The ban on ‘quali mode’ ban made no apparent difference for Mercedes at Monza as the world champions dominated qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton claimed another pole position ahead of Valtteri Bottas, while Carlos Sainz Jnr led their challengers in his McLaren.
Q1Charles Leclerc, who had the benefit of a slipstream from team mate Sebastian Vettel, was one of the first, but his subsequent effort secured him a place in Q2.
Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen and Alexander Albon were also caught out by the track limits sensor at Parabolica on their early runs. But not only did all improve their times, they also successfully claimed places in Q2.
This was partly because of the widely expected drama at the end of the session. The majority of the field returned to the track for their final runs together, and several drivers ended up compromising each others’ runs.
Kimi Raikkonen was among the drivers who did make it into Q2, despite being stuck behind Ocon on his final run. He furiously criticised the Renault driver for refusing to let him last as they rounded the Rettifilio and Curva Grande. The stewards will investigate the incident and one involving Nicholas Latifi after the session.
Both Williams drivers ended up at the bottom of the times. George Russell, 19th, overtook several cars at the end of the lap, but ended up without a slipstream, and complained about his team’s tactics as he returned to the pits.
Sebastian Vettel was one of the drivers Russell passed, which disrupted his efforts to improve his lap time. He went out in 17th, accompanied by one driver from each of Ferrari’s customer teams: Romain Grosjean, banging the steering wheel in frustration on his Haas, and Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo.
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The Mercedes drivers easily headed Q1 despite using medium tyres, and were similarly untroubled in the second session after switching to the soft compound which they will start the race on. Hamilton was first to break Raikkonen’s two-year-old track record – also the fastest lap in F1 history – before Bottas lowered the time further with his second run, breaking the 79 second barrier with a 1’18.952.
The track discipline was somewhat better at the end of the second session. The Mercedes drivers and Daniel Ricciardo were content to run out front, though the Renault driver’s bid to improve ended when he ran wide. Nonetheless he kept his place in the top 10, though team mate Ocon may not have been impressed that his team mate immediately pulled over instead of continuing to give him a slipstream. Ocon failed to make the cut for Q3.
Magnussen also dropped out after running wide at Lesmo 2 – the second qualifying session in a row he’s gone off on his final run. None of the Ferrari-powered drivers made it into Q3: Leclerc went out in 13th, one place ahead of Raikkonen. Daniil Kvyat was the last driver to fail to make the cut, falling a tenth of a second shy of Albon.
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It was Bottas’s turn to lead Hamilton around and the fractional gap between the two of them at the end of qualifying suggested that had made the difference. Bottas set a 1’18.956 – just four-thousandths of a second slower than he’d gone in Q2. But Hamilton edged him by just under seven-hundredths of a second, claiming pole position for the 94th time in his career and securing another sweep of the front row by Mercedes.
Less than two-tenths of a second covered the next five drivers. Sainz produced a gem of a lap in his McLaren, producing a 1’19.695 to lead Mercedes’ rivals. A third Mercedes-powered car joined him on the second row of the grid in the shape of Perez’s Racing Point.
That forced a disappointed Max Verstappen back to fifth, despite having a slipstream from his team mate on the final lap. Albon, whose first effort in Q3 was deleted, could only manage ninth.
The second McLaren claimed sixth place, Norris ruing a mistake at the Rettifilio chicane. He was followed by Ricciardo, who came out on the wrong end of the five-car queue in a disappointing seventh place for Renault.
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