Lewis Hamilton explains Valtteri Bottas 'respect' after Emilia-Romagna GP pole defeat
But F1's runaway championship leader philosophical about losing out on pole position to his Mercedes team-mate after turnaround on final laps; Watch Sunday's Emilia-Romagna GP live only on Sky Sports F1 on Sunday at 12.10pm
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 01/11/20 1:08pm
Lewis Hamilton admitted a "poor" final qualifying lap scuppered his hopes of beating Valtteri Bottas to pole position on F1's return to Imola at the Emilia-Romagna GP.
Hamilton has been supreme in the decisive third and final phase of qualifying this year, claiming nine of 12 poles before Imola, but had to give best to his Mercedes team-mate on Saturday after Bottas turned the tables in the final laps of Q3.
Hamilton held an advantage of 0.031s after the penultimate laps but, although he improved his time by a further seven hundredths of a second on the final Q3 laps, Bottas found nearly two tenths on his own lap to seize his 15th career pole.
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"Valtteri did a great job," said Hamilton.
"It was a pretty poor lap from myself. These things happen, you can't always get it perfect."
The six-time champion, who leads Bottas by 77 points in the championship, later added that both his Q3 laps "weren't that great to be honest" and so "it's not so bad" to finish only a tenth adrift.
'I don't think there're many people that can do what he's doing'
Saturday was just the fourth time this season that Bottas had won the duel against Hamilton for pole position. Yet the plain statistics do not completely reflect the consistently tight margins on Saturdays between the Mercedes team-mates.
Hamilton has claimed five of his nine poles by less than a tenth-and-a-half from the Finn and, asked to assess Bottas in the post-session press conference, he said: "I don't think I really need to say much. Jeez, he just got pole position.
"He's ahead of me. I have more poles than anyone here , so it's not like I'm a slowpoke.
"So he's doing an amazing job and I think his results today speak for themselves. I don't really need to say much more.
"He does his talking on the track and that's the great thing about Valtteri. I don't think there are many people that can do what he's doing if I'm really honest, so I've got a huge amount of respect for him."
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Hamilton enjoying Imola 'challenge'
F1's return to Imola after a 14-year absence is taking place across a unique two-day weekend, meaning all the action so far took place on Saturday.
Only Kimi Raikkonen among the current field had ever driven F1 machinery over a race weekend at the fast, flowing track.
"What a beautiful place we're in here in Italy and the track is unbelievable, the speeds that we're going around this track," said Hamilton, who last drove on the historic Italian circuit in GP2.
"Grateful to be here and grateful we have the performance that we have, which is really remarkable. It feels better than it did in the last race.
"It was a real challenge out there but I enjoyed it."