Lewis Hamilton believes the “incredibly fast” Imola circuit will be “phenomenal” to drive in qualifying for Formula 1’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The world championship leader set the pace for Mercedes in F1’s sole 90-minute practice session at Imola on Saturday morning, edging out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by nearly three-tenths of a second.

His first experience of driving Imola in an F1 car has left Hamilton anticipating a thrilling ride in qualifying around what he described as an “incredibly fast and beautiful” circuit.

“This track is incredible - it’s unbelievable how fast it is around this track,” Hamilton explained. "I think for a single lap it’s going to be incredible.

“It’s definitely not going to be a great race circuit for us, being that it’s so fast and so narrow, it will be very difficult for people to overtake.

“There will probably be no overtaking after Turn 2, but on the main straight maybe you’ll see some overtaking. But on a single-lap it’s phenomenal, it’s really incredibly fast.

“The grip level is very high, it’s mostly medium-to-high speed and it’s very fast and flowing, the speed we are going through these corners, it’s just incredibly fast and beautiful.”

F1 is facing a condensed weekend at Imola with a two-day format due to noise restrictions at the venue, but Hamilton feels well prepared going into qualifying despite having less running than normal.

“I’m not lacking anything, we have got all the knowledge we need from that session,” he said. “I know where the car is and where the car needs to be, so we’re not really lacking anything.

“It’s very close between us and the Red Bull’s and they are very fast, particularly in the middle sector, but I don’t feel that we are in a rush or anything like that. It was a good session and I got every lap that I needed and more.”