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Start French GP
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix 2021

Winners and losers from F1 Emilia Romagna GP qualifying

Qualifying for the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix proved to be a fascinating session, with some unexpected results. Who were the winners and losers from Saturday?

To news overview © Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

The second qualifying session of the 2021 F1 season saw some familiar faces at the top, with Lewis Hamilton putting his Mercedes on pole for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Yet there were also a few surprise results throughout the hour. Some drivers and teams will be pleased with their performances, whilst others will be left hoping for better in the race.

Who were the winners and losers from qualifying?

The winners

Lewis Hamilton

Whilst it is not unusual to see Hamilton on pole position, this one seemed to come as a surprise and relief to the Mercedes driver. After Red Bull's strong showing at the opening race of the season in Bahrain, the Silver Arrows felt that their car was not as fast as Max Verstappen's team's.

This perhaps explains why Hamilton admitted after qualifying at Imola that he was shocked to be in first place, with Sergio Perez and Verstappen behind him in second and third.

"I definitely didn't expect us to be ahead of the two Red Bulls," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. "They have been so quick this weekend. There were times when they were six tenths ahead, we didn’t really know where we would be."

Whilst Hamilton remains wary of Red Bull's pace in the race, securing pole position shows that Mercedes are up for the challenge.

Sergio Perez

Perez endured a difficult first qualifying session with Red Bull in Bahrain. Things couldn't have been more different at Imola, with the Mexican impressively qualifying in second place - and, perhaps most notably, ahead of teammate Max Verstappen.

Like Hamilton, Perez seemed surprised by his result, especially given that he had not shown such single lap pace during the prior practice sessions. A front row start so early in his Red Bull career is a promising sign for what's to come - and it also earned public praise from the team's advisor Dr Helmut Marko, which will surely be an extra boost to Perez's confidence.

Pierre Gasly

AlphaTauri set their sights high ahead of the 2021 F1 season, with their goal being to reach the top five in the constructors' standings. Gasly is certainly helping them to work towards their goal, having qualified an impressive fifth for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Whilst this might be one place down from where he lined up in 2020, the margin between the Frenchman and fourth-placed Charles Leclerc was just 0.050 seconds. Gasly declared after qualifying that the team had never been so close to the front runners.

After a DNF in Bahrain denied Gasly a potential points finish, his strong performance so far at Imola suggests he could be about to make up for that in the race.


George Russell has previously proved his ability to take his Williams car into Q2 on several occasions. However, it is more unusual to see both Russell and his teammate Nicholas Latifi get out of Q1.

This is exactly what happened in qualifying at Imola though. Latifi continued the strong form shown in Friday's practice sessions by reaching Q2 for only the second time in his Formula 1 career, and impressively managed to outqualify Alpine's Fernando Alonso by recording the 14th quickest time.

Meanwhile Russell will line up in 12th place. The strong performances of both drivers hint at a vast improvement for the Williams team, given that in previous years they have often struggled to escape the back row of the grid.

The losers

Lando Norris

Whilst not exactly a loser given his end result from qualifying was seventh place, Norris lost out on what could have been a front-row result. The McLaren driver would have qualified third thanks to a sensational lap, only for it to be deleted due to exceeding track limits. Norris was understandably disappointed with his error.

"We made a lot of improvements on Friday, but um, that one lap that I don't need to make a mistake on. I f'ed it all up," the Briton told Sky Sports F1 after qualifying.

He added: "Misjudging it by this amount is tough."

Whilst seventh is not a bad result, it clearly hurts when the final place could have been so much higher. There will be probably be added pain for Norris given that teammate Daniel Ricciardo managed to beat him to sixth.

Carlos Sainz

Norris' former McLaren teammate Sainz also endured a difficult day. The Spaniard was a surprise elimination from Q2, and will line up in 11th place, seven places behind fellow Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc.

Sainz admitted that his lack of confidence and knowledge in the car perhaps contributed to being unable to put a strong enough lap together. Whilst this will likely come in time, early disappointments like this will not help in building that much-needed sense of assurance.

Fernando Alonso

Throughout Alonso's long F1 career, the former world champion has not often been outpaced by a teammate. He will not be happy that this happened during qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix; Alonso put his Alpine in 15th on the grid, whilst Esteban Ocon progressed to Q3 and ended the day in ninth.

This marks the first time that Alonso has been outqualified by a teammate since 2017. Like Sainz, Alonso seems to still be lacking confidence in his new car, and he has also warned that Imola poses limited opportunities to overtake. If there is anything we have learned from the Spaniard over the years, it is to never rule him out. Sunday could see him claw his way back.

Yuki Tsunoda

Perhaps the biggest loser of the day was AlphaTauri's Tsunoda. The Japanese driver crashed early in Q1, leading to the red flags being brought out.

Whilst he was thankfully unharmed in the incident, the car did not appear to have come out of it so well. Tsunoda revealed later on that he had apologised to the team for his error, which he put down to "pushing too much on entry".

The new Formula 1 driver will start the race from the back of the grid, behind fellow rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. His challenge now is to attempt to work his way through the field.