F1 – Italian GP – Qualifying
Ciao, MiniFans! The temple of speed welcomes us once again, but so do the grid penalties due to engine components changes, including one to the championship leader among the nine drivers who received them. However, the biggest change came courtesy of Williams, as their line up suffered a bit of a change, due to Albon needing to bow out due to appendicitis and leaving an open space for Nyck De Vries.
Despite all the grid penalties, qualifying kicked off as usual, with those slowest being the first ones out of track when the clock started ticking for Q1 and Tsunoda was king among them, but soon enough, Red Bull was out and clinching the first spots. At least until both Ferraris did their timed laps and kicked them out of the first row and Russell squeezed himself in between, but already half a second behind the red cars.
Traffic started to become an issue at the end of Q1, when the nerves began to arise as it was the last chance for many to try and make the cut, but it didn’t end up being a big problem. All eyes turned to De Vries, who had managed to make it through to Q2, while Latifi, the driver he might be replacing next season, couldn’t put one last timed lap in. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Latifi (P16), Vettel (P17), Stroll (P18), Magnussen (P19) and Schumacher (P20), although this is subject to change due to all the grid penalties yet to be applied.
Q2 had a quieter start, but when cars decided to go out, all of them did so at the same time, looking for tows and teams put their cars out in pairs to try and comply with the strategy. However, it was Sainz, who didn’t enjoy his teammate’s tow, who settled on top in the first stint, soon being joined by Leclerc in second, also without extra help. With two minutes to go, history repeated.
De Vries was the bravest, taking the head of the queue without any realistic hopes of making it into the third round of qualifying, but still using the time to try and learn as much as possible, but a mistake didn’t allow him to do a good timed lap. In a bit of good news for McLaren, both cars made it to Q3 in a track that brings them good memories from the past. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Ocon (P11), Bottas (P12), De Vries (P13), Zhou (P14) and Tsunoda (P15).
Pole position seemed to have a clear favourite, but if there’s something F1 fans know, it’s that you can’t count on a result until the checkered flag is waved and everyone has crossed it. Only one team seemed to be in formation to go with the tow: Ferrari. However, despite this, they were sandwiched in between the Red Bulls, which worked wonderfully for the home team. Sainz, who had enjoyed Leclerc’s tow, scored the provisional pole, while his teammate followed him closely, with Verstappen not to far behind.
Alonso, who didn’t go out in the first stint, was the first out in the last couple of minutes, in order to try and avoid any yellow flags or mistakes by others that might prevent him from getting a time. Not long after, everyone was out to try and improve their previous laps, with Leclerc adamant in not wanting a tow. His strategy seemed to work, as he snatched pole position from Sainz, who had already improved the best time on track, but Verstappen also managed to lower the Spaniard’s time, climbing up to the second position alongside Leclerc, before all the grid penalties were applied.
Qualifying sessions that involve numerous grid penalties can get confusing at times, and that’s what happened in Monza, but unlike last time, in this occasion the polesitter would not be pushed back. Leclerc, who clearly wanted to score pole position without any extra help, whether from tows or other drivers’ penalties, managed to do so in Ferrari’s home soil. It only remains to see whether the Italian team can deliver tomorrow just as well as they’ve done today.