What the teams said – Qualifying in Emilia Romagna
Neither driver seemed completely comfortable in the only practice session but they did both get a run out on all three tyre compounds and seemed as assured here as anybody could be in the circumstances. Both drivers made it through to Q3 on the medium compound tyre with minimal dramas and were evenly-matched, with Hamilton grabbing provisional pole in Q3 before Bottas roared back with a better final lap. Pole went to the Finn by a tenth, but he’ll have his work cut out at the start tomorrow.
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:13.706
"Valtteri did a great job this afternoon and it was a pretty poor final lap from me, but these things happen and you can't always get it perfect. This circuit is unbelievable, it's a classic with amazing history, and the speeds that we are going round it are pretty mind blowing; I'm so grateful to be here and to have the performance that we have, which is really remarkable. The tyres are working better here than they did in Portugal last weekend but it was still a real challenge out there today. For tomorrow, I'm pretty certain we will see quite a boring race, because the track is quite narrow and there's nowhere you can really pass after the first chicane. So, it's going to be a tough challenge when following, but hopefully the DRS will give us opportunities into the first braking zone. We saw Max was very strong on his race runs this morning, so he will be a threat, and I'm just going to give it everything I've got tomorrow and see where we get to."
Valtteri Bottas, 1st, 1:13.609
"It's never easy to get pole position but I'm really enjoying this track. When you push flat out, it's a beautiful feeling and I knew I had to dig deep on the final lap. For me, Turns 2 and 3 were something I really had to work on today, and I only got there right at the end; the same at the final corners, where I'd struggled with some instability but I knew I really had to push at the end, so I risked it and the car just turned in nicely. I was able to find the small gains I needed and it's a great feeling when you manage that - I definitely had the shakes after that one! Tomorrow, it's going to be a good fight: it's one of the longest runs of the calendar into Turn 1, so no doubt Lewis and Max will be chasing me. But it's a good place to start and hopefully the pace is good. Game on!"
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was a great qualifying session, once again coming down to the final lap of the final run. Last weekend in Portugal, Valtteri looked to have the upper hand through qualifying, then Lewis took the pole right at the end by a tenth; this time, Valtteri turned the tables and was able to claim pole. We've seen them both very close in qualifying at the last races, with the advantage swinging back and forth, and that's exactly how it should be. For tomorrow, we decided to start on the Medium compound because the Soft didn't look great on the long runs in practice. The only thing we'll be telling the drivers is to go flat out and race each other hard - everything else they know and we're looking forward to see how it plays out."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It's great to be starting tomorrow with both cars on the front row and well done to Valtteri for a fine lap at the very end to put him on pole. We've enjoyed the two-day format so far. It's simply not possible to do all the normal homework in the space of one and a half hours, so the session ends up a bit of a compromise of both low and high fuel work. A bit of a surprise for us in the morning session was just how poor the soft tyre was. If we'd known that we'd have done the same FP1 programme as Red Bull and Ferrari, and saved a set for qualifying. It took Valtteri a bit of time to get going in the morning, he damaged his first set of hard tyres with a flatspot which meant he was having to do the low fuel work on medium and soft tyres without many laps under his belt. Lewis had a tidier session, getting to grips with the track on the first run and by the time he was on low fuel he was putting in times that were faster than anyone. With such little running in practice, qualifying is always going to be a bit of a learning curve but our cars looked like we had a bit of margin to Red Bull throughout although it was nip and tuck between our two drivers with Valtteri just nudging it in front in the final moments. We're not sure where we sit to Red Bull on pace for tomorrow, they looked about the same as us in the long runs this morning, but we'll find out in the first stint when we see if we can build a gap."
