Sports Desk, Oct 31 (efe-epa).- Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton took the top two places Saturday in qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and the team is poised to secure their record seventh straight constructor’s title at rival Ferrari’s home circuit in northern Italy, hosting its first Formula 1 race in 14 years.
With a lead of 209 points over their closest competitor, Red Bull, Mercedes just need one of their drivers to finish fourth or better on Sunday at Imola to claim the trophy.
Hamilton, who made history last week by winning the Portuguese Grand Prix to surpass the legendary Michael Schumacher with his 92nd career victory, is also well on his way to matching the German with a seventh world championship in this pandemic-disrupted season.
The Briton has 256 points, while his Finnish teammate has 179.
But Bottas remains in the hunt for points and podium places and it took an extraordinary effort from Hamilton to snatch pole position from the Finn in Portugal.
While Bottas was the fastest in both Q1 and Q2 on Saturday, he lagged behind Hamilton after the initial runs in Q3 before turning in a lap of 1:13.609, almost a tenth of a second better than his teammate.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who had to hustle to make it out of Q2 after experiencing a power issue, took P3 for the umpteenth time in 2020.
The Dutchman’s former teammate, French driver Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) was fourth, 0.02 seconds ahead of Daniel Ricciardo (Renault).
Spanish two-time champion Fernando Alonso, who will be replacing the Australian with Renault next season, was watching from the stands.
Thailand’s Alex Albon, who has been under pressure to improve if he wants to keep his seat at Red Bull, will start from the sixth spot on the grid.
Driving for Ferrari, Charles Leclerc of Monaco slipped to P7 after winning the fourth spot in qualifying for the race in Portugal.
Joining Leclerc in the fourth row will be Russia’s Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri). The McLaren duo of Briton Lando Norris and Spain’s Carlos Sainz completed the top 10.
The man Sainz will be replacing at Ferrari in 2021, German four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, failed to make it into Q3 for the ninth consecutive race.
Kimi Raikkonen (Alpha Romeo), the only one among the current drivers to be part of the last F1 event at Imola in 2006, was eliminated in Q1. EFE