Bottas trailed Hamilton by 0.031 seconds after their first laps of the top-10 shootout, but a 0.2-second improvement with his second lap turned that into a 0.097-second advantage at the flag, delivering him his fourth pole of the season.
“I knew in the last lap I had to risk it and go hard and the car responded,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to get pole. I had the shakes afterwards!”
Bottas trails Hamilton by 77 points in the drivers standings with a maximum of 104 points remaining over five races.
The championship leader thinks he may be powerless to take the lead off his teammate in the race. The Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix is being held in Imola, Italy, where the historic Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is classically narrow with few natural overtaking zones for 2020’s wide cars.
“I’m pretty certain you’ll see a boring race tomorrow,” he said. “There is nowhere to pass, but hopefully with the DRS that will give us an opportunity to overtake.”
Whether or not Hamilton’s forecast proves accurate, it’s likely the race will be a straight fight between the Mercedes teammates, with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, the next-quickest driver of qualifying, more than half a second adrift.
The Dutchman almost didn’t make it into the pole shootout at all, having been confined to his garage for much of Q2 for an emergency spark plug change.
“Just not a really great qualifying because of that,” he lamented. “I personally expected to be a little bit closer, to fight them a little bit more.”
Pierre Gasly toasted his AlphaTauri contract extension with an outstanding fourth on the grid alongside former teammate Verstappen on the second row.
Daniel Ricciardo qualified fifth for Renault ahead of Thai driver Alex Albon, who was 0.4s adrift of teammate Verstappen.
This weekend has been touted as Albon’s last to convince management to keep him at the team next season.
Charles Leclerc qualified seventh for Ferrari ahead of Daniil Kvyat in the second AlphaTauri, with McLaren teammates Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz ninth and 10th respectively.
Sergio Perez was 0.01s shy of qualifying for Q3 and will instead line up alongside Renault’s Esteban Ocon in 11th and 12th.
Williams driver George Russell and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel traded times for 13th and 14th on the grid until the German had his best lap deleted for exceeding track limits, handing the higher place to the Briton.
Lance Stroll qualified 15th for Racing Point after having his final flying lap deleted for driving off the track.
Romain Grosjean beat Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen to 16th on the grid after the Dane ran wide and through the gravel at the final corner of his last lap.
Kimi Raikkonen had his fastest lap deleted for exceeding track limits, leaving him 18th ahead of Williams driver Nicholas Latifi and Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.