The practice session gave Red Bull cause for optimism, with Verstappen seemingly well set to push the Mercedes boys close. But roll on qualifying and it all started to unravel for the team - a spark plug issue keeping the Dutchman in the garage for the first runs of Q2. With Albon spinning on his opening flying lap, it was all to do for both drivers in the final moments and although they made it through, it was hardly serene progress. That had left Verstappen slightly out of touch with the evolving track conditions and he fell back from the Silver Arrows, while Albon had his first flying lap time deleted in Q3 and under pressure only managed sixth when it mattered.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:14.176
“It was a bit of a messy qualifying in the end and the issue we had in Q2 took the rhythm out of the session. Normally throughout qualifying you know exactly where you still have time to gain and you can build up but I never really got into that because I had to nail one lap on the mediums in Q2. Then after that, going into the first bit of Q3, still not having a perfect reference on the soft tyres made it all a bit more tricky. I think P3 was the maximum we could have done anyway and I didn’t expect to beat Mercedes but I would have liked to have been a bit closer, which I think was possible if we had a cleaner qualifying. After the session I said a big well done to the mechanics because it was impressive again to get my car back out in Q2. They always try their best even if it looks impossible and we should be very proud of that. The track is really cool and it’s enjoyable to drive. I initially thought it was going to be too narrow for these cars but it’s fine so let’s hope we can have a good race tomorrow.”
Alex Albon, 6th, 1:14.572
“It’s very tight out there and just one tenth would have put me fourth. Overall, it was not a bad qualifying and we can have a good race from sixth. The session started off quite difficult but then it just got better and better. I got track limits with my first Q3 lap so that was deleted and with the final Q3 lap there’s always a bit of a risk versus reward factor so I think if I had a lap time already on the board I would have risked and pushed harder, but the time was not too far off in the end. I think with the narrow track and tyre degradation, overtaking could be quite tricky in the race tomorrow but it’s a new circuit and no one really knows how it’s going to play out, which is kind of exciting, so let’s see.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“Third on the grid for Max today was thanks to some incredible teamwork by the mechanics who managed to repair the electrical issue on car 33 in record time. Max was able to get back out on track in time to post a lap in Q2 but of course this had an effect on his preparation for Q3. Third was probably still the optimum today and qualifying on the medium compound gives us options for tomorrow’s race. For Alex, having lost a few laps due to track limits, he had to make that last Q3 lap count and he did a solid job to line up on the third row of the grid with the sixth fastest time. Having set his best Q2 time on the soft tyre, Alex starts tomorrow’s race on a different tyre to Max which means we’ll have alternative strategies across both cars, which hopefully works to our advantage.”
Qualifying has been the Achilles’ heel for the team this season, but they certainly found a new gear today. Gasly looked very quick in practice and was able to carry that form into qualifying where he managed to match his career-best of fourth on the grid. Starting on the soft tyres with everyone ahead on mediums, he could be one to watch at lights out. Kvyat also made Q3 for the first time this season in an encouraging display for the team, grabbing eighth on the grid at the flag.
Pierre Gasly, 4th, 1:14.502
“It was a pretty busy session this morning! With only an hour and a half of practice, we had a lot of things to go through, but the car felt good from the first lap and we had a pretty good balance straight away. We did a few long runs just to get an idea on the tyre degradation for Sunday. We could extract also a bit more performance at the end with the soft tyres. We seemed quite competitive and we went into qualifying with a positive attitude. This track is amazing, I said it before coming here but now driving it on low fuel in qualifying mode it was just unbelievable. I put in some strong quali laps and equalled my best qualifying in F1 - P4 is pretty cool and I’m happy to do it here in Imola. We seem to be fast in Italy! Most of the work still has to be done tomorrow in the race, we’re starting in a strong position behind the two Mercedes and Max, so we need to keep the position at the start and go from there. Looking at the timesheets it’s going to be a tight battle and I’m excited about it.”
