(Reuters) – Mercedes’ Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the first Tuscan Grand Prix at Italy’s Mugello circuit on Saturday with team mate Valtteri Bottas joining him on the front row.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified third with team mate Alexander Albon fourth.
Charles Leclerc kept Ferrari’s head up for their 1,000th world championship grand prix, qualifying fifth at a track owned by the Italian team. Sebastian Vettel will line up 14th in the other Ferrari.
The pole was the 95th of Hamilton’s career and seventh in nine races this season, continuing Mercedes’ 100% record in qualifying.
Bottas had every right to be disappointed, after lapping fastest in every practice session and then being denied a chance to go faster when Renault’s Esteban Ocon spun and brought out yellow flags late in the session.
Hamilton had secured provisional pole already with a lap of one minute 15.144 seconds, which was ultimately good enough for the top slot, while the best Bottas could manage was 0.059 slower.
“It’s been a really tough weekend,” said Hamilton, who had struggled on Friday.
“This track is phenomenal… It’s a really, really challenging circuit and you saw Valtteri was quicker than me all day yesterday and even this morning, and in Q1 (the first phase).
“I’ve been working so hard in the background to really try and improve on my lines, improve on the set up and with the engineers and mechanics we did such a great job and finally got the lap that I needed.”
Hamilton is 47 points clear of Bottas in the standings and the Finn needs to pull out something special to rein in the Briton.
Bottas will have to make a much better start than last weekend, when he was also alongside Hamilton on the front row at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza but had dropped to sixth by the end of the first lap.
That astonishing race was won surprisingly by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly but the Frenchman will need to pull off an even bigger shock on Sunday after qualifying 16th.