The temple of speed. Low-drag wings. Full throttle for over 80% of the lap. It must be Monza! Round 8 was a question of slipstream and towing and with the drivers lumbering around the track waiting for a tow and trying to get their strategy timed out, it seemed that the magic gap to a leading car is about 4-5 seconds. The FIA was lecturing multiple drivers for driving too slowly during Free Practice. The established minimal time for a lap at 1:43s.
The tow is worth a lot and many argued 4/10’s of a second so you can understand why, especially the midfield, it was so important to take advantage of it. There was also a ban on using multiple engine modes so whatever they use today is what they will have to use on Sunday.
The teams sent their cars out in the Noah’s Ark format but Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel passed Charles Leclerc meaning Charles would have to hurry up and switch to a full-tilt lap. Leclerc’s lap time was deleted due to crossing the white line. That was going to be complicated because he still had set a time and still needed to give Vettel a tow as well.
Mercedes came out on the Medium compounds while everyone else was on Soft tires. Bottas put down a very quick lap but Hamilton immediately jumped him with a 1:19.539s. Sergio Perez, Lando Norris, and Carlos Sainz were all putting in good times in 3rd through 6th.
If the removal of “Party Mode” was something you were hanging your hat on, it wasn’t showing a crack in Mercedes performance as they were still .7s ahead of their closest rival. Leclerc ran a solo run for 11th but that left Vettel in the elimination zone so would he get a tow from Leclerc?
With three minutes left, Ferrari came out with Vettel several cars ahead of Leclerc. The cars all bunched up into the Parabolica and everyone tried to latch onto the back of someone else. The frustration Kimi Raikkonen had trying to follow the Renault of Esteban Ocon was high and it created a lot of chaos with Kimi aborting the lap, Vettel aborting the lap and out of Q1. Vettel was frustrated with the Alpha Romeo’s overtaking everyone and getting into the wrong position hampering everyone’s last laps. Or did they?
Out in Q1- Grosjean, Vettel, Russell, Latifi, Giovinazzi
Mercedes were out first on Soft tires followed by everyone else. Bottas was leading Hamilton on the initial run. Valtteri was setting personal best sectors but Lewis was setting purple sectors and he jumped to the top 3/10’s faster than Bottas. A 1:19.092s lap was a new track record for Hamilton.
It was Perez, Sainz, Verstappen and Gasly in the top six. The Renault’s were looking off the pace compared to their customers in Papaya Orange. Notably Alex Albon was off the pace of his teammate, Max Verstappen, as was Daniil Kvyat compared to Pierre Gasly. Ferrari’s Leclerc was on the outside looking in as he languished in the elimination zone after his first run.
With 5 minutes left, the teams seemed to be intent on recreating the Q1 traffic jam by still waiting in the garages until the very last minute. They were inevitably going to all end up in the same place at the same time.
Verstappen was behind Albon but it was Albon who could have used a tow as he was at risk of being eliminated. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo ran wide which ruined his lap. Bottas set a new track record and jumped to the top with a 1:18.952s.
The first time since 1984, neither Ferrari would start in the top 10 for the Italian Grand Prix. Both Ocon and Kvyat well off the pace of their teammates and out in Q2.
Out in Q2- Magnussen, Raikkonen, Leclerc, Ocon, Kvyat
Lewis led both Red Bull’s out for Q3 and it was assumed that Bottas would get the tow from Lewis for the final lap fo Q3. Bottas was well ahead of Lewis and not providing a tow for Lewis but it didn’t matter, Lewis was sector purple sectors but he was also giving a tow to Max.
Hamilton set provisional pole with a 1:19.068s and it was Sergio Perez who claimed third fastest followed but Verstappen and Sainz. Alex Albon had his lap time deleted and he really needed that lap time because qualifying is becoming his achilles heel during the race weekend.
Mercedes not waiting until the end of the session, they chose to go out early with 5:16 left in Q3. Red Bull immediately followed. Both Mercedes were slightly slower than their Q2 time which was interesting and would that suggest the “Party Mode” ban had them at their limit? If so, they still had six tenths in pocket to Sergio Perez.
The last lap was not Hamilton leading Bottas but the other way round. Hamilton nailed pole with a 1:18.887s followed by Bottas but it was Sainz who jumped ahead of Perez for 3rd, Perez 4th and Verstappen in 5th.
The “Party Mode’? Hamilton was eight tenths quicker than his rivals but just six hundredths ahead of Bottas.
Pirelli Qualifying Review:
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1m18.887s|
|2||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||0.069s|
|3||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team||0.808s|
|4||Sergio Perez||BWT Racing Point F1 Team||0.833s|
|5||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||0.908s|
|6||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team||0.933s|
|7||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault DP World F1 Team||0.977s|
|8||Lance Stroll||BWT Racing Point F1 Team||1.162s|
|9||Alexander Albon||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||1.203s|
|10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1.290s|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1.282s|
|12||Esteban Ocon||Renault DP World F1 Team||1.347s|
|13||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari||1.386s|
|14||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||2.039s|
|15||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team||2.686s|
|16||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team||2.252s|
|17||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari||2.264s|
|18||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||2.319s|
|19||George Russell||Williams Racing||2.700s|
|20||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Racing||2.830s|