World Champion Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap in Formula 1 history to take pole position for the Italian Grand Prix, as Mercedes again obliterated its opponents.
Talk during the build-up had focused on the FIA’s Technical Directive mandating the use of the same engine mode for qualifying and the race.
This ostensibly outlawed the use of the ‘party mode’, as dubbed by Mercedes, which rivals felt had assisted its one-lap performance, having dominated all previous seven qualifying sessions this year.
But Mercedes was again comfortably out in front during the entirety of the three-part qualifying session, held in hot and sunny conditions at the high-speed Monza circuit.
In a pole shootout in which only two drivers were ever going to take top spot Hamilton set a 1:19.068 to eclipse Valtteri Bottas by 0.053s.
Bottas improved on his second push lap, dipping into the 1:18s, but Hamilton went even faster and logged a time of 1:18.887.
Hamilton’s lap was achieved at an average speed of 264.362km/h, making it the quickest in history, as he recorded his 94th career pole, and seventh at Monza.
He finished eight-tenths clear of the fastest non-Mercedes driver.
Sainz stars for McLaren
Red Bull and Max Verstappen have typically posed the greatest threat to the Mercedes steamroller in 2020 but the partnership has been slightly off-colour this weekend.
In a tightly-bunched midfield pack, in which third to seventh was covered by only two-tenths of a second, it was McLaren’s Carlos Sainz who equalled his best result by finishing third.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez also squeezed ahead of Verstappen to take fourth, with the Dutchman fifth, as he belied the team’s concerns over its low-downforce package.
Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were next up for McLaren and Renault respectively, ahead of Lance Stroll.
Alexander Albon came perilously close to dropping out in Q1, finishing 15th, and again in Q2, classifying at the foot of the top 10.
His difficult day continued into Q3 as he took ninth, again lagging behind Verstappen, and in front of only AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in the final session.
AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat was 11th, in front of Esteban Ocon, who failed to match Ricciardo’s pace.
Ferrari hits another low at home
Ferrari endured one of its lowest ebbs in Belgium and a week on in Italy its fortunes plummeted even further.
On pure pace alone Charles Leclerc qualified only 13th, a year on from taking pole position in front of the Tifosi, radioing at the end of Q2 that it was all he had.
Leclerc’s time was almost one second slower than his 2019 pole position effort on a day in which Mercedes repeatedly broke Mercedes’ track record.
Leclerc was only quicker than Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen in Q2, with the Dane’s prospects nullified when he slid through the gravel at Lesmo 2.
Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel fared even worse.
He was eliminated in the first part of qualifying and is set to start from 17th place.
It is the first time since 1984 that no Ferrari has qualified inside the top 10 at Monza.
The inevitable traffic mess
The end of Q1 was a mess that almost led to a high-speed clash.
Raikkonen was severely impeded by Ocon as they approached the second chicane and only avoided hitting the wayward Renault driver, who was also on a push lap – though both made Q2.
Stewards are in the process of investigating the incident.
Further back George Russell was also slowed, venting his frustration at Williams, commenting “we need to be the ones capitalising from the f***-ups, not be the ones in the f***-ups.”
Vettel was also hindered amid the mess and none of the bottom five prior to the final runs managed to improve their times.
It left Romain Grosjean, who had an off at Parabolica, in 16th, ahead of Vettel, sole home representative Antonio Giovinazzi, and the two Williams drivers, with Russell again in front of Nicholas Latifi.
Sunday’s 53-lap Italian Grand Prix is scheduled for 15:10 local time.
|4||S. Perez||Racing Point||1:19.720||0.803|
|5||M. Verstappen||Red Bull||1:19.795||0.908|
|8||L. Stroll||Racing Point||1:20.049||1.162|
|9||A. Albon||Red Bull||1:20.090||1.203|
|14||K. Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||1:20.926|
|18||A. Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1:21.206|