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What the teams said - Qualifying in Emilia Romagna

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 in the

Mercedes

Mercedes might have been on top of the timing sheets yesterday, but with Red Bull off the boil, it was hard to tell how genuine that pace was. After FP3, they looked to be trailing their rivals by quite some margin which will make the eventual pole position scored by Hamilton that bit sweeter. The reigning world champion nailed his lap when it mattered to pip Perez to the top spot. As for Bottas, a series of mistakes proved very costly and he wound up a disappointing eighth, but does at least start on the preferential medium compound tyres.

Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:14.411

"Today has been great, obviously. I definitely didn't expect us to be ahead of the two Red Bulls. I think they've been so quick this weekend. There were times when they were six tenths ahead. We didn't really know where they would be, but the car was already feeling a lot better from the beginning of this weekend, so you know, mad respect to the Team for the hard work to really narrow down the window.

"This track is all medium and high speed corners, so I think that's why we've closed the gap. Temperatures are much lower which has brought us closer to the Red Bulls. But they are so strong - it's going to take absolutely perfect laps to stay ahead of them if we are going to have a chance of the win tomorrow."

Valtteri Bottas, 8th, 1:14.898

"Today was a little bit confusing and I don't understand the Q3 performance yet. On the first run of Q3 I had oversteer and then the second run, the rear end was not so good. Not what I was aiming for today, especially with the feeling I had at the start of qualifying.

"Q3 first run, I went into turn two and had a really sudden snap from the rear end and I lost a lot of time. The same in run two, I couldn't trust the rear end. That isn't something I felt in Q1 or Q2 so it's difficult to understand - we will have to investigate. Overtaking here is difficult with a narrow track but I will fight to give it everything tomorrow."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"The pole was a surprise because at the moment we do not have the quickest car. It was so close and Max, without the mistake, would have been on pole. But the loss compared to last year is just enormous - we were six tenths ahead and now we are two tenths behind. So, we need to scratch our heads and just try to find the performance. It's a quicker car than in Bahrain, I think we have got the car in a better balance window, that's the main reason for the improvement. We had some drivability concerns in Bahrain and we are sorting that out - slowly we are getting there.

"It's a big advantage for them because not only two Red Bulls behind but Perez is starting on softs so they can do two different strategies. Valtteri has to make his way through the soft runners, which he will and can, but I think we are a little bit on the backfoot."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"Congratulations to Lewis on his 99th pole position. He certainly had to work hard for this one but drove really well through the session. It's not been an easy day by any measure. We were struggling to get enough temperature for a single lap and if you start with the tyres on the cold side, the grip just isn't there and you spend most of the lap sliding around. We've got a bit of analysis to do to understand Valtteri's issue. He was looking very strong in Q1 but set his best time on the third lap and couldn't repeat that time for the rest of the session. We're expecting another close fight tomorrow, we've at least got both cars on the medium tyre which should give us flexibility around stop laps and hopefully we've got a car that's fast enough to fight for the win."

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Pole position qualifier Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks on in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull

It shows just how good Red Bull are at the moment that second and third places are almost a shock. Both their drivers had a shot at pole in Imola, with Perez making the tiniest of errors on his final flying lap to miss out by 0.035s. The Mexican does have his first front row start though, while Verstappen is just behind in third after a larger error on his last hot lap in a 'messy' Q3 for the Dutchman. Nonetheless, with two cars in the top three, the Bulls have a real chance of disrupting Hamilton’s race strategy tomorrow so it is all still to play for.

Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:14.498

“It was not a clean lap in Q3. I made some mistakes and when you go off on a qualifying lap it is never going to be good. The first sector of the first lap wasn’t good in the wake of another car so I knew there was a lot of time there and I pushed a bit more on the second lap but I ran wide on the exit of Turn 3 and cut the grass a bit which wasn’t very lovely for the lap time. Sometimes these things happen and you can’t do a perfect or near perfect lap all the time. There are always things you can do better even when you say it’s a perfect lap but today was far from that. I shocked myself that I had a lap like that as it’s been a long time since I felt this way after qualifying. Checo did a great job so congratulations to him. We have a good race car and tomorrow is where you score points. There are a lot of factors involved in the race like the weather and the start but for the Team it’s always good to have two cars up there, so I hope me and Checo can make it more difficult for Mercedes to decide on a strategy.”