Daniil Kvyat, 8th, 1:14.696
“This morning was a busy session, as expected. We did many laps and tried a few things to get a good rhythm. As for my qualifying, I was pretty happy with my lap, it was a tight qualifying and there were very small margins at the end of the session. I think I missed maybe a tenth and a half to have a great result, but I am still satisfied with my lap. We had to be very careful about the track limits today, I still prefer the old school tracks where you’re penalised for running wide by gravel, but once I got to Q3 I finally got on the limit and was able to push harder. We will try to do our best tomorrow, there are good opportunities starting from where we are, so we will try and capitalise on that.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“Although there are no points given on a Saturday, we are quite happy with the two-day GP format so far in here in Imola! The car has been working well straight out of the box and the drivers and their engineers have worked well to achieve a good balance in both high and low-fuel configuration across all three compounds, with both sides of the garage achieving good grid positions for tomorrow. Qualifying itself went very well, with both drivers setting strong first times in Q1, meaning they were both able to progress to Q2 only using one set of tyres. As is always the case, this provided a useful opportunity for the drivers to extract the most from the package in Q3, and they have both been rewarded with good starting positions for the race, which we now need to capitalize on. There is still lots of work to do tonight preparing race strategies, but everyone in the team is looking forward to an exciting home race and will be aiming to score good points with both cars tomorrow.”
Ricciardo predicted the team would bounce back after looking to have dropped back from their rivals last time out and so it proved, for the Australian at least. He made it through to Q3 and had it all to do on his final run with only one fresh set of soft tyres to use. The Honey Badger made the most of the rubbered-in track to grab a very decent starting slot of fifth, but Ocon couldn’t make Q3 after failing to find enough time on his final run in Q2. Can he make inroads with free tyre choice tomorrow?
Daniel Ricciardo, 5th, 1:14.520
“I’m very happy with today’s result. We found speed as the session went on. I’d honestly say it was my best qualifying lap this season. This track is amazing. Qualifying fifth was also super important for track position as we can have a really good battle in the race tomorrow since the group around us is very close. If we make a strong start, then we could have a very solid race.”
Esteban Ocon, 12th, 1:15.201
“I’m disappointed with the qualifying result today; I didn’t see it coming, especially as we had a good practice session this morning and we did Q1. It wasn’t the best first lap in Q2 and we have to review what happened on the second lap. Still, there is plenty of opportunity tomorrow. We have free tyre choice for the race and we’ll see what happens to come back into the points.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“A bit of a mixed qualifying today. We are obviously very happy to be starting fifth, and Daniel is similarly pleased! He put in a very strong lap at the end of Q3. Esteban didn’t quite get the best of things today; even by his own admittance he could have done a little better. He will however start in a reasonably strong position, right amongst our competitors, and he will have a free tyre choice so all is not lost. He raced very well in Portimao from that sort of position so we’re expecting a strong race from both cars.”
Ferrari had a curious day. Their new-found gains from Portugal seemed to have been wiped out by a car that was proving tricky to handle, with Leclerc demanding set-up changes ahead of qualifying. While both drivers made it to Q2, they once again opted to try the medium compound tyres but the team simply weren’t fast enough on that rubber. While Leclerc subsequently progressed on the softs, Vettel had his flying lap time deleted for track limit infringements and that sent him out in Q2 for the ninth consecutive race. As for Leclerc, he couldn’t find the same pace as last time out in Q3 and had to settle for a solid seventh.
Sebastian Vettel, 14th, 1:15.385
“I was reasonably happy with my laps, but obviously we were not quick enough. In qualifying I was happier with the feeling of the car, I was a bit more comfortable than this morning and I tried to squeeze everything out of the package. I was taking a few more risks and for this reason I went wide in the chicane and in the end we lost one position to the track limits rule. We are starting at the back and therefore it will be difficult tomorrow to make up places, because overtaking is not so easy here. It will be important to look after the tyres and then we will see. I think we will be aiming for a one-stop race. Today was my first day at this track and I’m still getting totally familiar with it but I have to say that is a really nice track to drive. I hope we will come back here in the near future.”
Charles Leclerc, 7th, 1:14.616
"I love this track, especially in quali, when you get to ride the kerbs a lot more. We struggled quite a bit today with the balance of the car and I am not really satisfied with my lap and the way I drove in Q3, but in the end we got P7, which is not terrible, but probably we expected something better. Everyone is very closely matched but looking at the gap to P4 it’s disappointing to see we are three places down.
