Lewis Hamilton has extended his unbeaten run of pole positions to seven by going fastest in qualifying for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
After outpacing the entire field in all three preceding practice sessions and with teammate Nico Rosberg forced to switch to an older-specification engine after his original motor developed a problem in FP3 – the Englishman’s achievement was rather predictable.
What was the surprise, however, was the pace of the Ferraris, with Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel delighting the home crowd by splitting the two Mercedes’ in the final reckoning.
Given Hamilton has lost positions off the start line in three of the last four Grands Prix, it puts the red cars in prime position to pounce if the reigning World Champion stutters off the grid on Sunday.
Having really not shown any level of consistency in qualifying since he returned to Ferrari, Räikkönen’s final flying lap in Q3 was a masterful display in precision driving to outqualify his teammate and deliver his best qualifying performance in Ferrari colours since 2009 and his first front-row start since the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s fastest lap – set on his first Q3 run – proved to be enough, despite locking up on approach to the second chicane. In spite of the mistake, Hamilton was able to carry more speed through the complex than Räikkönen, and that proved the difference over the remainder of the lap.
Saddled with the older-specification engine for the remainder of the weekend, a frustrateded Nico Rosberg could only manage fourth-fastest but was less than two-hundredths of a second slower than Vettel.
The Williams Mercedes’ had hoped to split the Ferraris in qualifying but ultimately had to settle for the third row of the grid. Felipe Massa was assisted with a tow by teammate Valtteri Bottas to grab fifth place from the Finn.
The pair was comfortably quicker than fellow Mercedes runners Force India and Lotus, whose cars claimed the next three positions on the starting grid. Sergio Pérez and teammate Nico Hülkenberg sandwiched the Lotus of Romain Grosjean on the timesheets, although Hülkenberg will rue his Q3 session being cut short when his Force India experienced a sudden loss of power after his first timed run.
Tenth place went to an impressive Marcus Ericsson in the Sauber, although the Swede was subsequently hit with a three-place grid drop after blatantly baulking Hülkenberg during the first phase of qualifying.
Pastor Maldonado was the only Mercedes-powered runner not to make the top-ten, narrowly missing out on a Q3 berth by qualifying eleventh-fastest in the second Lotus.
The Venezuelan finished ahead of the second Sauber of Felipe Nasr, who locked up at Variante della Roggia.
The balance of grid places were claimed by the Manor Marussias – Will Stevens narrowly outqualified teammate Roberto Merhi at the tail of the field – along with the six runners from Toro Rosso, Red Bull Racing and McLaren to cop engine change grid penalties this weekend.
Carlos Sainz Jr was the fastest of this sextet in his STR10 ahead of Daniil Kvyat, who was the slowest runner to post a time in Q2. Kvyat’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo didn’t post a time in the session, but was delighted to have miraculously made it out of Q1. The Australian only made it onto the circuit with less than two minutes to run while he waited for his mechanics to complete the installation of a new power unit.
Max Verstappen was also delayed in the Q1 session while the Toro Rosso mechanics performed an identical change, but the Dutchman left the pits too late to attempt a timed lap and had to return almost immediately when his engine cover parted company with his car as he accelerated through the Curva Grande.
Sunday’s 53-lap Italian Grand Prix gets underway at 14:00 local time. (GMT +2).
|Formula 1 Gran Premio D’Italia 2015 – Qualifying Results|
|Pos||Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:23.397||15|
|2.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:23.631||+ 0.234||17|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:23.685||+ 0.288||20|
|4.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:23.703||+ 0.306||19|
|5.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:23.940||+ 0.543||19|
|6.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:24.127||+ 0.730||17|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B||1:24.626||+ 1.229||19|
|8.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||1:25.054||+ 1.657||19|
|9.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B||1:25.317||+ 1.920||18|
|10.||Marcus Ericsson^||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:26.214||+ 2.817||20|
|Pos||Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*||Laps|
|11.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||1:24.525||+ 1.142||16|
|12.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:24.898||+ 1.515||15|
|13.||Carlos Sainz Jr.^||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:25.618||+ 2.235||10|
|14.||Daniil Kvyat^||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:25.796||+ 2.413||11|
|15.||Daniel Ricciardo^l||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||no time||3|
|Pos||Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Laps|
|16.||Jenson Button^||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:26.058||+ 1.807||7|
|17.||Fernando Alonso^||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:26.154||+ 1.903||7|
|18.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B||1:27.731||+ 3.480||9|
|19.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B||1:27.912||+ 3.661||9|
|Outside 107%||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Laps|
|DNQ.||Max Verstappen^||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||no time||1|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:23.383 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:24.251 posted by Lewis Hamilton
^ Post-qualifying penalties:
- Marcus Ericsson – who originally qualified 10th-fastest – will drop 3 grid places for impeding Nico Hülkenberg in Q1.
- Carlos Sainz Jr – who originally qualified 13th-fastest – will drop 35 grid places for the use of new power unit elements.
- Daniil Kvyat – who originally qualified 14th-fastest – will drop will drop 30 grid places for the use of new power unit elements.
- Daniel Ricciardo – who originally qualified 15th-fastest – will drop 50 grid places for the use of new power unit elements.
- Jenson Button – who originall qualified 16th-fastest – will drop 5 grid places for the use of new power unit elements.
- Fernando Alonso – who originally qualified 17th-fastest – will drop 10 grid places for the use of new power unit elements.
- Max Verstappen – who failed to qualify but will be allowed to start the race – will drop 20 grid places for the use of new power unit elements, and will additionally serve a pit lane drive-through penalty in the first three laps of the race for his car being released from the pits in an unsafe condition during Q1.
Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas Team