Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was narrowly beaten by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas for pole position Saturday at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as Formula One returned to the Imola circuit for the first time since 2006.
Racing on the track where his childhood idol Ayrton Senna lost his life, Hamilton finished 0.097 seconds behind Bottas’ time of 1 minute, 13.609 seconds.
Max Verstappen of Red Bull qualified third, 0.567 back.
It was a wild session for Red Bull.
Verstappen was second to Hamilton in the abbreviated weekend’s only practice session earlier Saturday but the Dutch driver reported that he had “no power” during Q2 and returned to the pits without setting a time.
Alexander Albon then spun off track in the other Red Bull.
Red Bull was able to repair what it reported as a spark plug issue for Verstappen and he returned just in time to reach Q3, as did Albon, who qualified sixth.
Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri qualified fourth and Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was fifth.
In a sign of F1’s progress, Bottas was more than nine seconds faster than Michael Schumacher’s pole time for the 2006 San Marino GP at Imola.
Due to rising coronavirus infections in Italy, no fans were allowed into the track located in the country’s auto racing heartland.
Mercedes can clinch a record seventh straight constructors’ title in Sunday’s race unless Red Bull outscores it by 34 points — something that hasn’t happened in more than four years.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel continued his poor season by being eliminated in Q2.
Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo, the only current driver to have raced here in 2006, was dropped in Q1.