Valtteri Bottas snatched pole position for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix from his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton with a dramatic late lap in qualifying at Imola on Saturday.
The Finn, who is 77 points adrift of series leader and six-time champion Hamilton with five races remaining in this year’s title, grabbed the prime grid position by a tenth of a second.
Hamilton, who was fastest in the only practice in the morning, had been on top through most of the qualifying session and took provisional pole on his first run in Q3 before Bottas beat him in the final seconds.
Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull ahead of his former team-mate Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and Alex Albon in the second Red Bull.
Charles Leclerc took seventh for Ferrari with Daniil Kvyat eighth in the second Alpha Tauri ahead of the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.
Bottas’s success brought him his fourth pole of the season and his 15th career pole as the Mercedes team claimed another front row lockout ahead of the race in which they can claim an unprecedented seventh consecutive constructors’ championship.
They need only one car to finish in the top four to seal that record success.
“It’s never easy to get pole position, but I really enjoyed it around this track,” said Bottas.
“I knew I had to improve on my last lap, so I found those little gains – and I had the shakes after the final run, which is always a good sign!”
Hamilton praised his team-mate.
“Valtteri did a great job and it was a pretty poor lap from myself, but you can’t always get it right. This track is unbelievable, but I’m pretty certain it will be a boring race tomorrow – just a train after Turn One.”
Verstappen said: “It was tricky, but P3 is not bad really – though I expected to be a bit closer to the Mercedes.”