Sergio Perez, 2nd, 1:14.446

“What a massive result for us, knowing that I could win the race tomorrow is definitely a good feeling. There are a lot of positives to take out of today but I made a little mistake at the final turn, I was so close to pole. I can’t believe this is my first Red Bull start on the grid, as I started from the pit lane in Bahrain and it’s from the front of the grid! It just shows the amount of work we have put into this as a Team is paying off. Looking to the race tomorrow, Max and I are of course on different strategies, I am starting on the softs and Max is on the mediums so I think we have a good race ahead of us, especially as we’ve been able to apply the pressure to Mercedes. It was a great result for us today but we can’t get too carried away, I know that there is a lot of work to be done and it’s important that we keep making good process.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“It was a great Team performance today with our best qualifying result in Italy since 2013. Sergio did a fantastic job in just his second qualifying session for us and it was a shame for Max who made an uncharacteristic mistake at Turn 3 on his final run in Q3. It’s incredibly satisfying to see both drivers up there and in with a shot at pole, especially in a nail-biting session where the top three were separated by less than a tenth. Sergio is really finding his feet and today marks his best F1 starting grid position. With minimal seat time he’s doing a great job and settling into the Team very well. We’re in a good position and with both drivers on alternative strategies, we’ve got a few options which we’ll work on this evening to bring home the best possible result tomorrow. It should make for an exciting Grand Prix."

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Ferrari

A mixed bag for Ferrari, who looked to be the pick of the midfield. But they only had one car in Q3, with Sainz making a mistake on his last flying lap in Q2 to miss out on the top 10. Free tyre choice is the only consolation for the Spaniard. Leclerc put in a composed display to grab a brilliant fourth, and looks on for a good race tomorrow as he had here last year.

Charles Leclerc, 4th, 1:14.740

"It was a very good qualifying, even though I feel we struggled a bit more compared to yesterday to achieve the lap times we wanted. We took a small compromise in terms of setup that will help us in the race tomorrow. It made it a bit more difficult in quali, so let’s wait and see. I made a small error in the chicane, maybe I could have gained another 7 or 8 hundredths there, but looking at the time sheets it wouldn’t have changed our position, so I am very happy with P4 today.

"The track is amazing. I love it because you cannot afford to make any mistakes. There is not much tyre management involved, which is something we drivers like, because it means we can push throughout the race.

"It should be an exciting but difficult race. We are lacking a bit of straight line speed, so hopefully we will have a good enough pace to get away. If not, it will be a bit more difficult, but I think that our performance overall is better here than it was in Bahrain. At Sakhir it was a real surprise to be P4 on the grid, today, a bit less so.

"There is a lot of motivation in the team, a good momentum. We need to use it and continue to work as hard as possible as a team, keep our feet on the ground and continue to push as we have been doing for the past months. Then I am sure the good days are soon to come."

Carlos Sainz, 11th, 1:15.199

"Today’s result is not what I wanted. I struggled to nail all the corners in one single lap since the beginning of qualifying. Every small mistake can cost you many positions in this tight field, so I am not happy because I know the lap time was there had I been able to make it all work on one strong lap.

"At the same time, I think this track has exposed that I still lack a bit of experience with the car to exactly know what to expect and how to extract the absolute maximum of it. It will come, I’m sure, but I feel I’m still on a learning curve.

"Into tomorrow, you can be sure I’ll give my absolute best to gain positions and fight for the best result possible. I’m confident in my pace and we will try to use the free tyre choice to our advantage."

Laurent Mekies, Racing Director

"Another solid performance following on from the one in Bahrain in the opening round of the season. That’s important, because it confirms we are competitive on a very different type of track and in very different conditions to those in Sakhir.

