Qualifying report: Hamilton pips Bottas to Tuscan GP pole as Leclerc takes fifth
Valtteri Bottas had led the way through practice, but Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton got the job done when it counted as he snatched pole for the inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello…
Hamilton spent much of practice getting comfortable with the new track, nestled in the Tuscan hills, rather than chasing outright lap time. It was Bottas that led the way after Q1, but there was a few hundredths that separated them, and Hamilton then ramped it up in Q2 to lead a session for the first time during the weekend.
In the first runs in Q3, Hamilton once again set the pace, with Bottas within 0.06s, but all hope was not lost as there was still one run to go. However, Renault’s Esteban Ocon got it all wrong on his lap, spinning and bringing out the yellow flags, which forced much of the field to back off.
That gave Hamilton his 95th career pole position and 69th for Mercedes, the latter figure higher than the career total of any other driver. With Bottas slotting into second, it gave Mercedes their seventh consecutive front row lockout – two short of their record set in 2014-15.
FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GRAN PREMIO DELLA TOSCANA FERRARI 1000 2020
|1 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes
|2 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes
|3 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing
|4 Alexander Albon ALB Red Bull Racing
|5 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari
Max Verstappen went third quickest three tenths of a second adrift, the Dutchman nearly 0.5s clear of his Red Bull team mate Alex Albon. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc got the job done before the yellow flags came out, his lap catapulting him up into fifth on the grid at a track owned by his Ferrari team.
The Racing Point duo were next up, Sergio Perez outperforming Lance Stroll, despite his team mate having the heavily updated package which includes a slick new sidepod arrangement and new brake ducts. However, the Mexican will drop behind Stroll on the grid, following his one-place penalty for his collision with Kimi Raikkonen in practice.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo went eighth quickest, ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz with Ocon – who didn’t set a lap time in Q3 courtesy of his spin – rounding out the top 10.
Elsewhere, Italian Grand Prix race winner Pierre Gasly suffered a shock Q1 exit, the Frenchman struggling with understeer, while Sebastian Vettel couldn’t give Ferrari’s home crowd something to smile about with two cars in the top 10 as he was booted out in Q2.
Q1 Vettel scrapes through but Monza winner Gasly out
Bottas continued where he left off in practice, topping the timesheets for the fourth consecutive session at Mugello, the Finn edging ahead of Mercedes team mate Hamilton by just 0.027s.
Verstappen slotted into third, but he was six tenths further back, with team mate Albon needing a second run to move up to fourth, 0.2s slower.
Race winner Gasly struggled with understeer in his first run, leaving him in the drop zone, and while he improved second time around, the car still looked twitchy and he was bumped out by Vettel at the death.
That was the Frenchman’s first Q1 elimination since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, which incidentally was his first race since being demoted from Red Bull.
Russell briefly looked like he could cause a surprise but ran wide and bounced across the gravel to lose a bunch of time. He still managed to go faster on that lap than team mate Latifi, mind.
Giovinazzi is nothing but consistent, the Italian remaining the only driver to have got knocked out of Q1 at every race this season, with Kevin Magnussen slowest for the second time in three races
Knocked out: Gasly, Giovinazzi, Russell, Latifi. Magnussen
Q2 – Vettel dumped out as Hamilton beats Bottas for the first time
For the first time this weekend, Hamilton snatched the upper hand over team mate Bottas, with Verstappen moving within 0.2s – although he gained several tenths courtesy of a tow from Sainz out of the final corner.
Sainz was in the drop zone after the first runs, but lifted himself up into the top 10, at the expense of team mate Lando Norris, just a tenth of a second separating the pair.
Danill Kvyat ended up 12th, outqualifying Gasly for only the second time this year, while Kimi Raikkonen’s 13th is Alfa Romeo’s best qualifying result of the season.
Vettel wasn’t able to save himself twice in a row, the German struggling for performance as he was bumped out of Q2 in 14th, meaning he has now gone five races without outqualifying Leclerc.
Q3 – Mercedes stetch ahead as Ocon spins
Both Hamilton and Bottas managed to go even quicker in Q3, pulling clear of the chasing Red Bull of Verstappen, who could only get to within 0.4s after the first runs.
Second time around, Ocon lost control of his Renault at Turn 5, which meant a flurry of drivers – including both Mercedes – had to back out of their final runs.
Hamilton’s opening lap was good enough for pole, his seventh in nine races this season. With overtaking expecting to be difficult at a fast and narrow Mugello, reigning world champion Hamilton is in great shape to win his sixth race in nine.
The key quote
“It’s been a really tough weekend if I’m really honest,” said pole-sitter Hamilton. “Firstly this track is phenomenal. It’s a really challenging circuit and honestly, you saw Valtteri was quicker than me all day yesterday and even this morning, and even in Q1.
"So I’ve been working so hard in the background to try and improve on my lines, improve on the set-up, and with the engineers, we did such a great job, and the mechanics as always did an amazing job and finally got the lap that I needed.
"At the end there, I think the wind picked up so I wasn’t able to go any quicker but nonetheless it was a job done.”
The Tuscan Grand Prix kicks off at 1510 local time, which is 1210 UTC. Is Hamilton set to move to within just one victory Michael Schumacher’s all-time win record on Sunday or can team mate Valtteri Bottas find a way to get ahead and chip away at the championship deficit?