"Tomorrow will be tricky, as it’s going to be difficult to overtake. We are starting on a set of soft tyres that has already done two laps in Q2, but after the first stint things should be fine. The race is tomorrow and that’s when the points are scored."
Laurent Mekies Sporting Director
"Qualifying went pretty much the same way as last weekend, even if we had hoped for something a bit better. However, it does confirm that we are making progress compared to where we were in mid-season and on a track with different characteristics to Portimão. Fourth place, which is pretty much our target at the moment, escaped Charles by just over a tenth, but all the same, for the ninth time this season, he was in the top ten on Saturday afternoon. Sebastian seemed more comfortable than previously in the car, but was unable to make the cut out of Q2 and will again start from the lower half of the grid, although he at least has a free choice of tyre compound for the first stint.
"We again tried to get into Q3 on the mediums to have the strategic benefit tomorrow, doing the first Q2 run on this compound. After the first runs, in Seb’s case it was clear that he should try and improve with the softs and with Charles it was too risky to try again on the harder tyre, so we played it safe. The two day weekend obviously means less time to prepare in the usual way for the race, so today’s long runs were a bit less representative, so that will be another unknown factor to consider. However, our aim remains the same: to bring home as many points as possible with both drivers, to make up ground in the constructors’ classification."
McLaren didn’t show their full hand in practice but managed once again to get both cars into Q3 in a solid display. They might struggle to match their opening lap heroics from Portugal from starting slots on the fifth row, but will be confident of a double points finish at least – which could be crucial in the constructors’, with rivals Racing Point having both cars outside the top 10.
Carlos Sainz, 10th, 1:14.911
“A bit of a difficult quali for us today. After a positive free practice session this morning, we hoped for a better result because the car was feeling good on track. However, we didn’t seem to be quite there in quali. My first run in Q1 was a bit compromised and I had to run two sets. From there it just felt like we were playing catch-up in the midfield. Having just one set for Q3 wasn’t ideal and it wasn’t enough to put ourselves higher in the order.
“We struggled more than expected and we need to analyse why. However, we still got both cars into Q3 and there’s everything to play for tomorrow. We’ll do our best to find some performance overnight and hopefully score good points after a strong race!”
Lando Norris, 9th, 1:14.814
“I want to say today was a good day – but it could’ve been a bit better. The car felt good, I think we made some good improvements from FP1 to qualifying. We were always quick but that last little bit of performance was difficult to extract from the car in Q3. I did a good first sector on my first run and then a much better final sector on my second run, but I just didn’t put it together.
“The car was quick, with the potential to be maybe one position higher, but not much more. I think the cars ahead of us were just quicker. We couldn’t have gone three tenths quicker like they both did. I’m happy overall, but a bit of a shame we couldn’t be that little bit higher.”
Andrea Stella, Racing Director
“It was an interesting day and a tight battle at this iconic Formula 1 venue. Today, we had enough pace to make it through to Q3 but, at the same time, when we look at the classification, we see there were some quick cars, and we could do no better than P9 and P10. However, we’re still in the fight for good points tomorrow.
“We gathered useful tyre information this morning in practice and we’re not expecting any surprises from the weather. The goal, as always, is to do our best and score as many points as possible.”
Racing Point had looked there or thereabouts in practice, only falling down the order by dint of having set their flying laps early before track evolution had taken place. They looked solid top 10 contenders but in an incredibly tight midfield, couldn’t get either car into Q3. Perez at least has the decent starting slot of 11th and free tyre choice to boot, with Stroll a disappointing 15th after his fastest lap time was deleted when he exceeded track limits – although it wasn’t quick enough for the Canadian to progress regardless.
