World champion Lewis Hamilton faced the Red Bull duo to claim a gender position for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix on Saturday.
It was Hamilton’s 99th career pole, and although there is a Red Bull just behind the Mercedes driver, it will be Sergio Perez, not Max Verstappen.
Hamilton beat Perez with .039 seconds and was .087 faster than Verstappen, who is expected to be his main contender this season.
“I didn’t expect to overtake two Red Bulls, they were so fast this weekend,” Hamilton said. “The car feels much better, I want to thank the team for their hard work.
“I love the challenge, and two Red Bulls will definitely make strategy difficult.”
Hamilton teammate Valteri Botas had a meager final lap and will start in eighth place in the grid after finishing slower .487.
Lando Norris will start just before Botas. The McLaren driver headed to the front row after a superb final lap, but his time was lost due to exceeding the track limits.
Charles Leclerc advanced to an encouraging quarter for Ferrari, but his team-mate Carlos Sainz failed to make it to the final of the qualification known as Q3 and will start 11th in the grid.
Pierre Gasley and Daniel Ricciardo will start fifth and sixth, respectively, while Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll round out the top 10.
Earlier in the day, Verstappen announced the fastest time for the final practice, as the Red Bull driver was nearly half a second faster than the rest of the pack. He was .456 ahead of Norris and .557 from Hamilton.
Mercedes led both training sessions on Friday with Bottas the fastest in both, just before Hamilton, as Red Bull endured a tough weekend start.
Verstappen’s second practice lasted only 10 minutes after a problem with a cardan shaft.
Emilia-Romagna’s GP is the second race of the Formula 1 season. Hamilton won the opening in Bahrain last month, shortly before Verstappen after an exciting match.
Training on Saturday was briefly under red flags after Nicholas Latifi lost control of the chicane Villeneuve and slipped through the gravel and barriers.