"Naturally, there’s a bit of disappointment that Carlos missed the cut to Q3 by just 61 thousandths in what was a very close session with 15 drivers all covered by just nine tenths. We knew that Carlos would need a few races to feel totally at ease in his new team and to gain confidence in a car that is very different to the one he was used to. He is making good progress, completely in line with our expectations. Nevertheless, his grid position means we can look at a variety of options in terms of strategy so there is every chance he can get a good result.

"Charles secured the same grid position as in Bahrain thanks to what was overall, another great performance, something that is becoming almost the norm for him and further confirmation of his great talent. Tomorrow, the main aim will be to convert the performance level seen in qualifying into the race result. If we manage it, then we can hope to head the mid-field group in this Grand Prix, which is also our main goal for the season."

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

AlphaTauri

A tale of two halves for AphaTauri, with one side of the garage jubilant and the other crew facing a very long evening. Tsunoda managed to bring out the red flags in Q1 before setting a time, smacking the rear of his AT02 into the barriers after losing control through Variante Alta. That ended his session very early, and ensured a lengthy rebuild for the team. As for Gasly, having looked quick all weekend, he wound up an excellent fifth and will be looking for a strong result to open up his points tally for the year.

Pierre Gasly, 5th, 1:14.790

“I must say it was very good today, I’m really happy – the whole of qualifying was a bit harder than in Bahrain, as I think quite a lot of teams have really upped the pace. I’m pleased I managed to put everything together in Q3 – it was an extremely clean lap – and to get the P5 at our home race here in Imola is a great result for the whole team. The gaps are extremely close – I think we’re just a couple of hundredths off Charles and just three or four tenths from the top guys – so it’s a great achievement today and we’re in a good position for tomorrow. We’ve got to prepare for every situation in the race – we could have some rain tomorrow, or maybe some drama up the front, so we’ve got to be ready to capitalise on every opportunity we can.”

Yuki Tsunoda, 20th, No time set

“The crash today in qualifying was my mistake and I want to apologise to the team – I was pushing too hard into the entry of the chicane and just couldn’t control the car after that. It’s a shame because up until that corner the car felt really good and it was a strong lap – I think we could’ve gotten through to Q2 on just one compound. I believe there’s the potential for rain at the start of tomorrow’s race, so anything can happen, and I’ll try to push as hard as I can to make my way forward from the back. The car looks really good, so I’ll just reset my mind tonight and jump back in the car tomorrow to go racing.”

Jody Egginton, Technical Director

“The car was competitive yesterday and we’re quite happy with the developments we’ve brought to this race – there’s good speed in the car and both drivers have been getting the most from it. This continued into FP3 today, although the field had tightened up a bit as other teams have run different strategies across Friday and Saturday, so we knew qualifying would be a close battle. Yuki was unfortunate in his Q1 run today – the lap was shaping up quite nicely, but he lost the car coming out of the chicane and hit the wall, sustaining some damage. These things happen to young drivers on their journey into F1 but he’ll bounce back from it, the most important thing is that he’s ok, and we’ll get the car fixed in time for him tomorrow. Pierre was a far more straightforward progression through qualifying, without too much difficulty. He managed to complete Q1 on one set of tyres and then continued to make good use of them in Q2. Then, in his Q3 final run he was able to complete a really good lap – extracting the maximum from the car. Pierre’s qualifying position is representative of where we feel the car is this weekend, we’re firmly in the midfield mix and will be fighting for good points on Sunday.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: The car of Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Scuderia AlphaTauri is removed from the circuit after crashing on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

McLaren

Norris looked in scintillating form in FP3 and was able to carry that into qualifying. In Q3 his first timed lap was good enough for fourth, and he briefly looked to have bettered than on his final flying run before the stewards deleted his time for track limit infringements. Seventh it was for the youngster, but it could have been so much better. As for his team mate, Ricciardo has struggled by comparison all weekend but pulled a lap out of the bag when it counted to just pip Norris with sixth.

Daniel Ricciardo, 6th, 1:14.826

“I think on paper it’s not a bad result, P6. It’s really tight at the front. I think the weekend has been a bit slow for me to get going. We got a bit closer in quali and I certainly made some improvements, but I still think – and I hate to say it – it’s just going to take time to keep finding the limits. I’m getting there. I obviously wish I could be there from lap one, but I think it’s been a weekend of progress so far and there are definitely positives to take after qualifying. We’ve worked well as a team to recover from a difficult Friday, so thanks to the team here and in the factory for their hard work. I wouldn’t say I'm ecstatic, but I'm certainly content with our progress.”

