Lewis Hamilton surpassed Michael Schumacher‘s pole position record on his way to the fastest time in qualifying for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix, while the rain delayed session saw a surprising pair of Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon set to start from second and third respectively on Sunday.
Q1 kicked off in dramatic fashion with Romain Grosjean skating into the barriers, aquaplaning off the newly resurfaced pit straight. A downpour had started just before the session began, and with the red flag deployed less than five minutes in, it took over two and a half hours before track conditions were considered safe to resume.
Many drivers attempted to quickly switch to intermediates unsuccessfully when qualifying restarted, unable to switch the tyre on fully and leaving the drivers reverting to the full wet compound.
Having set the pace in Q2, Hamilton delivered once again, one of the last cars to come across the line after the chequered flag fell to pip the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo to pole.
It was unfortunate timing for Red Bull, as both Verstappen and Ricciardo must serve fifteen and twenty place grid penalties respectively for a variety of component changes, and will be demoted to the final third of the grid.
This means fourth quickest Stroll – who had gone fifth quickest in both Q1 and Q2 – will start on the front row for the first time in his short Formula 1 career, while fifth fastest Ocon will start directly behind Hamilton in third. It was an exceptional turnaround from Ocon, who had come within only 0.002 seconds of being eliminated from Q2 by his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez.
The exceptional form displayed by Stroll and Ocon pushed the regular front-runners further down the grid. Valtteri Bottas could only muster the sixth fastest time. He still beat the highly disappointing Ferrari pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, who struggled to cope with the increasingly wet conditions towards the end of Q3.
Felipe Massa had been close to Stroll’s pace throughout Q1 and Q2, but found himself unable to hook up a fast lap in the final part of qualifying and could only manage ninth fastest, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne propping up the top ten.
There was a massive scrap to break into Q3, with Vandoorne’s last gasp time in Q2 acting as the catalyst to eliminate Perez from the session and consign him to 11th. Nico Hulkenberg in turn had been pushed out of the cut-off for Q3 by the Force India pair, lining up twelfth before penalties are applied to rivals.
It was very nearly disaster for both Raikkonen and Ocon in the pitlane during Q1, with the Ferrari released directly into the path of the incoming Force India. Raikkonen’s front-left brake caliper had caught fire while being held in his box, and was hastily waved on as Ocon pulled in to his pit box directly ahead of the Finn, the duo narrowly avoiding a collision.
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