MONZA (Italy) • Charles Leclerc secured pole for Ferrari in the Italian Grand Prix in shambolic circumstances yesterday when only two cars participated in the final qualifying showdown laps.
An unprecedented “cat-and-mouse” procession as the teams crawled round the circuit, backing each other up to claim good slipstreaming positions, resulted in a farce that saw eight cars timed out by the chequered flag.
“A big mess,” said Leclerc, who took his fourth pole of the season and second straight ahead of five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes. “I’m happy with pole, but it’s a shame at the end… I hoped our last lap was enough.
“The pace was quite good actually during the race simulations, better than in Spa.”
The Monaco native and Carlos Sainz of McLaren were the only drivers to produce final qualifying runs after clocking lap-times on their first runs in Q3.
The stewards immediately declared that the chaotic failure at the end of the session was under investigation, with the teams having failed to deliver a contest for the paying public.
Despite the farce, Ferrari will be encouraged it can finally end a nine-year wait for success at their home race today, with Fernando Alonso their last winner in 2010.
ITALIAN GP GRID
1 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault
6 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault
7 Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) McLaren
8 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull
9 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point
10 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo
20 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
“Today, to see so many people here feels amazing,” said a delighted Leclerc, who claimed his maiden Formula One victory at last week’s tragic Belgian GP, where he dedicated his win to the memory of his late friend Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in the previous day’s F2 race.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff fumed at how the last lap saw nine drivers cruising around, weaving and braking but with nobody willing to take the lead, calling it “worse than a junior formula”.
He told Sky Sports: “You have been around for 35 years, have you ever seen anything this?
“The problem was everyone wants a slipstream and nobody wants to go first…. and then everyone looks like (an) idiot.”
The irony of the slowest of qualifying laps at the fastest of tracks, a circuit where slipstreaming can be a huge benefit to lap time, was not lost on Hamilton.
Labelling the turn of events as “a bit of an anti-climax”, he added: “I have to be grateful we’re on the front row to have a fight with the Ferraris… we just timed out.”
His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas qualified third ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the two Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg and Sainz in seventh.
Lance Stroll of Racing Point and Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo both failed to clock a time in Q3 when the latter crashed – halting the session for 11 minutes.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen failed to set a time as he reported a loss of power on his only flying lap, finishing in 20th place.
Bottas later claimed he had been unlucky to be trapped in the bunched traffic, saying: “The yellow flag in the last corner meant we probably missed the pole”.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
F1 ITALIAN GP
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