FORMULA 1: Charles Leclerc clinched Ferrari’s first home pole position since 2019 by overtaking Max Verstappen in first place in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc all smiles after the pole at Monza on the ground of Ferrari. Photo: Miguel Medina / AFP
However, Verstappen will serve a five-place grid penalty, promoting Mercedes driver George Russell to the front row.
Ferrari dominated Q3 in the one-hour session, with Carlos Sainz taking the place of provisional top qualifier after the early laps. The Spaniard couldn’t keep pace with Leclerc and Verstappen the second time around, however, and slipped to third in the standings.
Midway through the final laps, Verstappen looked set to upset the Ferrari turf with a purple center sector, but Leclerc’s lap knocked pole out of the bag despite not being the fastest in any division. , taking pole position by 0.145 seconds.
His pole was greeted with delight by the sold-out partisan crowd, and Leclerc invoked the memory of his hard-fought pole and victory at Monza in 2019 ahead of Sunday’s race.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It was not an easy qualifying session. I knew there was a lot of potential in the car.
“I just took a lot more risks. It was the last lap, I knew I had to find quite a bit of performance.
“I knew that in the last laps of Q3 I had to put everything in place, and I managed to do it.
“It’s been a great weekend so far. The feeling in the car is amazing, and hopefully we can do like 2019 tomorrow.
Verstappen was second fastest but will be dropped five places on the grid for changing his internal combustion engine. However, with nine drivers set to be penalized for Sunday’s race for similar reasons, his starting position is unclear – although he was confident of a good result regardless of his grid position.
“It was tight, but we chose to go for a bit more downforce here,” he said. “I think on one lap it might not be the best, but for tomorrow it can be strong enough, knowing that we have to go back a bit.
“I think it will be an interesting battle.”
The Dutchman could start as high as fourth or as low as seventh. The FIA had not confirmed the grid at the time or in writing.
Sainz was third quickest but will be sent down to 18th as the best of three drivers, all with back-to-back penalties.
The Spaniard said he enjoyed qualifying even though he knew he couldn’t improve on his result.
“Honestly it was a very good qualifying session,” he said. “I felt very good and I was pushing hard
“The only problem is I didn’t have a tow, and it probably cost me two or three tenths for pole position – but anyway I’m going last for tomorrow, so it’s not like that changes. my life.”
Sergio Perez qualified fourth but will be penalized 10 grid places.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell followed, but Hamilton will drop to 19th thanks to a wholesale power unit change, while Russell will be promoted to the front row alongside Leclerc.
Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were seventh and eighth for McLaren but are set to receive further penalties. Norris will start third, while Ricciardo could start as high as fourth.
Pierre Gasly had a scrappy Q3 to end the session ninth ahead of just Fernando Alonso, who didn’t set a time, but both will start behind Ricciardo on the grid.
Esteban Ocon is 11th but will lose five places on the grid. Valtteri Bottas was a close game for the Frenchman but will drop 15 places, dropping him to 17th place.
Williams’ replacement Nyck de Vries was knocked out a commendable 13th. The Dutchman was called up on Saturday morning to replace Thai driver Alex Albon, who suffers from appendicitis, but still comfortably beat teammate Nicholas Latifi. He also beat Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu; both will be promoted after penalties.
Yuki Tsunoda was knocked out of Q2 with no time but will start last thanks to an engine penalty and for racking up too many sporting reprimands this season.
Nicholas Latifi was introduced by temporary teammate De Vries, the Canadian carving out his final flying lap by passing the first chicane.
He was fast enough to stay ahead of both Aston Martin drivers, with a disappointed Sebastian Vettel beating team-mate Lance Stroll.
Kevin Magnussen beat Haas teammate Mick Schumacher, with the German entering qualifying with a few precious laps due to a series of technical problems in practice.