Lando Norris, 7th, 1:14.875

"A disappointing end to qualifying. I think the whole thing went very well and I was very happy with my laps all the way through. We only did one run in Q1 and Q2, which I think is the first time I’ve ever done that. So things were looking hopeful, but I just overdid it slightly on my final lap, which was a very good lap but just a little bit wide and the lap was taken away. Pretty disappointed, because we could’ve been a lot higher up and in a much better position for tomorrow.

"After we struggled yesterday, we've done a lot of work and the feeling in the car was much better today. The team both here and at the factory has done a great job overnight to work on improvements and give us a car that felt quick and was capable of fighting right up there and maybe even for pole. I'm gutted, but there are still a lot of positives to take away from today and hopefully we can convert them into a good result tomorrow."

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal

“P6 and P7 after an exciting qualifying session puts us again in a strong position to fight for good points tomorrow. We initially felt a bit disappointed after seeing what would’ve been possible with Lando, who was flying today, but it was very positive to see how competitive we’ve been. Daniel didn’t feel as comfortable in the car as Lando earlier in the weekend but did a great job, together with his engineering team, building it up throughout the quali sessions and putting in a good lap at the very end.

“Well done to the team here at the track, back home and at Mercedes for developing and producing a competitive car. Full focus now on preparing for the race. The weather forecast predicts rain for tomorrow afternoon. Let's get some good points again.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes launches off a raised kerb during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Alpine

After disappointment on Saturday in Bahrain, Ocon gave a better account of himself by making the top 10 and out-qualifying midfield rivals Aston Martin. But his team mate couldn’t do likewise, and is a lowly 15th after a disappointing display. Alonso will be keen to work out where his pace went, after being in the top 10 in Final Practice.

Esteban Ocon, 9th, 1:15.210

“It’s a great result for us today. We maximised the potential of the car and I think ninth was the maximum we could do. To be in Q3 is satisfying and I’m pretty pleased with that. It’s hard to overtake here, so it’s important to be starting already in the top 10. Our rivals are a little bit ahead and that means we still need to keep improving and finding those developments will be key this season. We’ll give it everything and fight tomorrow. The aim is to score points and we know it will be a long race where anything can happen.”

Fernando Alonso, 15th, 1:15.593

“I was not fast enough today and didn’t maximise the performance of the car. I’m disappointed in my result and let’s hope we can still get something tomorrow. It’s difficult to overtake here, but the points are given in the race so let’s see how we do. On the other hand, Esteban did well today and showed our updates that we brought here have worked well. In Bahrain, I had a good Saturday and a bad Sunday, so hopefully that is reversed tomorrow.”

Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director

“We have mixed feelings as a team after today’s qualifying. We knew it would be tight after FP3 between a handful of cars and there was always going to be a fight to have both our cars in Q3. It was a really good session for Esteban, and he was solid throughout each round of qualifying. Ninth is probably where the car is at the moment. Fernando didn’t quite get it together as he’d have liked, and we’ll analyse that to see how we can improve. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s race. There is a chance of rain, so we’ll be ready to grasp any opportunity.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine A521 Renault during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Aston Martin are yet to show that they are truly in the mix towards the front of the field, with Stroll once again out-qualifying his team mate but only managing to prop up the top 10. Vettel is a few places back, but does have free tyre choice. But at a track where overtaking is tricky, can the German scythe his way back through the field or is he in for a long afternoon?

Sebastian Vettel, 13th, 1:15.394

"Overall, I think it was a reasonable qualifying session. I think there was a little bit left on the table in some of my laps, but it is obviously very tight and a tenth or two can cost you quite a lot of positions. I feel we are making progress, but I am still missing the full confidence to extract the maximum. I am still not entirely happy, but I am happier than last time [in Bahrain]. I can see and feel the progress we are making: session by session, lap by lap, we are getting that little bit better. I do not know what to expect tomorrow because all the teams appear to be very closely matched in the middle of the grid, and it is a narrow track where overtaking is not easy. There is also the question of whether it will rain, which might help us. Regardless, we need a clean getaway tomorrow and then we can take it from there."

