Lewis Hamilton claims record 69th pole position at the Italian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton breaks Michael Schumacher’s 11-year pole record with a sensational lap to claim pole by 1.1 seconds in challenging conditions. Mastering a drenched Monza just an hour after playing against Bottas on the PlayStation while rain flooded a red flagged track caused by Romain Grosjean aquaplaning.
Hamilton’s pole lap came at the death of Q3, showing his skill to the loyal fans of Formula One who stuck out the prolonged rain delay.
Lewis has already shown across his career his masterful touch in wet conditions. Winning the 2008 British Grand Prix by over a minute as he kept his McLaren on track as others like Felipe Massa spun numerous times.
More recently, at the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix, Lewis again kept his car on the tarmac and not the grass on route to victory and take his title fight with Rosberg into a final round decider.
Hamilton’s pole lap at the Italian Grand Prix now puts the Briton in a great place to claw into Sebastian Vettel’s seven-point lead as the Ferrari struggled on home soil. Finishing qualifying in eighth, one spot behind his team-mate.
Ahead of the Prancing Horse pair will sit four Mercedes powered cars, as Lance Stroll becomes the youngest driver to start a Grand Prix from the front row having qualified in fourth.
Red Bull’s duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo had qualified ahead of the Williams driver, but grid penalties for power unit element changes will demote the pair to the back of the grid.
As for Lewis, his storming Q3 run to smash Verstappen’s time by over a second ensured the Briton broke Michael Schumacher’s pole record in his own right. Claiming career pole number 69, and still with time on his hands to add more to his name.
After practice 3 was rained out and eventually abandoned, the hopes were high as qualifying rolled around. Flicking to green, just as the rain drops began to fall over Monza once more to further dampen the track and the smiles of the passionate fans.
Particularly, the home straight was a treacherous zone. With the new tarmac laid on the run to the first chicane showing less grip as the shine was yet to be rubbered in. Causing pain to Valtteri Bottas, as the FP2 pace setter slid straight on at Turn 1 as he ventured out amongst the early runners.
“Mate, it’s very dangerous,” claimed Romain Grosjean. “I don’t know where I’m going.”
The challenging conditions would quickly worsen further, as Lewis Hamilton posted his first time of the session to edge Sebastian Vettel by two-seconds. Lapping 20-seconds down on his Friday best in dry conditions.
Soon a further seven times would hit the leaderboard, presenting an eight-second margin across the nine-man field as each driver best attempted to tackle the conditions.
But after posting a 1:43.355, strong enough for third, Romain Grosjean caught a patch of standing water that caused his Haas to aquaplane. Sending the Frenchman out of control and out of the session as he spun into the left-hand barrier, triggering red flags to halt the session.
In the barrier and with damage to his wheel hubs and wings, Grosjean returned to the team’s radio to vent his frustration at the session even beginning. “I ******* told you it was too dangerous!” groaned the Frenchman.
With the clock stopped with 13:31 to go, the rain continued to soak the Autodromo di Monza. Prolonging the red flag period as race control awaited better conditions for Formula One’s field of 19 to venture back out.
Eventually, just over two and a half hours after the red flags first waved, the session returned to green having earlier missed out on a half hour window in which the track was potentially dry enough to run.
The only aspect to go against this window, though, was the pit straight continuing to hold on to patches of water that could easily have caused another driver to aquaplane out of control at high speed.
Ironically, the best method to disperse this water would have been a Formula One car running at speed on Pirelli’s full wet compound, capable of dispersing 65 litres of water per second.
Irrespective of the time waited, Formula One eventually rolled back out with Max Verstappen – another star in the rain – posting the first time, albeit 1.5 seconds down on Hamilton’s earlier time.
Continued running, though, saw Hamilton’s benchmark bettered as Vettel and Bottas improved their efforts. Yet as Magnussen was warned by Haas that further rain was inbound, Hamilton returned serve to emerge atop by one second once more.
A time strong enough to fend off the immediate threats posed by multiple drivers as a racing line emerged aside the pit wall and intermediate tyres were being fitted at McLaren.
As Alonso begun his first flyer, two cars exiting the pits emerged in sight. Running the Spaniard into the standing water under braking, causing Fernando to struggle for traction and end Sector 1 two-seconds down, before losing a further three in Sector 2.
In contrast, Vettel posted personal best sector times in zones 1 & 2 as he ventured out on the intermediate compound. Improving to third, behind both Mercedes’.
While for Raikkonen, Ferrari released the Finn in an unsafe manner after his mechanics struggled to remove blankings that caused his front left brake to catch fire as he rolled down pit lane.
When the chequered flag emerged, Jolyon Palmer was the first man to cross underneath it. Bringing his session to a halt before he could start his flying lap, and out in Q1 alongside the two Sauber drivers and Haas’ pair despite Magnussen improving with his final attempt.
At the death, Valtteri Bottas crossed the line to snatch P1 by three-tenths of a second.
With the threat of conditions worsening again, Formula One’s remaining runners sat in the pit lane awaiting the green light again. Mostly on the intermediate rubber, though some opted for Pirelli’s full wet compound as they struggled to maintain heat on the straights needed for the corners.
One of the full wet runners was Max Verstappen. Taking P1 on a 1:37.344 to edge Hamilton, who claimed his inters were not working during his run.
Inters were, though, for Vettel as he slid into P1 as Bottas dropped into the bottom five while he continued to search for a clear lap. Eventually able to take second place, falling shy of the German’s best effort.
At Red Bull, Verstappen was holding firm on the full wet tyres despite the team’s passive effort to encourage a change to inters. A compound he was able to take 4th place on after eventually changing compound.
Late gains were to coming to fruition for both Williams and Force India drivers. Demoting the McLaren’s into the drop zone as Hamilton extended his advantage by six-tenths of a second.
Vandoorne, however, garnered great traction through Parabolica to beat Perez’s time and push the Mexican out of qualifying. Putting a McLaren-Honda into Q3 at Monza for the first time since their hybrid partnership began.
As the second stage of qualifying came to a climax and Esteban Ocon was informed he snuck through in P10, the Frenchman informed his pitwall that the rain had returned.
Looking up to the darkening sky, anticipating another downpour, intermediate tyres remained the call for the championship leaders hoping conditions had yet worsened.
But those behind opted for full wets, handing Verstappen track position over Vettel as they sparred from pit exit to Lesmo One with the track having moved beyond the intermediates optimal window.
With the tyres he had shown he preferred in Q2, Verstappen went on to post his first time of the shootout and demote Ocon from P1 having lapped first. Also fending off the initial threat of Ferrari as Raikkonen came home two-seconds down.
Rain then may have continued to fall, but Mercedes’ first laps put Hamilton into P1 by half a second and Bottas into third. Narrowly bettered by Ricciardo moments after, just eight-hundredths of a second up.
Lewis, though, kept pushing despite his delta showing he was down on his opening lap. Setting new session bests in sectors one and three to add to his personal best in the middle of the lap.
Vettel and Raikkonen, in contrast, continued to struggle on the full wet tyres, lingering down in the bottom 3 with Stoffel Vandoorne in the remaining McLaren. Later only able to improve to seventh and eighth, nudging ahead of Felipe Massa.
In the dying minutes, Mercedes opted to pit both drivers for a fresh set of the full wet tyres with just enough time remaining to complete a final flying lap.
Emerging back on track to see Verstappen improve and take provisional-pole by a tenth of a second. A position he would not be able to start from, however, with the Dutchman carrying a grid penalty through the weekend like his team-mate, who improved to second place.
As things stood, neither of the top two from qualifying would start in their positions come the race. But Hamilton pushed on with his fresh tyres. Smashing Verstappen’s benchmark to claim pole out-right and break Michael Schumacher’s pole position record with his 69th career P1.
A masterful qualifying from rookie Lance Stroll saw the Williams driver end the day in P4, but will start the Italian GP from the front row once the Red Bull drivers’ penalties are applied. Making the Canadian the youngest ever Formula One driver to start from the front row.
Behind Hamilton and Stroll will come two further Mercedes powered drivers in Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas. With Ferrari’s home race starting from an undesirable location.
Take note, however, engine penalties galore will see multiple drivers head towards the back of the grid for the 2017 Italian Grand Prix. Notably, both Red Bull and Renault drivers are amongst those penalised, while Alonso takes the biggest hit with a 35-place penalty.