VALTTERI BOTTAS pulled out a stirring performance at Imola to snatch pole position off Lewis Hamilton.
The Brit had looked on course for a tenth pole of the season in his run to a seventh world title.
Lewis Hamilton (right) starts second after Valtteri Bottas pulled out a strong final lapCredit: Getty – Pool
Bottas earned his fourth pole of the year at ImolaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
But Bottas went one tenth quicker to maintain Mercedes’ dominance of Formula One qualifying in 2020.
The Finn, 31, has two race wins this year but neither came from his three previous poles.
Yet a disappointed Hamilton does not expect sparks to fly in Sunday’s race with it tough to overtake at the classic Imola circuit.
He said after qualifying: “It’s beautiful to drive but I’m pretty certain you’ll see a pretty boring race tomorrow.
“Once you get into Turn 1 it’s a train.”
On Bottas, he said: “Valtteri did a great job, it was a pretty poor lap from myself!
“These things happen, the track is unbelievable – especially the speed we are going round it.”
Max Verstappen starts third with Pierre Gasly taking an impressive fourth, and Daniel Ricciardo fifth.
A spark plug issue had left Verstappen furious as he dawdled home from his first Q2 run, with Red Bull performing a quick turnaround to save his session.
Likewise, Alex Albon suffered a Q2 spin before securing his place in the final round at the death, going on to qualify sixth.
Sebastian Vettel, 14th, fell early after losing his best time due to a track limit breach, one place behind George Russell who celebrated his new Williams contract with a strong performance.
Track limits around the old school Italian circuit were a constant worry for many drivers, in particular claiming Kimi Raikkonen in Q1 before Vettel and Lance Stroll in Q2.
One Ferrari fan stole a view as Charles Leclerc bagged seventh at ImolaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Pierre Gasly took fourth while donning a tribute to Ayrton SennaCredit: Getty Images – Getty