Sergio Perez, 11th, 1:15.061
“I’m disappointed to be starting in P11, especially because the margins out there in qualifying were so tight and just a hundredth would have meant a place in Q3. But on the positive side, I’d rather start in P11 than P10. It means we have a free tyre choice and that may turn out to be an advantage for us. I think with hindsight, we probably set the car up more towards the race and that compromised us in qualifying, but hopefully that means we will have a strong car tomorrow. We need to move up the field and score points because it’s such a close fight in the championship. While the result isn't ideal today, I really enjoyed driving at Imola for the first time. It’s a great challenge and I think all the drivers feel the same.”
Lance Stroll, 15th, 1:15.494
“Great to be back at Imola. One of the coolest tracks of the season – it’s old school, quick and flows nicely. Unfortunately, it was a difficult day and especially challenging with just 90 minutes of practice before qualifying. It’s the same for everyone, but it’s not easy to learn about the car, the tyres and the track in such a short space of time. I thought we looked more competitive this morning, but I struggled for grip in qualifying so that’s something we will try and understand. It was a very tight session and we were just the wrong side of the midfield fight today. A deleted time for track limits in Q2 didn’t help either. The reality is that we’re starting further back than we would want. It’s been a frustrating day, but we will fight hard to gain places in the race tomorrow and hopefully end the weekend on a high.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“A very tight qualifying hour. Sergio was just a hundredth away from making Q3, but the P11 starting slot always presents more strategy options being the first car with a free choice of starting tyre. Lance was caught out by track limits in Q2, but we have not looked especially competitive today. It’s hard to know what to expect tomorrow because data is more limited than usual. Overtaking won’t be easy, so that puts extra pressure on a strong opening lap. From there we will try and use the strategy to bring both cars into the points.”
Russell maintains his incredible run of never having been out-qualified by a team mate on a Saturday as he made Q2 with ease. Once there he briefly set the timing screens alight with purple sectors before others improved, but should be pleased with out-qualifying a Ferrari for the second straight race. Latifi fell in Q1 after his day was hampered by a brake-by-wire issue, which cost him track time in practice.
George Russell, 13th, 1:15.323
"I am really pleased with that qualifying session. It was a proper thrill out there today, we need to come to more tracks like this because it is exhilarating for the driver, pushing the car right to the limit. After practice we weren’t sure what others had done with their fuel loads, but we didn’t look so promising and we didn’t expect Q2, so to be in the position that we are in and to qualify P13 is great. Tomorrow we want to fight, go forwards and although it will be difficult, I will be getting my elbows out and doing my best."
Nicholas Latifi, 19th, 1:15.987
"We had a tricky practice session this morning that was very interrupted as I had a brake-by-wire issue on my qualifying simulation. We lost quite a lot of time unfortunately and we had to make some quite big decisions on where to go with the car without having many references. It wasn’t ideal going into qualifying, but I was satisfied with my laps. I closed the gap from practice and was only a tenth and a half off making it into Q2 in qualifying, so I can be pleased with that. It is an amazing track to drive, I am looking forward to the race tomorrow and we will try and grab a good result."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"It has been a very good day and a pleasure to be back at this great circuit. Conditions have been very good all day and the team haven’t put a foot wrong. We had a small issue with Nicholas’s car this morning, which we tried to fix during the session, but, in the end, we had to take the time out to replace the faulty component. This was a shame – and we apologise to Nicholas - as it cost some important track time and inevitably hurt his qualifying pace. However, he was still able to deliver a very strong performance - one of his best qualifying sessions of the season so far – and was only 70ms from P16, and close to Q2. His team worked very hard all day and were able to use the information gathered by George to help give him a strong car for qualifying.
"George had a much more straightforward day, enjoying a strong and productive practice session, which allowed him to build momentum through qualifying. Each of his laps this afternoon was strong, and he was genuinely competing for places just outside of the top-10. Q3 was beyond us today, but nonetheless we were more competitive than usual and feel that we have adapted to the short format well.
"Last weekend in Portugal George showed good pace on Sunday and we hope that he can continue that trend tomorrow. We undoubtedly have some strong race cars around us on the grid, but we had a good long run this morning and we believe that we can race hard and put up a strong fight."
