Thank goodness the home fans were not on hand to witness the sorry state of affairs for Ferrari at their home of Monza as both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc failed to make it though to third stage of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
To rub salt in the wounds, Mercedes’ runaway championship leader Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position with a new lap record at Monza with his teammate Valtteri Bottas taking second for another Mercedes front row lockout.
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McLaren’s Carlos Sainz posted the third fastest time and is joined on the second row by Sergio Perez for Racing Point.
The session proved another humbling experience for out-of-sorts Ferrari with four-time world champion Vettel going out in Q1 and Charles Leclerc, who won at the circuit last year, getting dumped in Q2.
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The Ferrari is dreadful for straight line speed, something — ironically — their home track was built to exploit. There will be Ferrari inside the top 10 at Monza for the first time since 1984.
Hamilton and Bottas took it in turns to lower the track record before the Briton came out on top to register 1:18.887s in another flawless qualifying stint from the Mercedes pair as mayhem took hold behind them. Hamilton’s track lap record performance produced an unconfirmed fastest lap in F1 history.
With Monza famous for slipstream advantages and every 100th of a second counting, teams played a waiting game at the end of Q1, resulting in a chaotic traffic jam as every car jumped at a chance of getting a tow from the faster Mercedes. It was like race day with cars jostling for position and the stewards had a busier than usual Saturday, handing out penalties and deleting track times.
In the end, it was Hamilton’s record-increasing 94th career pole position, his sixth in seven races and his seventh in Italy.
“It wasn’t too bad,” said Hamilton, with a hint of a smile.
“It was a fantastic performance from the team — in terms of timing, when they put us out on the track,” he added, referring to Mercedes’ avoidance of the jostling mass of cars seeking a slipstreaming tow from each other.
“It was not the easiest as you saw how close it is between us all so it demanded a really clean lap — and I felt I got that, so I am very happy.”
Max Verstappen was fifth for Red Bull, Lando Norris qualified sixth in the second McLaren ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Renault, Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point, Alex Albon in the second Red Bull and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri.
Bottas also broke the track record twice and said: “It was really close as I expected. I am not sure about the tow — I didn’t have any until the end and I kind of felt the benefit, but then on the final lap I was on my own again.
“It was a good place to be, but obviously we didn’t get any gains in a straight line.”
Sainz said: “I was a bit nervy, but I needed a final strong corner so I risked the lot and went for it.”