San Piero (Italy), September 13: Lewis Hamilton heads into the Tuscan Grand Prix in pole position as the defending Formula One world champion aims to secure his sixth win of the season.
It is already looking to be a tough ask for the chasing pack to catch Hamilton, who holds a 47-point lead over Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate will start second on the grid at Mugello, while Red Bull are primed to attack with both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon having placed in the top four in qualifying.
Ferrari, meanwhile, head into their 1,000th grand prix with Charles Leclerc fifth on the grid as the Italian outfit continue to struggle.
WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING
Hamilton took pole on Saturday, though his team-mate Bottas was left lamenting his bad luck after Esteban Ocon's mistake cost him vital time.
Bottas looked in a strong position to take top billing off Hamilton in his final qualification lap, yet Ocon span off the track and a yellow flag was raised.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel endured another difficult session as he failed to reach Q3.
THE STARTING GRID
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 4. Alex Albon (Red Bull)
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), 6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
7. Lance Stroll (Racing Point), 8. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
9. Carlos Sainz (McLaren), 10. Esteban Ocon (Renault)
11. Landon Norris (McLaren), 12. Daniil Kvyat (Alpha Tauri)
13. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), 14. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
15. Romain Grosjean (Haas), 16. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri)
17. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), 18. George Russel (Williams)
19. Nicholas Latifi (Williams), 20. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
TUSCAN GRAND PRIX TALKING POINTS
It is a landmark race for Ferrari, yet the team's poor season does not look set to improve drastically any time soon, with Leclerc having a lot to do from fifth if he is to achieve a podium finish, while Vettel – who will move to Racing Point at the end of the season – can hardly be considered a contender down in 14th on the grid.
Vettel's impending move means Sergio Perez has had his contract with Racing Point, who are soon to be Aston Martin, cut short, and the Mexican was handed a a one-place penalty for causing a collision with Kimi Raikkonen in practice on Friday.
Bottas, meanwhile, struggled to hide his frustration after he was denied the chance to pip Hamilton to pole, though that will perhaps give Mercedes' second-seat driver extra motivation to outshine the world champion.
Red Bull enjoyed a fine qualifying session and Verstappen seems well placed to challenge for his second victory of the season.
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID
Lewis Hamilton (pole): "This track is phenomenal… it's crazy! You go through Turns 6, 7, 8, 9 at like 170, 180 miles per hour, and the G-force we're pulling through there, it's insane, and it just gets more and more as you go through 8 and then 9. [Turns] 10 and 1 and 2 were the areas where I needed to improve and I managed to pick it up once I got into qualifying, so Valtteri did a great job in pushing me. But I'm really, really happy to be up there."
Valtteri Bottas (2nd): "I still had more time in there. Run one was okay, but not perfect. I was looking forward to the last lap but I didn't get the opportunity. It's disappointing because the speed has been good all weekend. For sure it [Ocon spinning off] had an effect. I knew there was more in it and I was confident that this weekend it belongs to me. But there's two types of luck, unlucky or lucky. And I got unlucky again."
Max Verstappen (3rd): "From my side, I always expected to be third. Of course, coming from Monza, this was a lot better. I always expected it to be better than Monza of course – I think Monza was just the worst track for us. Everything [at Monza] is just not good: low downforce, long straights, it's not what we like. But I'm pleased to be third."
Charles Leclerc (5th): "I'm very happy with the lap overall. I put everything together and P5 was definitely above any of our expectations so very, very happy. We are lacking overall performance to be able to fight with the guys in front, but the balance was good today, it gave me confidence. I could give my best on that quali lap. There's a good opportunity [in the race]. But on the other hand if we look at the race pace of the other teams on Friday, there are quite a lot of cars that are stronger from us."
Daniel Ricciardo (8th): "I think with Charles in fifth, I'm not sure he's got a fifth-placed race car, so that in itself might create a bit of a battle for that top five. Him qualifying there will hopefully make it a bit exciting."
Sebastian Vettel (14th): "It's a bit of a fight, but it's been a fight all year. So we try nevertheless to do everything we can to try and understand the car a bit more. I try to do anything I can with driving to adapt, but I think there's still more to look at."
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 164
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 117
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 110
4. Charles Stroll (Racing Point) - 57
5. Lando Norris (Renault) – 57
1. Mercedes – 281
2. Red Bull – 158
3. McLaren – 98
4. Racing Point – 82 (after 15-point deduction)
5. Renault – 71