Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc achieved his fourth career pole position at Monza, scene of the Italian Grand Prix though the ending scenes was a complete farce.
Leclerc put his Ferrari on pole with a lap of one minute, 20.126 seconds on his first run in Q3, giving him an advantage of 0.039 seconds over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.
But with the tow crucial at Monza, ahead of the second runs the ten Q3 drivers engaged in a ‘slow race’ for the ideal position to start their flying laps, with most failing to make to the end of the lap before the chequered flag.
This meant no driver was able to improve their lap time on the second run, with Hamilton complaining that the Ferrari drivers had held everyone up and “just timed everyone out”.
The stewards are investigating “the last lap of qualifying”, with drivers having previously been warned about slow out-laps.
To witness this makes the sport a laughing joke. With just two minutes to the end of Q3, the teams/drivers left until the final moment and with all that slipstream tactics coming into play, it was not a surprise to see all the drivers unable to complete a lap.
Valtteri Bottas, who just completed his first lap before the red flags flew in Q3 for Kimi Raikkonen spinning into the wall at Parabolica, was third fastest, just 0.0004 seconds slower than his teammate.
Sebastian Vettel was fourth quickest for Ferrari, a tenth off Bottas and ahead of the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo.
Nico Hulkenberg was sixth fastest ahead of Carlos Sainz, who was the slowest of the seven drivers to set a time in Q3.
Alex Albon, Lance Stroll and Raikkonen were classified eighth, ninth and tenth respectively with none of them having posted a time.
While Raikkonen’s was thanks to his first-run crash, the other two were unable to complete a lap thanks to the late-session chaos.
Antonio Giovinazzi showed how big a difference a tiny gap can make and ended up as the fastest of the five drivers eliminated in Q2 despite lapping just two thousandths slower than teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
The Alfa Romeo driver jumped Haas driver Kevin Magnussen with his final lap, with K-Mag ending up a tenth slower in P12 after failing to improve on his first Q2 run time.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was P13, with the rear stepping out at the exit of the second chicane on his final attempt and leading to him taking a bite of the gravel.
That lap was his fastest and was enough to put him ahead of two drivers who didn’t mount serious Q2 attempts thanks to having back-of-the-grid penalties for power unit changes – McLaren’s Lando Norris and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.
Romain Grosjean was quickest of those eliminated in the first segment of qualifying in P16 despite lapping just 0.658 seconds off Q1 pacesetter Leclerc.
The Haas driver was in trouble after the first runs in Q1, which were separated by a four-minute red flag caused by Sergio Perez’s Racing Point stopping on track, but did improve on the second attempt.
This temporarily put him into the top 15, but improvements by Sainz and Stroll meant he missed out on advancing after lapping 0.061 seconds slower than Kvyat.
Perez, who ground to a halt at Curva Grande after suffering a loss of power at the end of his first run, ended up P17.
The red flag didn’t cause much disruption as it fell between the first and second runs of the drivers, although Vettel was on a lap that was set to improve on mediums that he had to abandon and subsequent did go out on softs as a precautionary measure and did not set a time.
George Russell won the intra-Williams battle for slowest driver in qualifying, 0.556 seconds faster than Robert Kubica.
That put them P18 and P19, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen not setting a time after reporting a lack of power on his run.
Verstappen was always set to start at the rear thanks to being one of three drivers with a back-of-the-grid penalty, along with Gasly and Norris.
So a bizarre end to qualifying with the drivers playing games on how to position themselves for slipstream. The final result was missing out as the Q3 session ended.
At least Charles Leclerc continues to impress with yet another pole position and looks the favourite in scoring a win at the Scuderia’s home track.
Italian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:19.307
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.346
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:19.354
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:19.457
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:19.839
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:20.049
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 1:20.989
8 Alexander Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:20.021
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:20.515
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:20.498
11 Antonio Giovinazzo Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:20.517
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1:20.615
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1:20.630
14 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:21.068
15 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1:21.125
16 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1:20.784
17 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:21.291
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:21.800
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1:21.356
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda –