerc, Vettel and Stroll.

We lose Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Schumacher, Mazepin and Tsunoda.

The Mercedes pair are first out for Q2, joined by Latifi, Vettel, Verstappen and Gasly. The Mercedes and Red Bull are on mediums as expected, while the rest are on softs. As Russell heads out, both Williams are on the yellow-banded rubber.

Latifi posts 16.181 but this soon eclipsed by Gasly, Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton, who crosses the line at 14.817. However, Gasly has his time deleted, as does Vettel.

Stroll goes fourth (15.411), ahead of Russell and Latifi.

Perez loses time behind another car in the Variante Alta, the Mexican subsequently going fourth with a 15.106, albeit on the soft rubber.

Alonso goes seventh and Ocon 8th, while Gasly posts 15.478 to go 6th.

Ricciardo goes 8th (15.660), while teammate Norris goes top with a 14.718.

The Australian has been off the pace all weekend.

With 6:10 remaining, Ricciardo, Alonso, Ocon, Latifi and Vettel comprise the drop zone.

Vettel heads out and for a brief while he has the track to himself before being joined by teammate Stroll and Bottas.

The German goes seventh with a 15.394, as Verstappen and Perez head out.

Stroll snatches 7th from his teammate with a 15.138.

With 1:50 remaining, all 15 drivers are on track.

Latifi and Perez posts PBs in the opening sector, as do Verstappen and Ocon.

Verstappen goes quickest in S2 as Latifi goes 12th.

Gasly goes sixth while a 14.716 sees Perez go top.

Leclerc goes third and Ricciardo 8th, while Sainz fails to improve and misses the cut.

Quickest is Perez, ahead of Norris, Leclerc, Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Gasly, Ricciardo, Ocon and Stroll.

We lose Sainz, Russell, Vettel, Latifi and Alonso.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Imola, here.

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1. Posted by Old F1 Fan, 17/04/2021 22:03

"After all these years I am getting so totally bored with the Hamilton/Mercedes combo. Yes he's a great driver, they have a great car, but too much of anything is TOO MUCH. The other teams have great engineers and drivers, when is someone going to knock Mercedes off the top of the hill? Please work harder and get it done. We need real racing at the sharp end of F1, not exciting battles in the mid field. I don't tune in the see who's going to win 4th or 5th or 10th, but who is going to take down the giant that lives on the hill."

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