Hamilton takes pole at Imola with Perez on front row

The Imola pole position was the 99th one of Hamilton's career. He was joined on the front row by Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

Lewis Hamilton during the Imola Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday- AP

Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on Saturday, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez joining the seven-time Formula One world champion on the front row.

The Mexican's Dutch team mate Max Verstappen qualified in third place, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc fourth on a home track for the Italian team.

The pole was a record-extending 99th of Hamilton's career, and it was one the 36-year-old Briton had to work for against resurgent rivals, with Perez only 0.035 slower.

"I definitely didn't expect us to be ahead of two Red Bulls," Hamilton, who won the season-opener in Bahrain last month after Verstappen started on pole, said.

"I think they have been so quick this weekend, there were times when they were six-tenths ahead. I came around the last corner and heard I'd got the pole and I was super grateful," he added.

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Hamilton produced the pole time of one minute 14.411 seconds with his first flying lap of the final session.

Perez, who will be making his first front row start, was signed to put more pressure on Mercedes than Verstappen's previous team mates had managed, and he delivered in only his second race for Red Bull.

He still felt he could have done better, however.

"I've been improving, P2, but I should've been on pole and I did a mistake on the final corner," Perez, a first time winner with Racing Point (now Aston Martin) in Bahrain last year, said.

It was the first time Verstappen had been outqualified by a team mate in regular conditions since Australian Daniel Ricciardo was alongside at Red Bull in 2018.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly qualified fifth with Ricciardo sixth for McLaren and team mate Lando Norris seventh.

Norris would have been on the front row had his fastest lap not been deleted for exceeding track limits.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz, in his first race in Italy with Ferrari, failed to make it through to the final shootout and starts 11th.

STANDINGS AND TIMING, AFTER QUALIFYING:

1. Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Mercedes, 1 minute, 14.411 seconds.

2. Sergio Perez, Mexico, Red Bull Racing, 1:14.446.

3. Max Verstappen, Netherlands, Red Bull Racing, 1:14.498.

4. Charles Leclerc, Monaco, Ferrari, 1:14.740.

5. Pierre Gasly, France, Alphatauri, 1:14.790.

6. Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, McLaren, 1:14.826.

7. Lando Norris, Great Britain, McLaren, 1:14.875.

8. Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Mercedes, 1:14.898.

9. Esteban Ocon, France, Alpine, 1:15.210.

10. Lance Stroll, Canada, Aston Martin, 1:15.176.

 

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