Valtteri Bottas was left ruing yellow flags late in Formula 1 qualifying for the Tuscan Grand Prix after being denied a final chance to fight Lewis Hamilton for pole position.
Bottas entered qualifying at Mugello off the back of leading all three practice sessions, and was able to set the pace for Mercedes in Q1.
But Bottas trailed Hamilton for the first time in the weekend in Q2, and remained behind after their opening runs in Q3, with the Finn sitting 0.059 seconds off the provisional pole time.
Hamilton was unable to improve on his final qualifying lap, opening the door for Bottas to snatch pole away, only for yellow flags to force Bottas to abandon his effort following a spin for Esteban Ocon.
“It had been a good start to the week and good free practice sessions, including today,” Bottas said.
“After practice three, I was still looking at all the things I could improve for the qualifying, and everything was going nice and smooth in Q1 and Q2.
“The lap in Q3 first lap wasn’t quite good enough, so I also felt there was definitely time still to be found, and I was confident of myself doing it.
“Obviously there was no chance with the double yellows in the second run, so in the end I should have just done a better job in the first run.
“Lewis managed to find the pace, and his first run was better than mine. So that’s it.”
It marked Hamilton’s fourth consecutive pole position and the 95th of the Briton’s F1 career, acting as a boost heading into Sunday’s race where he will look to extend his 47-point lead over Bottas in the championship standings.
Bottas said his race pace during practice on Friday was “good”, and was hopeful of getting the jump on Hamilton on the run to the first corner on Sunday.
“There’s still all to play for,” Bottas said.
“Of course it would have been nice to start from pole. But still, it’s one of the longest runs of this season into Turn 1.
“If the headwind stays, the tow is going to be quite powerful into Turn 1. I’ll try to turn my thoughts into the race.”
Mugello has not previously hosted an F1 race before, and has won praise from drivers about the physical nature of the layout with lots of high-speed corners.
Bottas said after qualifying he welcomed the physical challenge posed by Mugello.
“It’s one of the most physical tracks, but I really like it,” Bottas said.
“That’s how it should be. I like a bit of pain, so it’s always good fun.
“In the end like in the qualifying lap, you’re so focused that you don’t really feel any pain.
“You definitely notice after the lap that you’ve done something.”