Leclerc delighted to be on pole in front of adoring tifosi while Vettel qualifies fourth

by Tom Cairns
Charles Leclerc - Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow in the 2019 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix - Autodromo Nazionale Monza - Qualifying

Scuderia Ferrari have claimed pole position for the second time in a week, courtesy of Charles Leclerc, who had dominated the practice sessions beforehand at Monza.

The Monegasque’s pole was the fourth of his Formula 1 career and doing so in front of the beloved tifosi.

However, he had felt sorry for his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, as the pair were tight on time at the end of Q3 to find the track position they needed to attempt to lock out the front row, only for Leclerc to cross the line before the chequered flag, unlike the German.

“Of course, it felt amazing when I came out of the car and heard our tifosi cheering from the grandstands,” said Leclerc.

“On the other hand, it is a shame for Seb who had the potential to do first or second, and I think that as a team we deserved that today. It was quite a messy qualifying session, especially in Q3. In the last few minutes, we found ourselves in an odd situation at the exit of the second corner where two cars were blocking our way.

“Seb overtook me there, because I think that he was aware that we were tight on timing. After this, I tried to find the best tow and then overtook Seb before the last corner to give him the tow back, but unfortunately, it was too late to achieve what we had planned.”

Leclerc’s victory at Spa last time out was all the more special but replicating that at Monza will be such a challenging task, as creating a gap of more than one second in front will be crucial come race day.

“Looking at the race, our pace looked quite strong in FP2 and the gap to our competitors is smaller than it was in Spa-Francorchamps,” Leclerc added. “DRS and tow are very important here in Monza, so the target will be to create a gap in the first three laps that is big enough not to see them again!”

Charles Leclerc - Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow in the 2019 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix - Autodromo Nazionale Monza - Qualifying - Parc Ferme
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Sebastian Vettel meanwhile was pleased to see his car performing but was less than pleased with how qualifying ended, particularly with the almighty traffic jam when all the cars in Q3 were refusing to be at the front of the queue to avoid giving the car behind a tow during their flying laps.

The German was also summoned to the stewards in relation to him exceeding the track limits on his flying lap before the red flag in Q3 but no further action was taken against the three-time race winner at Monza.

As a result, the four-time world champion will line up fourth on the grid behind the two Mercedes AMG Motorsport drivers of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

“I was happy with the car which was really good, and I was also pleased with my lap today, but I cannot be happy with how qualifying went,” Vettel said.

“At the end of Q3, most of us didn’t make it through to the second attempt. The lap I did on my own without a tow was good. I think we went out late and then obviously you look for a tow, but it’s clear we waited too long, so in the end there was no margin.

“At the end I just had no choice but to miss my last lap because the light was already red, so I’m obviously disappointed. But from fourth on the grid there are still plenty of chances to do well. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow.”

Team Principal Mattia Binotto was jubilant to see one of his Ferrari drivers on pole but was less than happy when Vettel ran out of time to start his final flying lap due to the heavy traffic.

“We understood right from yesterday’s free practice that today’s qualifying would be very close and that slipstreaming would play a key role,” Binotto analysed.

“The situation in Q3 was truly abnormal: it’s not often you see the majority of the cars being shown the chequered flag without having been able to do their quick lap, but that is the inevitable consequence of the strategy of waiting until the very last moment to make the very most of the aforementioned slipstreaming.

“It was a shame for Seb, who just missed out on starting his flying lap by the tiniest margin, because being fourth, he was the driver with the most to lose in this situation. Having said that, today our cars were quick and clearly we are very pleased with this pole position, especially as it came here in front our of fans at our home race.”

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