Another setback for Hamilton as Verstappen takes Imola sprint pole
Max Verstappen will start on pole in Saturday’s sprint race at Imola, though Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes struggled once more.
A frustrated Lewis Hamilton said “each weekend is a rescue” after Mercedes’ dismal start to the Formula One season continued with a disappointing qualifying session ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Hamilton finished 13th during an incident-strewn, weather-affected afternoon at Imola on Friday, missing out on Q1.
Mercedes team-mate George Russell, meanwhile, will be in 11th for Saturday’s sprint race, which Max Verstappen will start at the front of the grid.
It is the first time Mercedes have had both cars fail to progress from Q2 since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.
They were unfortunate, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz crashing as rain started to fall to end the session prematurely, though it seemed unlikely the Silver Arrows would have made it into Q3 regardless.
Mercedes sit second in the constructors’ standings after the opening three races of the season but are 39 points adrift of leaders Ferrari, whose championship-leading Charles Leclerc will start alongside Verstappen on the front row on Saturday.
Red Bull, meanwhile, are just 10 points behind Mercedes, and Hamilton lamented a difficult day on the track.
“It wasn’t a great session,” the seven-time world champion told Sky Sports. “Came here with optimism and everyone is working hard at the factory, but it is disappointing.
“I think we underperformed as a team today. There are things we should have done, but we didn’t. We will work as hard as we can to move up in the sprint race.
“We will just keep working. It is what it is. Each weekend is a rescue.”
Reigning champion Verstappen, meanwhile, secured his first pole position of the season, albeit he needs to maintain that in the sprint race to start at the front on Sunday.
He said: “It was tricky out there with the dry/rain. It was very slippery. It was hectic, a long qualifying but of course in the end happy to be here. It is an amazing track and it really punishes you if you make a mistake.
“I am really pleased with pole. It will be different weather at the weekend but a good start.
“Our first three races didn’t go to plan, but we will try to have a good weekend here.”
Lando Norris spun into the barriers to end Q3 – and the session as a whole – early, but the McLaren driver will start in third place on Saturday.
“I am happy I am top three which is quite a surprise for us,” Norris said. “There was a chance at least for us to go forwards even more. The car was feeling good and I was feeling confident. A shame it ended like that, but I am happy.
Leclerc, meanwhile, rued making an error in Q3 as he had to settle for second.
“It was very tricky, especially on the slicks. There were quite a lot of wet patches, and it was all about putting the laps in and waiting for Q3 to put it together,” Leclerc explained. “It is frustrating because when it counts in Q3 I made the wrong choice.”