Lewis Hamilton takes 99th career F1 pole for Emilia-Romagna GP ahead of Red Bull drivers

Hamilton 99th F1 pole
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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IMOLA, Italy — Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton edged out the Red Bull duo of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen to claim his 99th career F1 pole position Saturday in qualifying for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at the Imola circuit.

Though there is a Red Bull directly behind the Mercedes driver, it will be Sergio Perez rather than Max Verstappen.

A brilliant first lap in the final segment of qualifying saw Hamilton edge Perez by 0.035 seconds. The British driver was 0.087 faster than Verstappen, who is expected to be his main challenger this season.

“I didn’t expect to be ahead of two Red Bulls, they’ve been so quick this weekend,” Hamilton said. “The car is feeling much better, I want to thank the team for their hard work.

“I love the challenge, having two Red Bulls will definitely make strategy harder.”

With overtaking around the Imola circuit among the hardest on the calendar, Hamilton will hold the advantage as he bids to claim his second win in as many races.

It will be a first front row start for Perez in just his second race for Red Bull, but the Mexican driver was nevertheless somewhat disappointed.

“Well done to the team, most important is we are showing progress,” Perez said. “We should have been on pole today, I did a mistake on my final corner.”

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who paced both practices Friday, was disappointing in qualifying and will start from eighth on the grid after finishing 0.487 slower.

Lando Norris will start just ahead of Bottas. The McLaren driver was heading for the front row after a superb final lap but had his time deleted because of exceeding track limits at the Piratella turn – where many drivers fell foul on numerous occasions over the weekend.

Charles Leclerc qualified in an encouraging fourth for Ferrari but his teammate Carlos Sainz failed to make it into the final part of qualifying, known as Q3, and will start 11th on the grid.

Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo will start fifth and sixth, respectively, while Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll round out the top 10.

There was disappointment for AlphaTauri’s 20-year-old Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda as he failed to set a time after crashing early on, causing qualifying to be halted for a short while. Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were also eliminated in Q1.

George Russell, Sebastian Vettel, Nicholas Latifi and Fernando Alonso were the other drivers out in Q2, along with Sainz.

Earlier in the day, Verstappen posted the fastest time in the final practice as the Red Bull driver was nearly half a second faster than the rest of the pack. He was .456 ahead of Norris and .557 clear of Hamilton.

Mercedes led the two practice sessions on Friday with Bottas fastest in both, just ahead of Hamilton as Red Bull endured a tough start to the weekend.

Verstappen’s second practice lasted just 10 minutes after a driveshaft problem.

The Emilia-Romagna GP is the second race of the Formula One season. Hamilton won the opener in Bahrain last month, just ahead of Verstappen after a thrilling duel.

Saturday’s practice was briefly red-flagged after Latifi lost control at the Villeneuve chicane and slid through the gravel and into the barriers.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.