Kimi Räikkönen earned a roar of approval from the thousands of tifosi lining the Autodromo Nazionale Monza after leading a Ferrari front-row qualifying lockout for the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix.
The Finn ended an eight-year qualifying drought for the Prancing Horse at its home event and, more brilliantly, broke the duck by clocking the fastest ever lap driven in a Formula 1 car.
His teammate Sebastian Vettel was the quickest driver in the first two stanzas of qualifying, but was privisionally just third-quickest behind championship rival Lewis Hamilton and Räikkönen after their first runs in Q3. The second runs saw Vettel able to jump both and snatch pole position, but seconds later Räikkönen – who was enjoying the benefits of a slipstream from the German – clocked a 1:19.119 to go quicker by 0.161 seconds.
Räikkönen’s average speed around the 5.7-kilometre Monza lap was 263.578km/h (163.78mph), breaking the previous record set in 2004 by Williams’ Juan Pablo Montoya who averaged 262.242km/h (162.95mph) around the same circuit in his normally-aspirated BMW-powered car. The Colombian had himself broken the record held by Williams’ World Championship winner Keke Rosberg, who earned the original ‘Flying Finn’ moniker by posting the first ever lap quicker than 160mph at Silverstone back in 1985.
Pole position is long overdue for Räikkönen, who has threatened on a number of occasions this year but frequently been let down by little errors or factors outside his control. This time it all came together.
At 38 years of age, the 2007 World Champion is the oldest pole-sitter since Nigel Mansell (then aged 41) achieved the feat in qualifying for the ultimately infamous Australian Grand Prix in 1994.
These records matter little for Räikkönen. While he may be enduring what could become the longest winless streak in history (107 races and counting), Räikkönen is enjoying one of his most competitive runs of form even if the results on paper haven’t backed this up. He currently sits 85 points off Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead, with teammate Vettel just 17 points in arrears of the Briton.
Logic – and current form, you could cynically argue – would ensure that Ferrari institutes team orders to favour Vettel and ensure he gets the most points possible on Sunday’s 53-lap race.
While Vettel was visibly disappointed at being beaten to pole position, the points are handed out on Sunday.
Behind all of the celebrations for Ferrari, Hamilton secured third on the grid in his Mercedes with a time just 0.014 seconds slower than Vettel’s. After being outgunned and outpaced last weekend in Belgium, the Briton will privately fear that the red cars will waltz off into the distance once again. This weekend will be about damage limitation ahead of the next Grand Prix in Singapore where the Silver Arrows have struggled in recent years.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas has not been able to hold a candle to the defending World Champion this weekend over the three practice sessions, but the Finn managed to run closer in qualifying and secured fourth on the grid.
Max Verstappen was fifth-fastest for Red Bull Racing, a whopping 1.5 seconds off the pace as the RB14 chassis and its Renault-built power units were found wanting on this engine-dependent circuit.
The Dutch driver was pushed hard by Romain Grosjean in the Haas Ferrari, Carlos Sainz Jr.’s Renault and the Force India of Esteban Ocon who were all within four-tenths of a second of him.
Verstappen’s future teammate Pierre Gasly qualified ninth-fastest for Toro Rosso while there were celebrations in the beleaguered Williams team with Lance Stroll giving the Grove squad its first Q3 appearance of the season to claim tenth on the grid. The FW41’s lack of downforce – which has seen it struggle at virtually every other circuit this season – proved an advantage here, with Stroll’s teammate Sergey Sirotkin claiming a career-best twelfth on the grid in the sister car.
The preceding second phase of qualifying saw another spiteful scrap between Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen, who have had an ongoing war of words and on the track this season. Magnussen had the pace to make it into Q3 but found his last lap compromised in an unnecessary tussle for track position with Alonso when the pair got in each other’s way on their final runs. The Dane missed out on a Q3 berth by just 0.002 seconds.
Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo did not post a time in Q2 in order to give them free choice of tyres on which to start Sunday’s race given both will line up at the back of the grid due to power unit element changes.
A surprise early elimination came in the form of Force India’s Sergio Pérez, who was knocked out at the first hurdle in Q1. The Mexican later admitted that the team had underestimated the lap time he would need to make it into Q2 and kept him in the garage during the final minutes of the session – that allowed the likes of both Williams drivers, Hülkenberg and Gasly to make late improvements and bump him out of the top-fifteen.
Also joining him on the sidelines at the end of Q1 were both Saubers of Charles Leclerc (16th) and Marcus Ericsson (19th), who struggled to unlock one-lap pace. Brendon Hartley (18th) endured another poor qualifying session, while Stoffel Vandoorne – whose short-term future at McLaren is very much in doubt – was slowest of all.
|FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO HEINEKEN D’ITALIA 2018 – QUALIFYING RESULTS|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:19.119|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:19.280||+ 0.161|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:19.294||+ 0.175|
|4.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:19.656||+ 0.537|
|5.||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||1:20.615||+ 1.496|
|6.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:20.936||+ 1.817|
|7.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:21.041||+ 1.922|
|8.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:21.099||+ 1.980|
|9.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:21.350||+ 2.231|
|10.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:21.627||+ 2.508|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|11.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:21.669||+ 2.040|
|12.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:21.732||+ 2.103|
|13.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:22.568||+ 2.939|
|14.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||no time|
|15.||Daniel Ricciardo||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||no time|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|16.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:21.888||+ 1.346|
|17.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:21.889||+ 1.347|
|18.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:21.934||+ 1.392|
|19.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:22.048||+ 1.506|
|20.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:22.085||+ 1.543|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:20.542 posted by Sebastian Vettel
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:19.629 posted by Sebastian Vettel
- Daniel Ricciardo will start from the back of the grid for the use of multiple replacement power unit elements
- Nico Hülkenberg was penalised 10 places on the grid for causing a collision at the preceding Belgian Grand Prix. He will also start from the back of the grid for the use of multiple replacement power unit elements
- Marcus Ericsson was penalised 10 places for the use of additional power unit elements.
Image via Scuderia Ferrari