Lewis Hamilton claimed a record 69th Formula 1 pole position in a rain-delayed Italian Grand Prix qualifying session, beating Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen as Ferrari struggled.
Qualifying was delayed for more than two and a half hours, after a heavy crash for Romain Grosjean’s Haas on the pit straight caused the session to be halted and then suspended as heavy rain deluged the Monza circuit.
The intensity of the rain varied throughout qualifying when it finally resumed, and a break in the rain in the closing minutes of Q3 allowed Verstappen and Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to briefly lock out the front row before Hamilton’s late show – which helped him surpass Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 Formula 1 poles that he equaled last time out in the Belgian Grand Prix.
Though exciting, the battle was rendered meaningless by grid penalties for both Red Bulls for making illegal engine component changes ahead of practice.
Verstappen is set to receive a 20-place grid penalty and Ricciardo a 25-place penalty, which will promote Williams rookie Lance Stroll to a sensational front row start for the race.
Stroll lapped inside the top five in Q2 and was fourth fastest in Q3, only three tenths slower than Verstappen.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon was fifth quickest, while Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who set the pace in Q1, abandoned his final flying lap so ended up only sixth on the final timesheet.
That was one position better than the Ferrari drivers managed, with Kimi Raikkonen seventh and championship leader Sebastian Vettel eighth as they struggled for grip on the Pirelli wet tyres.
Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne rounded out the top ten.
Sergio Perez looked to have joined Force India team-mate Ocon in making Q3 after a late improvement in Q2, but his lap was 0.002 seconds slower than Ocon’s and failed to get the job done after a last-gasp effort from Vandoorne.
Perez should start inside the top ten anyway, owing to those grid penalties for the Red Bull drivers.
Nico Hulkenberg sat inside the top ten after the initial Q2 runs, but his Renault struggled for grip on intermediates on his second run and slipped to P12. He will drop further back thanks to a 10-place grid penalty for changing his MGU-H before final practice.
Fernando Alonso, who faces a 35-place grid penalty of his own, made only one run in Q2, but it was good enough to put his McLaren-Honda P13, ahead of Toro Rosso pairing Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr, who also faces a 10-place grid penalty.
Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, Jolyon Palmer’s Renault and the Saubers were eliminated in Q1, along with Grosjean.
Magnussen made a late improvement on intermediate tyres after the initial runs on full wets, but this was not enough for him to escape the drop zone.
The Haas driver finished up 0.701 seconds adrift of Sainz’s Toro Rosso, while Palmer’s Renault was bumped to P17.
Palmer is set to take a 15-place grid penalty for engine component swaps ahead of final practice, so will drop behind Marcus Ericsson, Pascal Wehrlein and Grosjean in the final reckoning.
Ericsson trailed Sauber team-mate Wehrlein by almost a second after the wet-tyre running, but beat him to P18 by 0.143 seconds with a late improvement on intermediates.
Grosjean didn’t take part in the restarted session after his earlier crash.
So a lengthy rain delay, the wait was worth it. Lewis Hamilton set a new record in Formula 1 as the most successful driver with pole position. Lance Stroll earning his best ever grid position after an impressive qualifying run. Will start the Italian Grand Prix alongside the triple champion.
Italian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m35.554s
2 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m37.032s
3 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m37.719s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m37.833s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m37.987s
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m38.064s
7 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m38.251s
8 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda 1m39.157s
9 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m37.582s
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m38.245s
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m40.489s
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.732s
13 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.875s
14 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m36.702s
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m38.059s
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Renault 1m38.526s
17 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m36.841s
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m40.646s
19 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1m38.202s
20 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m43.355s