Lance Stroll, 10th, 1:15.138

"I am pretty happy with the session, but it is a shame that my best lap was deleted in Q3. We were in ninth so that knocked me down a place. The margins for track limits are very fine and a few drivers were caught out today. I said yesterday how much I enjoy this track and the car felt really good today – as though it has really come alive this weekend. That is encouraging, but it is a very tight grid and we want to be closer to the front. We are all working hard to do that. We are not miles off and we know where we can improve. It will be interesting to see how we perform in the race because the long run pace yesterday looked similar to the teams around us. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow."

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO

"A solid afternoon where both drivers were pushing hard. Lance’s best effort was discounted for a breach of track limits, but he progressed to Q3 once again and is well placed to score points tomorrow. We saw in Bahrain that we were more competitive in the race compared to qualifying and I anticipate the same here. Lance should be able to race the cars ahead of him, just as he did in Bahrain. Our race pace should also help us bring Sebastian into contention for points. We will do our homework tonight to be fully prepared for tomorrow with plenty of strategy options."

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Aston Martin F1 Team looks on in the Paddock during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Williams

Williams jumped ahead of their Alfa Romeo rivals this weekend, getting both cars into Q2 for the first time since Hungary last year. It looked like Latifi was finally going to break his duck and beat Russell in a qualifying session, having been ahead in Q1 but when it mattered, Mr Saturday rose to the occasion.

George Russell, 12th, 1:15.261

"The car has been feeling good this weekend, personally I was off the pace all weekend and Nicholas was faster than me in every session. I was struggling and I didn’t have the confidence, but in Q2 we made it work.

"We got through Q1 by the skin of our teeth and then did a really good job in Q2 when it mattered. I am really happy with P12, the car is looking quick in a straight line which is going to help us tomorrow on a track that is difficult to overtake. I think it’s going to be an exciting one."

Nicholas Latifi, 14th, 1:15.593

"I am very pleased with today’s performance. We nearly didn’t make it out for qualifying due to my little bump with the wall in FP3. Even though we did get back out on track we still had some residual things that the team needed to check over.

"We had a good Q1 and I was really pleased with the lap. Q2 I was a little disappointed as I didn’t get the improvement I needed to due to a little mistake at the beginning of my second lap. Overall, I am really pleased with the result. I am expecting the car to feel good in race trim. It is a notoriously difficult track to overtake on, but fingers crossed for a good one."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"We’ve had a good day today with the car behaving well and responding to the changes overnight. Both drivers did a great job of extracting the laptime under pressure.

"Nicholas had a small snap of oversteer on one of his laps this morning, which caused some minor damage to the car and although we were able to get him back out again during FP3, we needed to complete some more thorough checks between FP3 and Qualifying. This took a little longer than anticipated, but some excellent work from the full team of mechanics, as well as the red flag early in Q1 meant that he was able to complete a full run programme.

"The pace of the car was good, and the new parts that we tested yesterday are working well. Based on our experience last October, we thought that this track would be better suited to the car than Bahrain, however, it is nice to have seen this confirmed today. Although we are pleased to have got both cars into Q2, there is a lot of work to do to crystallise today’s performance into a meaningful result tomorrow. The weather for the race looks a little uncertain, but we hope that we can use any doubt over the conditions to our advantage.

"Both drivers have been excellent all weekend, with Nicholas being very strong from the beginning of FP1 and pushing hard on every lap. George took a little longer to understand his car yesterday, but really put in some strong laps today. Both are in a good position to race hard tomorrow."

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Alfa had a good Friday, but their pace deserted them in the morning session with mistakes from both drivers. Giovinazzi pirouetted around in FP3 as he spun into the gravel, but come qualifying he wasn’t able to atone, instead finding traffic on his last flying lap. As for the experienced Raikkonen, he too had a trip through the gravel in the morning, before failing to nail his lap in Q1 and tumbling out at the first time of asking. Not their day.