Grosjean was left mystified by the improvement of other cars in Q1, with Haas losing both drivers at the first time of asking for the second straight race. Magnussen didn’t help their cause by running wide through the gravel on his final run but in truth they didn’t have the pace to progress today.
Romain Grosjean, 16th, 1:15.918
“A lot of places can learn from these older tracks. When you drive here, or places like the Nürburgring or Mugello, it’s so bloody good. I’ve really enjoyed it. Yes, we don’t have the fastest car, but every lap here is fun. It’s tough not to get to Q2, especially after such a good lap. Kevin (Magnussen) is the same – we push each other so hard and we get to the absolute limit of the car. Unfortunately, today that’s only good enough for 16th and 17th. We’re normally better in the race than we are in qualifying. We obviously need to see how tyre degradation plays a role tomorrow, but we will try for sure. We’ll give it 100 percent.”
Kevin Magnussen, 17th, 1:15.939
“I enjoyed the session. It’s a really cool track to drive. Of course, I’m not too happy with the result – though I think this weekend we appear to be a little bit stronger. We should have been through to Q2, but I didn’t have a smooth qualifying. I had traffic and I had a gearbox problem – nothing serious, but it cost me lap time on my fastest laps. The gap to get through to Q2 was very small, so it’s a bit frustrating when you look at that. Anyway, we are where we are. I’m looking forward to a fun race, and as I said – it’s a really cool track, so I’ll enjoy that at least. I’ll try to do my best as always to get something out of it.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“The positive thing is, having only one free practice session seems to be working. I think the whole paddock did a good job, there was no drama, nothing. That is a good thing. Then qualifying – well there’s not a lot to say. We are where we are usually. We’re fighting with our closest opponents, and that’s what we do. Tomorrow in the race, maybe we can get some points.”
Giovinazzi was looking for a solid qualifying at his third home race of the season but sadly managed his worst qualifying on home soil this year with P20 after a poor lap. Raikkonen wasn’t able to use his experience of racing in F1 here to his advantage. He did briefly jump out of the bottom five and looked to have made Q2 comfortably only for his lap time to be deleted for exceeding track limits.
Kimi Raikkonen, 18th, 1:15.953
“The car improved a lot from the morning to the afternoon and it felt quite good. We would have made it to Q2 with our fastest lap, but unfortunately it got cancelled: what happened is disappointing, especially because this seems to be one of those tracks where the field is really bunched up, but complaining about how things went won’t change the end result. The race, starting where we are, won’t be easy but we have to do what we can and see where we end up.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 20th, 1:16.208
“The potential we had in the car would have warranted a much better result but we weren’t able to get a clear lap. The first run was okay and we were looking quite good, but both my push laps in the second run were compromised by traffic. We knew this would be an issue here but it’s still really frustrating. Starting at the back is not ideal, of course, but from last we can only go ahead. We will give it our best shot: overtaking will not be easy, we need a good start and a good strategy to make up some ground.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Knowing we had set a lap good enough for P13, only to see it be cancelled is frustrating, but it is what it is. The potential of the car is there but today was clearly one of those days where things just don’t go your way and you can’t achieve what’s within your reach. Of all tracks to be at the back, this is one of the worst: we will need something special, especially in the opening stages, to get something out of this race but we will give everything we have.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"The teams were able to capture most of the tyre data they needed from the single 90-minute practice session, sometimes by splitting the tyre assessment programmes over their two cars. There is still considerably less tyre data than there would be from a 'conventional' weekend, which leaves some question marks over strategy heading into the race and opens up some more options tomorrow, especially with the track evolving all the time. The teams will have a busier Saturday evening than usual analysing the performance gaps between the tyres, and working out how this can translate into an optimal race strategy. As for the tyres, we had a little bit of graining during the early part of the day, but the situation improved as expected with more running. All three compounds look set to play an important role in the race and we are satisfied with their performance."