Imola GP: Our qualifying predictions

Running has finally got underway around Imola for the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with an usual format being used this weekend. 

With no Friday practice, teams were limited to one hour and half session on Saturday, but it provided plenty of action and insight.

Having analysed the session, our Formula 1 reporters give their predictions for qualifying.

Adam Dickinson – Ocon and Renault look strong

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At the front, we could be in for an interesting weekend as Max Verstappen looks to be close to the Mercedes in race pace and definitely within range of beating Bottas.

At the track where in September Julian Alaphillipe won the first men’s cycling World Championship for France for 23 years, there were signs of optimism for Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc so I’ll be keeping an eye on that trio for the race – I’d back at least two of them to be in the top six.

Ocon’s Renault team look particularly strong, locking out the top five until late on in the session when they didn’t look to improve and were bumped down by some late flyers.

Racing Point didn’t have the best session, but don’t discount them mixing it up in the race, one driver who is on the back foot is Nicolas Latifi who had his session cut short by an issue with brake-by-wire.

Freddie Coates – Max is one to watch for both quali and race

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The Mercedes is looking absolutely nailed on to the road at every corner and both drivers will definitely be in the fight as always.

Max Verstappen has made the headline times this morning however and not just for one lap pace. He has the pace to challenge in the race too. Max will be the one to watch in qualifying and I wouldn’t be surprised if the more low drag wing setup on the Red Bull pays dividends.

Pierre Gasly is on a mission too and will be in the fight for fourth on the grid legitimately in a brilliantly fast AlphaTauri.

McLaren had a very fast time from Norris deleted at the end of the session so are still in the mix along with Racing Point but both look behind Renault. I would not be surprised if we saw a very tight fight to get into Q3 with some missing out extremely marginally.

Andrew Wright – Bottas not convincing in practice for once, but could still be in the fight for pole

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On the much-anticipated return to Imola, a shortened race weekend threatens to throw a spanner in the works. Can Max Verstappen break Mercedes’ dominance? Well, if practice one is anything to go by, maybe. He split the black cars and showed good pace in race trim.

Worryingly for fans of Valterri Bottas, the Finn was almost half a second down on his team-mate, but I still expect it to be a three-way shootout for top spot.

Behind them the battle looks reassuringly tight. Just over half a second separates fourth through 12th, with Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc impressing in fourth and fifth respectively, and the Renaults looking handy.

I’m backing Leclerc to nip in and steal fourth spot in what should be a thrilling Q3. And don’t rule out the McLarens. Despite languishing down in 14th and 16th in the timesheets, they’ve got the pace to get into Q3 as shown by Lando Norris’ time that was ultimately deleted for exceeding track limits.

Rob Hansford – Gasly could be fastest of the best of the rest field

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Mercedes look to have the edge, as they have done all season, but it is probably the closest we have seen Max Verstappen for sometime, so there is potential he could cause an upset.

It also looks set to be tight in the midfield. Only three tenths separated sixth to 11th in practice, so expect a hectic Q2 session as there are a number of drivers capable of making it into the top ten shootout.

But, I’ll be paying close attention to Pierre Gasly. He’s in fine form at the moment and he was right on the pace in practice, ending up fourth fastest, only four tenths of a second down on the top three and ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.