Leclerc takes pole after farcical qualifying finale
Charles Leclerc has claimed pole position for the Italian Grand Prix in a qualifying session that ended in farcical circumstances.
The ultra fast Monza circuit saw the field jockeying for position in the final moments of the session, with eight of the nine runners on track not making it to the line to start their timed lap before the chequered flag fell.
Only Carlos Sainz reached the line in time, though his effort was unable to better Leclerc’s best from earlier in the session.
As one the field headed down the pit lane in the dying moments of the session, emerging on track as a gaggle cruising at significantly reduced speed.
With little time remaining it resulted in the vast majority missing the opportunity to start a timed lap, with their banker lap from earlier in the session determining much of the top end of the grid.
Second went to Lewis Hamilton ahead of Valtteri Bottas in third.
Shortly after the session ended officials announced they would investigate the calamity that was the final moments.
Qualifying began with Max Verstappen failing to set a time as he was bumped from the first phase.
The Dutchman has taken new power unit components heading into the weekend and was therefore resigned to last on the grid regardless of his performance.
Also eliminated from the opening part of the session were the two Williams (George Russell and Robert Kubica) and Sergio Perez, whose Racing Point stopped on track to trigger a brief red flag.
The final victim of the opening part of the three-phase qualifying session was Romain Grosjean, who missed the cut by less than a tenth of a second for Haas.
The session’s second part was neatly divided in two, with Leclerc topping the opening minutes from Hamilton and Vettel before a lull in proceedings.
A flurry of activity in the closing stages sparked the session back to life as the field took to the circuit almost as one with just over two minutes to run in the session.
Competition for track position saw Daniil Kvyat go wheel to wheel with Leclerc on the out lap, the Ferrari driver gaining the upperhand.
However, the Frenchman had slipped to second at the end of the segment with Hamilton pipping him to top spot while Vettel continued to hold down third.
An impressive lap from Ricciardo saw him place the Renault fourth, with team-mate Nico Hulkenberg also making the 10.
Missing out were Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen, Kvyat, Lando Norris, and Pierre Gasly.
Qualifying 3 begun with Mercedes and Ferrari heading out with both drivers one after the other, keen to use the tow to the benefit of Leclerc and Hamilton respectively.
The attempt failed for Ferrari as Ricciardo and Hulkenberg got between their two cars on the out lap, while Mercedes fared no better.
Pushing his own air, Vettel set the first time with a 1:19.457s lap, but quickly dropped to third as Raikkonen spun at the Parabolica and crashed out of the session.
Vettel was then pushed to fourth during the red flag when Bottas was credited with the lap he completed as the red flag was flown, a time good enough for third.
The session restarted with a little over six and a half minutes to run, with Albon and Stroll all without a time.
Like occurred in Qualifying 2, a Mexican Standoff ensued with the track silent until a frantic crescendo in the final minutes.
When the cars finally headed out triggered farcical scenes ensued as the nine car pack jockeyed for track position.
With limited time the jostling ultimately meant only Carlos Sainz made it to the line in time to start his flying lap, with the rest of the field having to rely on laps from the opening part of Qualifying 3.
For Leclerc that meant pole position over Hamilton with Bottas third.
Vettel in the second Ferrari will line up fourth, pending the outcome of the stewards’ investigation, with Ricciardo fifth.
Hulkenberg was sixth fastest ahead of Sainz, while neither Albon nor Stroll recorded a time to start eighth and ninth respectively.
Raikkonen will line up 10th, assuming Alfa Romeo find nothing awry with his car, and more specifically gearbox, after its heavy rear impact.
Norris and Gasly will also drop to the back following penalties for additional power unit components.
The Italian Grand Prix is scheduled to begin at 2310 AEST on Sunday.
Result: Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying
|7||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||1:20.413||1:20.202||1:20.455|
|8||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Honda||1:20.382||1:20.021||DNF|
|9||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point Mercedes||1:20.643||1:20.498||DNF|
|10||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:20.634||1:20.515||DNF|
|11||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:20.657||1:20.517|
|12||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:20.616||1:20.615|
|13||26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso Honda||1:20.723||1:20.630|
|14||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||1:20.646||1:21.068|
|15||10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso Honda||1:20.508||1:21.125|
|16||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:20.784|
|17||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point Mercedes||1:21.291|
|18||63||George Russell||Williams Merceds||1:21.800|
|19||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Merceds||1:22.356|
|NC||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Honda||DNF|