Kimi Raikkonen achieved his first Formula 1 pole position of 2018 in a thrilling qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver was second fastest behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton on the first runs in the Q3 top ten shootout, but while both drivers improved Raikkonen outpaced the Mercedes star.
Sebastian Vettel briefly took top spot in after crossing the line ahead of Raikkonen, before The Iceman completed his lap to post a time 0.161 seconds faster.
Raikkonen’s superb pace in the final sector – aided by a tow from his Ferrari team-mate – was key to his pole, completing it a tenth-and-a-half faster than Vettel.
Hamilton did improve on his second run, but it wasn’t by enough and he ended up third, 0.014 seconds slower than Vettel.
Valtteri Bottas, in the other Mercedes, has struggled to match his team-mate’s pace all weekend and was fourth, 0.136 seconds slower than Hamilton.
Max Verstappen was fifth for Red Bull Racing, 1.5 seconds off the pace, and ahead of Romain Grosjean’s Haas and the Renault of Carlos Sainz Jr.
Esteban Ocon took eight for Force India, just half-a-tenth slower than Sainz.
Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly was ninth after a perfect run in Q2 got him into the top ten shootout, but didn’t have the pace to threaten the top eight.
Williams reached Q3 for the first time in 2018 after Lance Stroll’s strong performance in Q2. He ended up P10 and almost three-tenths behind Gasly.
Kevin Magnussen was eliminated in Q2 after heading into the first chicane side by side with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso on his final lap.
Alonso ended up P13 having failed to set a serious time on his second run as a result, saying “Magnussen wanted to race into Turn 1” and laughing over the radio.
After Q2, Haas team principal Gunter Steiner and McLaren boss Zak Brown had what appeared to be a heated discussion, presumably about this incident, in the pitlane.
The race stewards will investigate the incident after qualifying.
Magnussen’s lap was also ruined, but his first-run time almost got him into the top ten, as he ended up just 0.002 seconds slower than Gasly and just ahead of the Williams of Sergey Sirotkin.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg did not set a time in Q2 because he is set to start on the back row thanks to a combination of a 10-place grid penalty for causing a start crash at Spa.
But Hulkenberg did do a lap, meaning he was classified ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who is also set to start on the last row thanks to power unit penalties and did not run in Q2.
Force India’s Sergio Perez was the quickest of those eliminated in Q1 during a flurry of late improvements, with both of the Williams drivers, Hulkenberg and Gasly jumping him late on.
Perez only completed one run during the session and ended up just one-thousandth of a second slower than Grosjean in the battle to make the cut in Q1.
Sauber’s Charles Leclerc failed to improve on his final flier and was relegated to 16th late on, asking “why are we so slow?” over the radio on his in-lap after lapping just 0.002 seconds off P15.
Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley was P18, with the team telling him he lost a tenth-and-half in the first corner on his final lap.
This would have been enough to elevate him comfortably into the Q2 positions given he was just 0.133 seconds off tenth position.
Marcus Ericsson, who escaped a massive accident at the first chicane during FP2 on Friday was P19 ahead of McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.
So congratulations to Kimi Raikkonen in scoring pole position at Ferrari’s home race. This was The Iceman first P1 since last year’s Monaco race. Championship challengers Sebastian Vettel is second with Lewis Hamilton third. Bring on the race.
Italian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m19.119s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m19.280s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m19.294s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m19.656s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m20.615s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m20.936s
7 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m21.041s
8 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m21.099s
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m21.350s
10 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m21.627s
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m21.669s
12 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m21.732s
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m22.568s
14 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m21.888s
15 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m21.889s
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m21.934s
17 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m22.085s
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m22.048s
19 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault –
20 Nico Hulkenberg Renault –