Kimi Raikkonen, 16th, 1:15.974

“We missed out on a place in Q2 by just a tenth, but when the margins are so close that’s enough to be out earlier than expected. We knew from the morning we were going to struggle, there was nothing wrong specifically but we just lost a bit of the pace we had yesterday. Tomorrow we will have a big job to get back in the points: a lot will depend on the weather, whether it rains or not. Judging by yesterday, we seem to be stronger in race trim but overtaking is not easy around here: we will do our best and see what we can get out of this race.”

Antonio Giovinazzi, 17th, 1:16.122

“It’s very disappointing not to get the chance to even set my final lap because of what happened today. Drivers normally respect each other on track but that was not the case today – Mazepin just failed to leave the space to the car ahead that all other drivers always give and destroyed my lap. I haven’t spoken with him yet, but this is not the behaviour we expect from each other on track. It’s a shame as the pace we had in the car yesterday was really good and we could have got a good result here: we will see what we can do tomorrow, but starting from P17 is not ideal as it’s quite hard to overtake here. We still go out, be positive and try to get the best possible result – we scored points from the back of the grid in 2020 so we won’t give up yet.”

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal

“Today’s result is not what we aimed for, especially after the good performance we delivered yesterday. We were just not able to demonstrate the full potential of our car. Starting where we are won’t make our job easier, but we know we can compete against many of the cars ahead of us and we will do our best to make up on the ground we lost today.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy driving the (99) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Haas

Haas lost both cars in Q1 again, but at least saw both rookies put in decent displays as they fought with each other for intra-team honours. In the end it was Schumacher who pipped his team mate by half a second. But can he stay ahead in the race? He’ll be feeling confident, with one full race distance under his belt already compared to the Russian.

Mick Schumacher, 18th, 1:16.279

“I was pushing a lot more, but unfortunately I lost out at the Variante Alta chicane – I think there was another one or two tenths in it really. But the good thing is we know we can improve, we’re not yet at the end. We saw improvement from Bahrain, so I’m really happy seeing that for us. We’ll wait and see what happens tomorrow in the race – long runs are always a different game really. It’s hard to predict what’s been happening through the free practices, everyone’s trying different things and set ups. I’m mindful of how Bahrain went, so I’ll take that into consideration this weekend. I’m just looking forward to driving again tomorrow.”

Nikita Mazepin, 19th, 1:16.797

“These qualifying sessions don’t fail to throw something new at you. Before we go out, we obviously expect to have a clean session, we have our run plan and we expect to manage our time, and then something happens early on and you’ve suddenly got less time. The stress element comes in brings the excitement. It was difficult to get the optimum lap time out there as this track was very cold today and it was important to build the tyre temperatures. To do that, you need to go fast, and obviously other cars were slowing down. Loads happened but it’s an upward curve so far in my career, so I’m happy about that. I think we’re extracting the most there is for now in the car and building a good foundation.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“Even if the result doesn’t look great, I think we’ve made good progress this weekend. FP3 was pretty good. I think everything is settling down a little bit. Qualifying, obviously, we finished 18th and 19th, but nevertheless we weren’t too far off the cars ahead of us – which is encouraging. Compared to Bahrain we saw that we made progress because, I wouldn’t say this one was a confusing qualifying session, but it was quite eventful with things like the red flag and so on. After that had happened the guys adapted pretty well and got on with their job. This is all about gaining experience and the next time it will be even better. At the moment they’re getting a lot of experience with different situations, all of which they need to have – they’ll be better prepared as a result of having gone through these things.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Nikita Mazepin of Russia and Haas qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"All the tyres selected for qualifying performed well today. As expected, we saw some of the frontrunners choose to get through Q2 and therefore start the race on the medium tyre. This should allow them to have a longer opening stint and a more flexible strategy. There are a number of question marks tomorrow, including the weather, with the possibility of rain that could entirely subvert the predicted strategies. If it stays dry, we've seen so far that all three compounds should have an important role to play in the race. Those starting on the soft tyre don't face a particular disadvantage however, as Imola is a low-severity circuit for tyres and weather conditions are expected to be cool."

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