ITALIAN GP – Lewis Hamilton takes pole by six-hundredths of a second as Ferrari endure worst qualifying at Monza in thirty-five years

Testing & Race Reports

Lewis Hamilton has beaten his teammate Valtteri Bottas by six-hundredths of a second after setting the fastest average speed lap in Formula One his to secure pole position for the Italian Grand Prix. The six-times champion set his fastest lap at the end of Q3 improving by a hundredth compared to his first lap in the final part of qualifying.

It was expected that Mercedes would be the team to beat, and the team look unstoppable having an eight-tenths lead over McLaren’s Carlos Sainz allowing them to lock out the front row at Monza for the first time since 2016. While the towing farce didn’t occur at the end of Q3, it did earlier in the session with Sebastian Vettel losing out and being knocked out in Q1.

While Bottas didn’t improve on his final run in Q3, Hamilton managed to go purple in all three sectors and that allowed him to take pole. Sainz also improved at the end of the session pushing the Racing Point of Sergio Perez down to fourth. The Spaniard was still over three-quarters of a second behind Mercedes.

Hamilton said, “It’s not too bad. Fantastic performance from the team. Not the easiest, you’ve seen how close it was between us. It needed a clean lap and I got both. Valtteri was strong and kept pushing. I was a bit nervous going through the final sector.”

“In the years I’ve been here I’ve had times we had less downforce and grip, the speed through the Lesmos was awesome. It’s trying to finds the right balance which is not so easy.”

Bottas added “It was really close, as I was expecting. In the end, I was on my own which is not too bad a place to be but you don’t get any gains in a straight line. My long run pace compared to Lewis is good. It is going to be a good race tomorrow. It is still all to play for.”

Ahead of qualifying Hamilton had claimed that the ‘party mode’ ban had been introduced to slow Mercedes down, the Englishman crushed his rivals at the Temple of Speed, going eight tenths faster than his nearest non-Mercedes rival.

Perez was the only driver not to improve on the final lap of the session but had done enough to stay just under eight-hundredths of a second faster than Max Verstappen. The second McLaren of Lando Norris was sixth going four hundredths quicker than Red Bull’s Verstappen.

For Red Bull, it was their worst qualifying since Budapest in mid-July.

Daniel Ricciardo was seventh, the Renault made it through to Q3 without using the tow as his teammate Esteban Ocon was behind when he set his fastest lap to get through to Q3. The Australian, however, did out-qualify the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll.

Alex Albon was ninth, the Red Bull driver lost his fastest time on his first run for exceeding track limits through the Parabolica. He ended the session tenth fastest, slower than his eliminated teammate Daniil Kvyat by seven-hundredths of a second.

None off the top ten got through Q2 on the medium tyres, meaning they will start the race on the less durable soft tyres with those behind them free to start on whatever tyre they chose. Esteban Ocon lost out after giving Ricciardo the tow early on.

Ferrari had their worst qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix since in 1984, Charles Leclerc thirteenth two places behind where Michele Alboreto qualified. He benefited from losing his first lap time in the first session after abusing track limits at Parabolica.

Leclerc’s slowest time was deleted for track limits, but on his next timed lap, he managed to improve but was shuffled down the order to thirteenth. The Ferrari driver describing his lap “the best I can do”, as Ferrari was again exposed by its straight-line speed issues with the SF100.

He said “We knew Spa and here were the two worst tracks for us. It is like this. It is tough. For now, it is like this and I need to extract the maximum out of the car. It hurts even more once it is at home. It is the reality for us at the moment. We need to work.”

Each of the Ferrari powered teams got one car through to Q2, Kimi Raikkonen starting fourteenth going over half a second faster than Kevin Magnussen. The Haas driver ran wide through the gravel at the second Lesmo.

Romain Grosjean was fastest of those knocked out in Q1 going just over a hundredth quicker than Sebastian Vettel. The four-times champion was caught in traffic at the end of the session, leaving him a tenth of Q3 and down in thirteenth.

Antonio Giovinazzi in the second Alfa Romeo was eighteenth fastest ahead of the two Williams drivers, with Russell maintaining his 100 per cent qualifying record over teammate Nicholas Latifi.

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