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Hamilton predicts a boring race at beautiful Imola

(Reuters) - Six times world champion Lewis Hamilton waxed lyrical about Imola’s beautiful surroundings on Saturday but predicted few thrills for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Italian circuit.

Formula One F1 - Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy - October 31, 2020 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during the press conference after qualifying in second position FIA/Handout via REUTERS

Imola is making its Formula One return after a 14-year absence, this time without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Championship leader Hamilton qualified second on an all-Mercedes front row with team mate Valtteri Bottas on pole position for a race set to seal the team’s seventh successive constructors’ title.

“What is unfortunate with this track is it’s so beautiful to drive but... I am pretty certain you’re going to see a pretty boring race tomorrow,” said Hamilton, who has a 77 point lead over Bottas.

“You can overtake on this long straight but it’s quite narrow, and you can’t follow. Once you get into turn one it’s a train and there’s no single place to overtake anywhere else. So it’s going to be a challenge for people following.”

Hamilton praised the location of the track and the thrills it offered a driver.

“They don’t build tracks like this anymore. I don’t know why the new guys can’t build a track like this.

“It’s just a classic and it’s got the history, which helps,” he said of a track that has provided some memorable duels and also tragedy with the 1994 deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger.

“And it’s in one of the most beautiful places here in Italy.”

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified his Renault fifth, agreed the race could be “a tricky one for overtaking”.

“It’s pretty fast but also it’s very narrow and normally what that also means is for the following car it’s hard to pick a different line to try and get a bit of clean air,” he told reporters.

“I think that’s where it’s going to make it even more challenging.

“Obviously I don’t want to be too pessimistic but I’d be surprised if it’s like a Portimao (the previous race in Portugal). I don’t think there’ll be that much overtaking, the first lap is going to be important.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris