The final minutes of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix descended into a dangerous and unedifying farce at one of its most historic events, but that mattered little to the thousands of tifosi who witnessed Charles Leclerc claiming back-to-back pole positions.
The partisan, Ferrari-loving crowd demanded nothing less than one of the red cars claiming pole position, after both Leclerc and teammate Sebastian Vettel had been the benchmark drivers in each of the three preceding practice sessions. At the 90th Italian Grand Prix and in Ferrari’s 90th anniversary year, it would only be fitting.
Leclerc’s first flying lap in Q3 proved good enough to claim top spot. The final minutes of the session should have been a tense battle for the final grid order, but instead everyone was witness to a slow-speed nine-car procession as no one wanted to be at the head of the queue giving their rivals a slipstream worth as much as 0.3 seconds over an entire lap.
There were several near-missed as the pack was baulked by Carlos Sainz Jr. and Nico Hülkenberg, who ran side-by-side at an almost pedestrian pace on the out-lap as the final seconds ticked by. In the end only those two managed to cross the finish line in time to start their final flying laps, and the pair headlined the list of drivers summoned to the FIA Stewards to explain their rather unsporting antics. Everyone was slapped with a feather and let off with a warning.
The eventual result saw Leclerc snatch pole position by just 0.039 seconds, with the Mercedes’ of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas managing to split the Ferraris and demote Vettel to fourth on the grid. Vettel was meant to be the beneficiary of a slipstream from Leclerc – returning the gesture from their first Q3 runs – but the antics of other drivers put paid to any hopes he had of a better grid slot.
The Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Hülkenberg were a fine fifth and sixth respectively ahead of the identically-powered McLaren of Calor Sainz Jr. Alexander Albon was eighth-fastest in the lead Red Bull Racing Honda, with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll placing ninth.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen crashed out at the start of Q3, spearing backwards into the barriers at the Parabolica. The Finn is likely to require a new gearbox and will face a certain pit lane start.
His teammate Antonio Giovinazzi qualified a solid eleventh-fastest at his home event, in front of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Toro Rosso duo Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly (the latter of whom will be sent to the back of the grid for multiple power unit element changes) both made the Q2 cut and were separated by McLaren rookie Lando Norris, who will also start from the tail of the field.
Gasly and Norris will be joined by Max Verstappen, who had looked quick in final practice but worryingly reported a loss of power early in Q1 and failed to post a lap time at all. Sergio Pérez also had mechanical dramas in his Racing Point Mercedes, which he was forced to pull off the circuit midway through Q1.
|FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO HEINEKEN D’ITALIA 2019 – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:19.307|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:19.346||+ 0.039|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:19.354||+ 0.047|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:19.457||+ 0.150|
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:19.839||+ 0.532|
|6.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:20.049||+ 0.742|
|7.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:20.455||+ 1.148|
|8.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||no time|
|9.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||no time|
|10.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||no time|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:20.517||+ 1.053|
|12.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:20.615||+ 1.151|
|13.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:20.630||+ 1.166|
|14.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:21.068||+ 1.604|
|15.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:21.125||+ 1.661|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|16.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:20.784||+ 0.658|
|17.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:21.291||+ 1.165|
|18.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:21.800||+ 1.674|
|19.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:22.356||+ 2.230|
|Outside 107%||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|DNQ.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||no time|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:19.464 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:20.126 posted by Charles Leclerc
- Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly and Sergio Pérez will start from back of grid due to multiple power unit element changes. elements.
- Kimi Räikkönen is required to start the race from the pit lane after changing components under pace fermé conditions.
Image via Scuderia Ferrari