Mercedes racer Lewis Hamilton claimed a record 69th pole position in Formula One at a damp and dreary Monza this evening.
In a session that stretched to over three hours-and-forty minutes following numerous rain delays, Hamilton secured the top spot with a best of 1:35.554s – a lap some 1.1s faster than the next quickest driver Max Verstappen.
Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo recorded the 3rd quickest time; however as both Red Bull’s are taking severe grid penalties, 4th fastest qualifier Lance Stroll will start on the front row alongside Hamilton.
After a lull, rain return for the final part of qualifying prompting a move to full wets for much of the top ten. Both Mercedes’ and both Ferrari’s started on intermediate weather tyres, but returned to the pits immediately to make a switch to wets.
Hamilton was nothing if not consistent in Q3. With each quicker lap, the Briton jumped to the top of the timings, swapping regularly with Verstappen and Ricciardo, while Stroll and Force India’s Esteban Ocon ran the leading trio close.
Verstappen set his stall out in the opening minutes and where Hamilton would set a 1:37.227s, Ricciardo responded by going one-tenth quicker, before the Mercedes man took another two-tenths off of his time.
After a final switch to wet tyres, Verstappen recorded a 1:36.762s, but Ricciardo could only go one-tenth slower to sit just behind his teammate. Hamilton meanwhile hooked up a spectacular final half-a-lap, as conditions began to dry.
A 30.7s left the Mercedes racer level with Verstappen through sector one, but gained four tenths on the Dutchman through the Lesmo’s. Hamilton then went one step further and was eight-tenths quicker than Verstappen in the final sector, gifting the Briton a huge margin as he crossed the line.
Ricciardo was three-tenths quicker than his teammate in the final sector, but lost a similar amount to Verstappen in the middle of the lap. The difference between the pair came down Ricciardo losing a tenth through the Rettifilo chicane, leaving the Australian just shy of Verstappen.
Stroll and Ocon did excellently to set the 4th and 5th best times respectively, while Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas recorded a disappointing 6th. The Ferrari’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel ended the session a downbeat 7th and 8th, while Felipe Massa (Williams) and Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) closed out the top ten.
Sergio Perez missed out on Q3 by just 0.002s, when he fell short of teammate Ocon. The Mexican headed Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg by half-a-second, while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso could do no better than 13th. Toro Rosso suffered a dreadful session, as they could only take the 14th and 15th slots, before penalties drop them to the rear of the grid.
Kevin Magnussen the best of the Haas duo, after teammate Romain Grosjean crashed at the start Q1. Following this, the opening part of qualifying was red flagged as the Frenchman aquaplaned on the start-finish straight, pitching Grosjean into the barrier on the outside of the straight.
The Frenchman’s now out-of-control machine then crossed the sodden circuit, eventually finishing on the inside of the Rettifilo chicane. With several other drivers, including Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Renault pair Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer all missing the chicane at the Rettifilo, it was decided to bring out the red flag.
Before spinning, Grosjean had set a time of 1:43.355, but was audibly ruffled by the conditions on track, calling the session ‘dangerous’, adding that ‘it was stupid to run [qualifying].’ With rain coming down hard, there followed a two-and-a-half hour gap before conditions were deemed safe enough to continue.
Beyond Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer (Renault) qualified 17th, ahead of the Sauber duo Marcus Eriksson and Pascal Wehrlein.