Lewis Hamilton bested his teammate Valtteri Bottas to win the pole for the F1 Italian Grand Prix on Saturday (Sept. 5). In what’s become a familiar story, Hamilton needed to give a masterful performance to pass Bottas, who had shown excellent pace during the first three practices.
Hamilton pipped Bottas by just .069 seconds to claim his 94th pole of his stellar career. In doing so, Hamilton also set the all-time fastest qualifying lap at Monza, besting Kimi Raikkonen’s mark.
While the front-row lockout by Mercedes follows the usual narrative, the rest of the lineup enjoyed more of a shakeup than is typically anticipated.
For instance, where one might expect to see Max Verstappen taking third, Carlos Sainz instead drove a brilliant qualifying lap and will start in the second row. The result puts McLaren in its best starting position at Monza since 2012.
Alongside Sainz will sit Sergio Perez, showing the performance that seems expected of his Racing Point with Mercedes power.
Verstappen could manage only fifth on the grid and will have Lando Norris beside him on the third row for lights out.
The Monza, Italy track provides a bit of a challenge to the teams as engineering a slipstream tow behind a leading car can boost times up to almost one second if it’s executed properly. The problem that became apparent is the teams failed to figure out a process on how to put that together.
One incident from Q3 showed the issue best when teams were trying to set up strategies. Kimi Raikkonen drove into the back of Esteban Ocon out of frustration for the slower-moving car. Such a move is something rare during a race and even more surprising during qualifying.
For his efforts, Raikkonen made it out of Q3 and will start 14th, but the incident illustrated the importance of the tow at Monza and how difficult it can be to set a time that matches performance.
George Russell may have given the statement that summed up exasperation teams felt with managing the two.
“We need to be the ones capitalizing on these f*&*^ups,” he said. “Not the ones causing these f*&^ups.”
While Russell was likely never going to get to Q2, had the team figured out the timing correctly, they may have enjoyed a shot rather than Williams having its drivers start in the last two positions.
What may be the least surprising aspect of Italian Grand Prix qualifying is that both Ferraris will start outside the top 10 at Monza for the first time since 1984. At this point, Ferrari’s performance seems to be staying where it is and there may be no reason to believe that it will improve much this season.
Odds & Sods
– The Mercedes duo made sure to send salvos in the direction of Red Bull, who was the architect behind the engine modes ban. Red Bull had pushed for the FIA to prohibit engine mode switches, perhaps in hopes of slowing Mercedes. They had seemed to use that ability to differentiate between qualifying and race performance.
Bottas said after earning his second-place start, “So I’m not sure how happy Red Bull are now with this engine change.”
Hamilton further ribbed his closest competitors.
“I don’t even think we ever had a party mode,” Hamilton said. “That’s something someone else made up. But who knows if we even used that mode in Spa, anyway?”
Hamilton’s comment comes after the focus with Mercedes Strat 2 mode that they often run on their engines in qualifying. But the team has stated the new engine regulations will favor it because they have the overall best pace, anyway.
– This weekend will be the last that Claire Williams will lead the Williams team. She has done her best to keep them solvent, but the team’s disappointment over the last decade had made it necessary to take on investors.
There was some thought that Williams would remain in a leadership role, but that idea changed when both parties announced this weekend to be her last.
For some, Williams’ departure is the end of an era, the last team in F1 held exclusively by a family. The corporatization of the sport meant that family-owned and operated teams were going to disappear; the surprise may simply be that Williams managed to hold on as long as she did.
The sport is built on progress, and money is the best security toward performance. For the team to remain on the grid at all, it was going to need an infusion of capital.
Italian Grand Prix Qualifying Results
|3||55||Carlos Sainz||MCLAREN RENAULT||1:20.099||1:19.705||1:19.695||16|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||1:20.048||1:19.718||1:19.720||17|
|5||33||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:20.193||1:19.780||1:19.795||17|
|6||4||Lando Norris||MCLAREN RENAULT||1:20.344||1:19.962||1:19.820||18|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||1:20.400||1:19.924||1:20.049||19|
|9||23||Alexander Albon||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:21.104||1:20.064||1:20.090||19|
|10||10||Pierre Gasly||ALPHATAURI HONDA||1:20.145||1:19.909||1:20.177||20|
|11||26||Daniil Kvyat||ALPHATAURI HONDA||1:20.307||1:20.169||14|
|14||7||Kimi Räikkönen||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||1:21.010||1:20.926||14|
|15||20||Kevin Magnussen||HAAS FERRARI||1:20.869||1:21.573||14|
|16||8||Romain Grosjean||HAAS FERRARI||1:21.139||8|
|18||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||1:21.206||9|
|19||63||George Russell||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:21.587||7|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:21.717||8|