Hamilton on pole for Italian Grand Prix

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2020 Italian Grand Prix, Saturday - LAT Images

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.

Q1

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

Q2

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

Q3

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:

POSSIBLE RACE STRATEGIES

All the drivers in the top 10 of the grid will start the race on the Red soft tyres. The fastest strategy for the 53-lap Italian Grand Prix is a one-stopper, starting on soft and going onto Yellow medium after 24 laps (or alternatively, vice versa).
The second-quickest way is still a one-stopper, but this time using soft for 22 laps and then White hard for 31 laps.
Close to both of these – but with the big advantage of providing a wider pit stop window – is a strategy that involves the medium for 26 laps and the hard for 27 laps. As always, this can work just as well the other way round.
A two-stop strategy is definitely slower, but the best way to do it would be two 16-lap stints on the soft and a 21-lap run on the medium, possibly using the medium in the middle stint.

FOCUS ON

  • Speed. Monza is the ‘temple of speed’ and it lived up to its name in qualifying today, with Hamilton’s pole time breaking the all-time track record that had stood since 2018, set by Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari in qualifying. The record was already broken in Q2, before being lowered further in Q3. Both Mercedes drivers broke the previous qualifying record of 1m19.119s.
  • Tactics. The tactics weren’t just about which tyres to use, but also how best to get a tow from other drivers – which often caused a traffic jam as drivers jostled for the best position. All the drivers in the top 10 on the grid used the soft tyre to get through Q2, and will start on this compound tomorrow. Mercedes was the only team to use the medium during Q1.
  • Track. As seen yesterday, there was a bit of dirt on the track caused by drivers running wide, which may have affected some drivers during the closely-fought session.
  • Temperatures. Today was hotter than yesterday, with 31 degrees ambient and 46 degrees of track temperature halfway through the session. Similar conditions are expected tomorrow.
POSDRIVERTEAMGAP
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1m18.887s
2Valtteri BottasMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team0.069s
3Carlos Sainz Jr.McLaren F1 Team0.808s
4Sergio PerezBWT Racing Point F1 Team0.833s
5Max VerstappenAston Martin Red Bull Racing0.908s
6Lando NorrisMcLaren F1 Team0.933s
7Daniel RicciardoRenault DP World F1 Team0.977s
8Lance StrollBWT Racing Point F1 Team1.162s
9Alexander AlbonAston Martin Red Bull Racing1.203s
10Pierre GaslyScuderia AlphaTauri Honda1.290s
11Daniil KvyatScuderia AlphaTauri Honda1.282s
12Esteban OconRenault DP World F1 Team1.347s
13Charles LeclercScuderia Ferrari1.386s
14Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN2.039s
15Kevin MagnussenHaas F1 Team2.686s
16Romain GrosjeanHaas F1 Team2.252s
17Sebastian VettelScuderia Ferrari2.264s
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN2.319s
19George RussellWilliams Racing2.700s
20Nicholas LatifiWilliams Racing2.830s
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