Charles Leclerc has taken pole position by three-hundredths of a second for his Ferrari’s team home Italian Grand Prix after outpacing Lewis Hamilton by nine-hundredths of a second on the first runs in Q3. Leclerc secured back to back poles after being the only driver to start a final run in Q3.
Ferrari had planned for Vettel to tow him on the first runs and then Leclerc to return the favour on the seconds. But in the chaos of the dying seconds, Vettel first overtook Leclerc early on the warm-up lap as the cars jockeyed for position.
The session had resumed following a red flag with under three minutes to go, all the teams waiting for a tow, but everyone tried to back each other up as they fought for position. Meaning no one was able to find a gap and all failed to improve.
Drivers wanted to gain slipstreams on F1’s fastest circuit, drivers did not initially push on their out laps and bunched up, eventually running out of time. Only McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was able to complete a final lap. Valtteri Bottas was third after being eight thousandths behind.
All nine drivers have been placed under investigation and summoned to the stewards. With Sainz, Hulkenberg and Stroll have all been handed reprimands for driving unnecessarily slowly ahead of the final runs in qualifying.
The red flag was caused when Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen crashed out after spinning at the Parabolica. The Finn, who started from pole last year, had beached his Alfa Romeo at the same corner on Friday.
The rule was introduced following an accident in the F3 race after Alex Peroni suffered a series of mid-air somersaults and twists before crashing down upside down on the barriers. He walked away from the crash but was later taken to hospital for further medical checks.
Lewis Hamilton was second after going three tenths faster than teammate Valtteri Bottas on the first runs. While Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest. Bottas was lucky to get the lap in before the red flag to go a tenth faster as he just crossed the line before the red flag.
Leclerc, said, “It’s crazy with this timing and the system that we have where everyone backs up and tries to get a position. They basically timed us out.”
Hamilton said, “Honestly I have to be grateful to be on front. I get to have a fight with Ferrari tomorrow. As a team, it’s a great position to be in. Crazy with timing system. Everyone backs us up to get a position and they just time us out.”
“So just get pole in Q2 then time us out. For us we’re down on Ferrari on a straight line, so we need it. But just to be up here on front row, we can give them a fight tomorrow.”
The red flag and following chaos was good news for Renault who gained their best qualifying of the year with Daniel Ricciardo sixth two tenths faster than teammate Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz seventh.
Hulkenberg went across the run-off area at the first chicane which started the backing up, and the following car of Lance Stroll then backed off to ensure he did not overtake the Renault. Behind him, everyone else backed off to try to not move to the front of the train.
Renault lacks downforce but has a strong engine and goes well on this type of track. Those who didn’t set a time line up as followed Alex Albon and Lance Stroll.
Antonio Giovinazzi proved why the tow is so important, the Italian starts eleventh after missing out on Q3 by just two-thousandths slower than Raikkonen. But, he managed to move ahead of Kevin Magnussen with his final lap.
The Dane ending up a tenth slower after failing to improve on his first Q2 run time. Daniil Kvyat also couldn’t improve after losing the rear and touching the gravel exiting Ascari, but the lap wasn’t enough to put him ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.
Romain Grosjean was knocked out in Q1, the Haas driver struggled to improve following a late red flag. That was caused by Sergio Perez, who ground to a halt through at Curva Grande after suffering a loss of power at the end of his first run, ended up seventeenth.
George Russell was eighteenth half a second faster than teammate Robert Kubica, with Max Verstappen not setting a time following a loss of power. The Dutchman was going to start at the rear thanks to being one of three drivers with a back-of-the-grid penalty, along with Gasly and Norris.