Mercedes and Red Bull cars will enter the race with split-start tire strategies after Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez – who missed one final Q3 lap at the back of the queue as Red Bulls trailed behind the slow touring Mercedes drivers on the final warm-up lap – used the softer tires to set their best times in Q2, where Hamilton and Bottas came out on top on the midrange.
After Verstappen dominated Q1 and Q2, Hamilton led the way after the opening rounds in Q3, clocking 1m15.419s as his title rival couldn’t match his best time since mid-qualifying. .
The 0.565 second gap between Verstappen and Hamilton gave Bottas a chance to take the lead in second, which he did.
Ahead of the second and final round of Q3, Verstappen came out of his garage just behind Hamilton, who drove very slowly into the pit lane and at the start and then end of the final warm-up tour as he stayed ahead. the Red Bull.
As time is running out due to the slow preparation lap, Verstappen has just crossed the line to start a second Q3 driver, while Perez missed the game but held on to fourth place in all case.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo By: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
But the slow warm-up tactic backfired on Mercedes in terms of improving its drivers on their second try, as Bottas – who led Hamilton – didn’t go any faster and neither did the world champion. .
But while Verstappen improved to 1m15.840s, that was not enough to beat him in either of the Mercedes cars, with Hamilton’s pole being secured in front of his teammate.
Pierre Gasly beat Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc in fifth place for AlphaTauri, with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso eighth and ninth for Alpine.
Sebastian Vettel completed the top 10 after executing a staggered Q3 strategy, completing his 1m16.750 solo in the middle of the final segment.
In Q2, where Verstappen went fastest after switching to softwares, Vettel’s late improvement knocked out Daniel Ricciardo, whose personal best on his last lap in the middle segment was not enough to get him through. in Q3.
Lance Stroll took 12th place in the second Aston Martin to finish ahead of Alfa Romeo pair Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi – who received a reprimand for hampering Gasly in FP3, while his team were fined 5,000 € for the incident where Giovinazzi cut Stroll’s right-back as he exited the pitlane during the final practice.
The other driver eliminated in Q2 was Carlos Sainz Jr, who lost the rear of his car in the last corner on his first timed lap in the opening segment, with the Ferrari sliding sideways into the runoff area and hitting the side barriers.
He was able to start again as the session was marked by a red flag, but quickly came to a stop after his front wing snapped and got stuck under the car.
Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21 crashes in qualifying
Photo By: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Although Sainz walked away again after sitting in his car for a few minutes, but he finally cut the engine and got out, finishing Q2 in 15th position with no set time, and after Sainz seemed to hamper Gasly at the end of Q1, with the Ferrari entering the sidewalks at turn 1 in an attempt to move away from the rapidly approaching AlphaTauri.
In Q1, Yuki Tsunoda set a personal best on his last lap in the opening segment but couldn’t improve enough and was knocked out, as was George Russell, who lost his perfect escape record. in Q1 in every race so far in 2021 for Williams.
Russell appeared to go deep at Turn 2, then raced off the chicane at Turns 6/7, kicking up dust as he continued his final lap in Q1, but found himself behind Tsunoda in 17th. , ending his streak of Q3 two-way appearances.
Nicholas Latifi also set a personal best on his last round in Q1 finishing 18th in the second Williams, Nikita Mazepin 19th for Haas.
Mick Schumacher was unable to make qualifying due to his FP3 crash causing a red flag as Haas was unable to repair the car in time after changing his gearbox to allow the rookie to set a time. in Q1.