The sunny weather on Friday’s practice sessions gave way to a rainy Saturday and as qualifying began, the rain and spray were not good with the conditions getting worse.
Regardless, qualifying for Q1 began and the drivers were having to put in the best lap they could get in very poor conditions in case a red flag or canceled session might happen. As it was, Romain was one of only seven cars that set a hot lap prior to the red flag and slotted in third behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
The other challenge is that the teams and drivers have had no running time on the full wet tires from Pirelli except for the brief runs in FP3 just ahead of qualifying. No running means that the teams aren’t completely confident of how the tires will react on their cars.
The session was delayed but eventually restarted in changing conditions.
With 13 minutes left in Q1, Romain Grosjean spun, hit the wall and brought out the red flag. The Frenchman was not happy as he had just be radioing his team that he couldn’t see and he couldn’t stop the car. He was adamant that the conditions were not safe enough.
After a long delay, the session got under way with 13 minutes left and the track was improving with each lap but still seriously slick. A dry line started to form and teams began speculating on intermediate rain tires.
With 5:45 left, Ferrari’s Vettel switched to inters to make a run and the other teams followed suit. Vettel was setting personal best sector times but not purple sectors on the inters. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen radioed that it was still slippery on the inters and it seemed that the teams may have been slightly premature on the crossover.
It was a bit of a gamble to start on inters or full wets and in the beginning stages of Q2, both compounds were setting quick times. It was certainly on the edge of the cross over period but ultimately the Mercedes of Hamilton and the Ferrari of Vettel were on inters setting the quickest times.
The dry lines were forming and the track was improving lap by lap but that could go at any minute as the rain was lingering over Monza.
As the Q3 session started, the rain had begun to fall in between Q2 and Q3 leaving some teams to go back to full wet tires and some teams remaining on inters.
The Red Bulls started on full wet tires and Mercedes quickly changed to full wets as the two teams delivered traded fastest laps. Surprisingly, the Ferrari’s were also on full wets and not setting as competitive of times. Ferrari left it too late for the switch to full wets.
The rain didn’t let up and the track worsened leaving Vettel on the back foot to try and get pole or least mitigate the damage and get amongst the leaders. Meanwhile, the outstanding laps from Esteban Ocon and Williams F1’s Lance Stroll were terrific performances. Lance Stroll is the youngest to sit on the front row.
The two Red Bulls looked set to spoil Lewis Hamilton’s bid to break the pole record at 69 but in the end, Lewis dug deep and found the pace to take the pole and record. When it counted, Lewis delivered and put together a monumental effort to take pole which could pay huge dividends this weekend in the championship title battle.
|3||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m37.719s||2.165s|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m37.582s||2.028s|
|10||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m38.245s||2.691s|
|14||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m36.702s||1.148s|
|16||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m38.526s||2.972s|
|17||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m36.841s||1.287s|